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Are apps replacing websites?

I was recently asked if I thought it was more important to have an app for a business than a website. That is a good question, and in the current environment, apps are a hot item. Let's explore some of the things around apps vs. websites.

Where Do You Search?
Knowing where and how customers would find you is important. Websites are found on various search engines including Google, Yahoo, Bing and the list goes on. Apps can be found on those search engines as well, but are most commonly found in the app stores on each platform (Apple App Store, Android Play Store, etc.) It is important to consider where people would be looking for you or what you offer. On the note of where, you need to consider how to get to those places. In search engines, one website can list in all major search engines. On an app, you must produce an app per platform to be listed.

What Is Your Goal?
Ask yourself, what is it we are needing to do with you app or website? Apps often have a singular function while websites will often share information as well as providing a function. If you are planning to share information and encourage customers to get in touch with you, an app may be less useful. If you are an online retailer selling product and have a wide enough customer base, an app may serve you fine, but it will not serve for online sales through a computer as well.

Amazon is a good example of this. They have over a dozen apps, each with a specific function to different aspects of what they offer from shopping to cloud storage to Kindle reading. An Amazon app I use often is the FireTV app. When the remote control for the TV is lost, and, let's face it, it is almost always lost, I can run the TV from my phone. A website cannot do that.

What Is The Cost?
I cannot speak with certainty to what an app costs to develop, but the estimates I have seen start at $10,000. One of our customers spent in excess of $16,000 having an app developed for a single platform. Websites I can quote in my sleep. We have built websites from $100 up to $10,000.

Can You Use An Existing App?
One thing to consider is using an existing app. If you are trying to connect with customers, consider using Facebook. Facebook is on most smart phones and you can work to spread your brand through that. If you are selling a product, can you get it listed with Amazon? Their Amazon App has tens of millions of downloads. If you want to sell to shoppers, why not try to reach those millions.

Can A Website Cut It?
A large amount of what you would want an app to do can be done with a mobile friendly website. Some exceptions that would require a mobile app include:

  • Push notifications
  • Offline functionality
  • Native processing or device needs
  • Deep personalization

Given the cost and compatibility, a mobile website still provides most of what people need. Apps are great, and I use apps on a regular basis for everything from checking the weather to tracking fishing trips to buying online, but a website can often fulfill your need with more reach at a fraction of the cost.