Recently we came across this article about why mobile apps are better than mobile websites (admittedly, written by a mobile app developer). Although they make some good points, we feel there’s another side to the argument.

Lots of businesses assume an app is essential, without considering the pitfalls. Here are a few factors you might wish to consider before opting for one over a mobile site.


Apps are expensive to build, and they constantly need updating which adds to the cost. This makes effective return on investment more difficult to achieve. So if you’re going to create one, you need to ask whether it’s really the most effective way to reach your audience.

What are you trying to achieve? A good (general) rule is that if you’re primarily delivering content, you should probably concentrate on a responsive website. If you’re trying to implement yourself into a consumer’s daily habits, then a native app is the best response.

“…you need to ask whether it’s really the most effective way to reach your audience”


Supporting multiple devices and platforms is the real cost when building native apps. Showing a preference for one operating system won’t deliver sufficient results, but building apps for both iOS and Android (with the many different devices that use it) is time-consuming and costly. Not to mention other operating systems should you wish to explore them.

And then you must keep up with updates for changes in screen size, resolution and operating system in every new device released.


Downloading apps requires a good data or wi-fi connection, takes time and eats up space on users’ devices. Therefore you need a really compelling reason for customers to go for yours.


Our app for cosmetics brand No7 is a perfect example. No7 Match Made analyses the user’s skin tone to find the perfect make-up colour for their skin. Not only does it offer a solution to a consumer need, but it uses technology that a mobile site couldn’t replicate. 38,000 downloads in just a few weeks is a powerful demonstration of its value to No7’s audience.


A successful app needs to form part of a regular ritual, otherwise it just becomes redundant. You might get initial downloads numbers but when you look at daily usage it drops off quickly.  You need to become an integral part of your user’s life.

Johnson & Johnson’s Bedtime Sleep app is one of the most successful branded apps in recent years. Like No7 Match Made, it answers a specific consumer need – in this case, helping parents and babies improve their sleep routines. As babies grow and their habits change, the app remains relevant by offering advice at every step.


(One thing to be mindful of is ensuring your budget includes the cost of constantly updating and adding new features to your app!)


A hybrid app is a cost-effective alternative to a fully native app. Developers able to build in the necessary HTML, CSS and javascript are easier to find, often at a better price. Also, you build the app once and then deliver it across all platforms.

Unfortunately if you were to go down this route, not all native features would be available. And as you are not building for a specific platform, your hybrid app might not perform as well as a native app.


As mobile sites can perform many of the functions of an app these days, we think the default position should be to build a responsive website unless:

  • Your app will become an integral part of your users’ life
  • You are integrating technology that a mobile site can’t replicate
  • You have sufficiently deep pockets

That said, mobile is constantly evolving. With bigger device storage and the cost of building going down, our position might change!