Mobile app or mobile friendly(responsive) website. Most lay people struggle to understand the pros and cons of each measured against the relative expense and marketing challenges. These are two very different, if somewhat connected things. In this article we will not recommend one or the other. Instead, we will help you to understand not just the technology differences, but the pros and cons of each in different scenarios.
Simply put, a responsive website is a website design and programmed in such a way that it will look good not just on a desktop view, but also on mobile devices and phones. The site is programmed in such a way as to detect the size of the device display and change the layout to fit best on that device.
One code base for desktop and mobile.
Low cost of development due to the emergence of front end web frameworks that handle responsive resizing of designs automatically.
Fast development time and time to market.
App will not be available on the phone screen. Only accessible through browser.
Standard hamburger menu driven navigation is less dynamic and less intuitive than native navigation.
Rendering speed on the screen will be slower.
Limited access to device features such as notifications.
Native Mobile App
A native mobile app is coded in a language that will run directly on the operating system of the device. An application is downloaded from the app store and installed to run directly from it's own icon on the device screen.
Increased functionality enabled by interaction with the device features.
Push notifications increase user retention.
Speed of execution is faster in a mobile app
Increased user interface design possibilities.
Development time will be longer.
More expensive to develop.
Ongoing maintenance and bug fixing costs money
Mobile apps and responsive websites are not two different versions of the same thing. The technology and the user experience are very different, but they can achieve some of the same goals.
The decision on which one to develop should be taken by considering a number of factors including cost, timing, market opportunity, competitive landscape and the maturity level of your business.