Mobile App VS. Responsive


Mobile apps vs responsive is a question we seem to face quite a bit around here. With the growing trend of fully responsive websites, we have a number of clients asking us... App or Responsive website?

Let’s lay out a couple key points to help build conversation.

With a responsive site…
1. There is a single code base. Once it’s built, it will span across all devices and platforms.
2. You are guaranteed SEO improvement since it’s being indexed by the search engines.
3. You have one content management system for all versions. This includes a centralized CMS that will controlled by the client and updated on the fly. The ability to update content and add content is a big selling point for the client.
4. Expect no version control. This means one site with one version that will be updated from the source. In turn, no downloading of new apps or out of date functionality.

It’s not all roses with responsive sites but the majority of the challenges falls on the shoulders of the UI/UX team. The altered user experience is often the toughest challenge when approaching a responsive site. The transition from all states needs to be taken into account. How the site renders on the desktop, tablet and mobile and the progression from each is extremely important. The last thing you need to do is lose the viewer when they come to your site on a mobile device after many visits on your desktop.

By far the biggest challenge is getting everything planned out in a cohesive, fully functional wireframe. This is one of our biggest focuses and hurdles when presenting the project to the client and doing the usability testing.

The main points for a mobile app…
1. Open user experience. With this there are no restrictions from what the user can see and the sky really is the limit. The ability to focus on one viewport helps push the creative engine much higher than it is the the responsive format. It loads faster locally and becomes quicker to.
2. Speed. The app will load increasingly faster than a traditional website. This is dependent upon the speed of the phone but is mostly faster.
3. Viability of the icon is another selling point. Having the icon visible on the users phone at all times is a much more prevalent business tool than having to remember a URL or find it on Google.
4. Development Time. App development is generally a much faster build time since the focus is on only one device.

I have to admit that both the user experience and the speed are both thing quickly diminishing as knocks against responsive devices. With increased latency and download speeds, coupled with improved scripting, the days of slow loading mobile sites are leaving.

In my opinion there is only one way to go… responsive! With what you get and the advancements you can accomplish everything you need with responsive design. With the time and money spent on an app you can focus your attention and get so much more out of your investment.

It’s funny when asking people their general thoughts comparing the two forms, the mobile app always seems to get a nod simply because of the reputation it has garnered over the past couple years. It is also seem as a higher class I would imagine due to it’s exclusivity.

Honestly… that’s not enough for me! I still feel the good outweighs the bad with a responsive site. I still feel whole heartedly that the push now and of the future is responsive.

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