Sometimes clients come to us saying they want to develop a mobile app, when in fact what they might actually need is a mobile website app.
What’s the difference between the two? A true app (think of those icons on your smartphone) is an application built specifically for a mobile operating system such as Apple, Android or Windows. A mobile website app is a browser-based application (think Survey Monkey, Constant Contact or Google Analytics) that can run on a mobile device, or on the desktop.
The development and maintenance costs between these two methods are stark. It’s much less costly to create a mobile website app because you are creating it once and it runs off the browser, so it doesn’t matter what type of phone users have. If you are creating a true app, then you have to build one for Apple, one for Android and one for Windows if you want them to run on all three phones. Some functions can carry over, but a lot of them do not.
So, how do you choose which method? It depends on the functionality requirements of the app.
For example, let’s say you’ve got a member directory and you want to be able to search it and display the results on a mobile device. The solution could be either a mobile website app or a true mobile app. But if you also want to be able to do that same search when you are not online, or find a member who is close by based on their current GPS location, now you’re talking a true mobile app.
There are tools available that can (somewhat) blend these two approaches, allowing us to create a mobile website app that also integrates with some features on the phone. But, there are caveats. If it’s something simple like submitting a form with a couple photos, yes, but anything much more complex than that you can run into problems.
What’s the cost difference between a website mobile app and a true app?
Developing a simple website mobile app could cost as little as 5-10K. If we’re building a true app that needs to run on multiple platforms (Apple, Androids, etc.), the cost could easily begin at 40K and go up from there. Also, remember that with a true mobile app there are operating system updates to keep up with as Apple, Android and Windows update their phones. Our research says to plan for 10 percent of your project cost for updating a true mobile app annually.
Both methods have their advantages. The key to finding the right method at the right cost is to talk to developers like us. We can help get you there!