Website, or mobile app? This question may arise when you want to make your own product and unsure which platform to focus on. In statistics, the number of websites made around the world is so much more than the number of mobile apps made around the world.
Based on the statistic, we can say that people still make more websites than mobile apps. We can also assume, maybe generally people prefer to make websites? But this still boils down to each company/individual choice.
So let's take a look at the difference between them and which one is the better option for you!
Mobile App: Generally, mobile app usually takes longer to develop. On top of developing the functionality, it requires time to test on many devices because there are times it might not work smoothly on several devices screen size or phone brand. Although website also has to be tested on different screen size or a different device (such as desktop, phone, or iPad), the chance of bug or errors in mobile app development is higher because mobile app changes operating system version (such as in iOS has version 13 and then 13.3) and might cause problems on the app.
On top of that, some brands of the phone will behave differently depending on your app function. So with all these aspects, the chance of having a problem is much higher. You'll have even more complications when you have to publish an app on different platforms such as Windows App, Huawei App Gallery, etc.
Website: website does not take as much time to develop as a mobile app (of course it might take longer when you have more complex functions) and it also doesn't require as much testing as the mobile app. To test a website, the tester probably has to try on just a few screen sizes or devices and see its functionality and interface. Operating systems and device brands rarely cause problems on the website. So with the few aspects to consider, it has a lesser chance of having a conflict.
Mobile App: generally, it requires more money to make and maintain a mobile app, especially for human resources. In terms of the fee to publish the app, you probably need to pay a one-time fee or a recurring fee, just like publishing a website. On top of that, if your app has in-app purchase, you have to pay a commission to the App Store or Android Play Store as well which is around 30% of every transaction. So far, I can't really recommend a platform that lets you develop an app without any coding, so if you can't code, hiring an app developer is almost inevitable, at least for now.
Website: In developing a website, you can potentially save a lot of money on human resources because there are many platforms out there that let you make a website without any coding! But just like a mobile app, when you have an in-website purchase (such as an eCommerce website), you still have to pay some amount to the payment gateway provider. However, the amount is not as much as the mobile app's commission fee. You can be charged around 3% + USD1 for every purchase.
Don't worry, if you don't understand how to set up a payment gateway, you can use Shopify to do all those complex payment stuff for you. But this also means more money to spend on the Shopify service (which is from USD29/month on top of the 3% + USD1 payment gateway fee).
Mobile App: mobile app takes more time to publish, develop, test, and fixing. On top of that, if you are publishing mobile apps for both iOS, you have to pass the App Store review. In Android, there isn't really a review, but in iOS, there is a review and to pass that, you have to make sure the app is working perfectly and respect App Store rules, or else your app will be rejected and you have to spend more time to rectify that. But if you are thinking to make your app only on Android, then it probably will take only about a few hours to get it published. To have a better understanding of what exactly you have to prepare before publishing an app on the Play Store, check out this article! Mobile App also requires users to download first. And when there is an app update or changes, sometimes the user has to know about the new update then only they can manually update the app.
Website: you probably save a lot more time because there isn't any review upon publishing your site. To test a website is generally more simple and straightforward so it also doesn't require as much time as making a mobile app. Users can also just type the web address and can instantly use your website! To update or make changes to the website also takes a very short time and all your user has to do to see the website update is just 1 button to refresh the page.
Rules & Regulations
Mobile App: If you are publishing mobile apps for iOS, you have to pass the review from App Store. The rules are basically just to ensure your app is giving its best quality to the user. Additionally, over time, if your app is found violating the rules of App Store or Play Store, your app might be removed entirely just like Fortnight. Fortnight was removed from the App Store due to the use of direct payment in the app itself. So the payment can be tied to the platform's rule as well. If you are curious about how in-app game payment works, check out this article!
Website: website doesn't have strict rules and validation most of the time and there is rarely a review done on websites. And when it comes to payment, it is more or less the same as mobile app rules of payment. For every transaction, you still have to pay for the maintenance of the payment service provider and abide by their rule as well as the government rule of secure payment, or else your website can get you in trouble. To see how a payment gateway works for a website, check here!
Mobile App: the mobile app is rich in functionality and provides an immersive user experience, which is what most websites can't achieve. Mobile apps also make it very easy and seamless to interact with other apps you have on the user's phone, utilize their phone for them (such as open camera, use microphone, add to the calendar, access contact), and deliver live information. Push notification and offline functions are also only available on mobile apps. Usually, a mobile app felt like a significant part of the user's life. I wouldn't be surprised when some users say they have a closer relationship with their mobile app compared to their family 😅
Website: although a website can also provide live information, most of the time, that requires a lot of work in the development to make that happen and probably only functional on the desktop version. Even for big websites like Twitter and Facebook, their live update is not working on their mobile website. Websites also generally can't be used when the user is offline. From the user's perspective, a website is just some external tool or place they pay a visit or use sometimes.
Choosing what's best for you
So now that you've known the differences, which one is best for you?
To answer that question, here are some more questions 😁
Is your product very limited in the budget?
If you have a very limited budget, starting from the website might be a good idea.
Is your product require a lot of functionality to interact or help users by utilizing their mobile phone?
If your product needs to utilize the user's phone such as access their camera, location, and their contact, then you might need to make a mobile app! For example, if you are making a social media app that needs to access their contact, go for making a mobile app.
Is your product very limited in time?
If you have very limited time, best to go for making a website!
Do you need the user to work with your product in a limited space with extreme mobility?
Imagine if you are the user, will it be a lot easier for you to use the product on the phone which you can bring everywhere without much hassle? For example: if you have an app for taxi drivers, they need to get ride-booking from their phone and be notified in real-time instead of needing to refresh the website on their phone or even refreshing the website on their laptop.
If some of these answers may be conflicting such as "My product has to be in the mobile app but I don't have the budget and time!", then you still can proceed with it but just be aware that you might not get the best result.
So, which one would it be? The mobile app, website...or both?