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Why you probably need a responsive website and not an app

web development
20 March 2020
Sam Pettiford
Sam Pettiford

Generally speaking, a responsive website will meet your needs far better than an app, but when might an app be the right decision for you?

The reality is - everyone loves an app! They’re the most commonly considered digital platform for almost anyone with a business idea these days. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’ve considered an app for your potential or existing business(es)? You may have explored a potential app interface design through something like Sketch (or other design software)? You may have even been so serious about it that you went ahead and got yourself a quote from an app developer? Depending on your idea - I bet that was a scary cost...?

I've got my quote, but is an app right for me?
Potentially. However, it is important to keep some things in mind. Your business or app will need to fill a purpose. A generic ‘app version’ of a business website rarely works because there’s little to make a user want or need to download it. The site exists online and should be optimised for web already? So the app really won't do anything other than appear on an App Store for those that search for it...which are more than likely your customers anyway, but more on that later.

The average person will rarely leave an app on their smartphone that they don’t use because there is an actual reason to. That reason generally revolves around the app taking up space or it running in the background and using battery life - essentially causing you some form of issue if we can indeed class them as that these days.

Most smartphone users only use 6-10 apps per week and unless your app is attracting millions of users per day, it’s unlikely to break into the top 10 download charts for the average user. Additionally, most smartphone users download 0 apps per month, which is an incredible statistic until I thought about my own smartphone behaviour and realised that I hadn't downloaded a new app in months... and I suppose the main reason for that is - I just don’t really need to? Currently everything I need to do on my smartphone is catered for by one app or another and its usually a big brand like the aforementioned pair or the other members of FAANG.

So, for a new business/app to crack the top charts, they’ll need to invent/discover new needs that aren’t already met - like Uber did brilliantly in 2009.

Some other mainly financial, but nonetheless interesting points to note on mobile apps include;

  • Only 3.2% of the people who downloaded your app will still have it on their phone just 30 days later.

  • The top 1% of monetised apps generate 94% of the App Store’s revenue.

  • Hidden annual infrastructure costs such as servers, data storage, CDN's, dev tools/libraries and API’s can cripple an SME.

  • The average CPM across all Android devices is £1.60, and £4 for all iOS hardware.

  • The average high-end mobile app costs between £400,000 and £850,000.

  • Additional services most require such as push notifications are usually charged heavily as a extras.

Why a responsive website is probably the solution
We hear this particular phrase all the time;
“I think I need an app because I need my clients to find my website and buy my products from their mobile phones.”
Our job as an agency is to help clients understand their options and find the right solutions. People search for everything on mobile browsers such as Chrome and Safari. No-one uses the App Store or Play Store as a Google search. In fact the top 3 App Store searches in 2019 were ‘Instagram’, ‘Mario Kart’ and ‘Snapchat’ respectively. From that it's relatively clear that people looking for apps and games go to the App Store and people looking for businesses go to search engines. If I were to type in ‘hair salon Enfield’ into the App Store I'd find various games I wouldn't know how to play, whereas if I type the same term into a search engine I get actual hairdressers from an Enfield location, which is of course what I want with added tools like reviews and directions etc.

Responsive web design is a great and cost effective way to provide your clients with a high-quality user experience across all devices and is much more effective than apps when it comes to getting found with the availability of SEO and other digital marketing tools not available in App Stores.

People ultimately control their smartphones. They decide what apps they install and how long they keep them. They don’t download apps that serve no purpose for them and if they do they certainly don’t keep them on their devices for long. They know exactly where to search for businesses information and where to find the latest Nintendo racing simulator. Currently the big smartphone apps generally serve one purpose (to order a taxi, listen to new music on the go, or watch perfectly curated videos one after the other) and they do it superbly. Not only that, but they are usually owned by some huge brands.

If you think you have a great idea for an app, then you might have just that and it’s worth speaking to a professional app development agency or a business advice service to get some validation on the model or idea. Wenta Business Services are a great resource and offer excellent advice on how to get your business started.

Of course, there is no outright winner to this website vs app matchup, but the main thing is to consider are your business goals and subsequently what platform would increase your conversion rates, which of course contribute to those goals. Have you considered how to build a site that promotes conversion?

Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

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