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Companies still struggle with apps vs. browser question


Business man with smartphoneby Ron Miller
Ness Blogger

Many mobile developers struggle with whether to develop a mobile website or an app. In fact, it's something we wrote about back in 2011 in Browser vs app argument is a non-starter, yet it's still an issue for developers today. Is there a right answer?

New evidence from Adobe suggests there just might be, but there is a caveat.

Loni Stark, who is director of product and digital marketing at Adobe, speaking at the Gilbane Conference in Boston recently cautioned that the route you go really depends on your goals for your content and audience.

First of all let's look at the numbers, which are based on data from the Adobe Dig­i­tal Index, a collection of data that mea­sures engage­ment on apps ver­sus web for more than 600 brands. Adobe found that people tended to use apps for much longer than they did mobile web sites. How much longer? According to the data quite a bit longer.

The app users spent 3-4 times longer on their apps than users did on websites. The numbers were 24.9 minutes per session on tablet apps and 12.7 minutes on smartphone apps versus 5.8 minutes on tablet web sites and 4.5 minutes on smartphone websites. While the numbers were starkly different, as Adobe points that amount of time even on the websites does leave marketers with some opportunities and developers may still want to hedge their bets.

Graph courtesy of Adobe

When it comes to frequency of use, mobile websites lose again. In this metric, people used their phone apps 9.8 times per month, their tablet apps 5.3 times per month and their mobile websites 4.4 per month.

Again, it's nothing to write home about on the web side, but there are times where people use the web for certain tasks. 

Then of course there is the operating system argument and which one is best to develop on. Again, that probably depends on your audience, but it's worth looking at the time spent by OS data too, and in this regard iOS users are much more engaged than Android or Windows.

iOS blew away the field with 18.9 minutes per session, followed by Android at 8.6 and Windows bringing up the rear with 5.2 minutes, which is consistent with other data over the years stating iOS users tend to be much more engaged.

Graph courtesy of Adobe

Which brings us to Adobe's Stark and her advice for determining whether you should go with a website or a an app. If you're looking purely at the data, it would seem you would be foolish to go with anything but an app, and unless you were looking at a specific phone audience, you would develop for iOS first, but Stark says you have to look more deeply at your audience and goals before you make a decision (and of course, the two aren't always mutually exclusive). 

As Stark says, you need to go mobile because that's where customers tend to be, but it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition. "We need to be [on mobile], but choosing an app or website depends on business goals," Stark said. And she pointed out that behavior is different for each one.

In the end, you have to look at all of the factors including the general data in studies such as the Adobe one and more specifically what you know about your own audience and based on that, your business goals, your budget, your team's capabilities and so forth you can decide which approach is best for you. 

Just remember there is no right answer here, only what's right for your organization.

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

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