SelfInformed

January 2018


Mobile Web Apps vs. Responsive Web Design

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Which Is Right For Your Small Business Website?



About 77% of U.S. adults own a smartphone. Fifty-one percent of these adults reported making online purchases via their smartphone, according to Pew Research. With many consumers viewing company websites and making their online purchases on their phones, as an entrepreneur starting a business or growing a business, responsive web design should be a priority.

So, how does a small business owner or entrepreneur go about building a website optimized for mobile devices? Responsive web design and mobile web apps can both be used to create a mobile-friendly website. This article will take a look at each option and determine which is the better choice.

When was the last time you checked out a company’s website on your smartphone? How about using that phone to make an online purchase? If you’re like the rest of the world, your phone or tablet has probably been involved in your consumer experiences and buyer’s journey recently and often.

In the U.S. alone, 125 million consumers own smartphones, OuterBox reports. Sixty-two percent of those users have made an online purchase using their mobile device in the last six months. Was your company one of them?

To appeal to consumers, your website needs to be functional and attractive on all devices. Thankfully, technology is making it easier than ever for entrepreneurs and small businesses to build websites that are optimized for mobile. To make a mobile-friendly website, you can implement responsive web design or create a mobile web app, also known as a mobile website.

If you’re unsure of the difference, don’t worry;

NASE has your back. Keep reading for the inside scoop on mobile web apps and responsive website design, what the difference is, and which is right for your business.

What Is a Mobile Web App?

There are several kinds of apps available to create and use. When you think of apps on your smartphone, you’re likely thinking of native apps. Native apps are the apps that live on your device and are accessed through icons on the home screen.

Mobile web apps, also referred to as web apps or mobile websites, are different than native apps in the way web apps aren’t real applications. Instead, mobile web apps are just websites that look and feel like native applications but are not implemented as such, according to NNGroup. These apps are run by browsers and are generally written in HTML5.

How Mobile Web Apps Works

Web apps don’t need to be downloaded like native apps. Instead, web apps are internet-enabled and accessible via your smartphone’s web browser. Since they’re run by a browser, web apps are available to users in the same way any web page is. Today, as more and more sites use HTML5, the distinction between web apps and regular web pages has become blurred.

Web apps don’t need to be downloaded like native apps. Instead, web apps are internet-enabled and accessible via your smartphone’s web browser. Since they’re run by a browser, web apps are available to users in the same way any web page is. Today, as more and more sites use HTML5, the distinction between web apps and regular web pages has become blurred.

Features that are available in web apps include: 
  • Horizontal swiping to move on to new sections of the app
  • GPS
  • Tap-to-call feature
  • A camera API


What Is Responsive Web Design?

Initially, when mobile phones became a big hit, business owners would build separate websites for different devices. For example, companies would have a site created for those viewing from a desktop computer and another site (a mobile web app) for users on mobile devices. The web app trend came with numerous drawbacks, which led to the creation responsive website design.

As W3Schools, an online resource for web technology education, explains, “responsive web design makes your web page look good on all devices.” This means no matter what device a user is viewing a website from—whether it’s a desktop, tablet, or smartphone—the site is going to have the same readability. Unlike web apps, when you implement responsive design, you only need a singular website.

How Responsive Design Works

Responsive web design allows for flexible, fluid layouts that can adapt to almost any screen. This type of web design relies on three different development principles including:

1.  Fluid grids

2.  Media queries

3.  Flexible images and media

Responsive design uses HTML and CSS to modify a website’s content to look good on any screen. To optimize content for mobile, responsive design involves resizing, hiding, shrinking, enlarging, and moving the content.

What’s the Difference Between Responsive Web Design and Mobile Web Apps?

A mobile web app is a different version of your website while responsive web design is still the same singular website but in a different layout. In most cases, if a company has a mobile website, it will redirect you to the mobile version when you’re on your smartphone. Generally, the site will include the link to return to the full website. This demonstrates that there are two versions of that website on the web.

Having two websites has several disadvantages. Each site requires updating, managing, and optimizing content in two different places, rather than just maintaining one website. While mobile websites did serve their purpose in the past, a responsive website is the new and improved way to create a website that functions on different devices.

Why Responsive Web Design Is Important

Since so many customers are making their purchases on their phones, as an entrepreneur starting a business or growing a business, responsive web design should be a priority. In fact, not only are mobile-friendly sites important to customers, but Google takes notice of sites using this type of design as well.

Since the importance of responsive website design has boomed over the last few years, Google is prioritizing mobile-friendly sites in the algorithm it uses to rank search results. What does this mean for you as a small business owner? That optimizing your site for mobile use with responsive web design is essential.

3 Easy & Affordable Responsive Website Builders

If you want a professional website look that’s also mobile responsive and easy to build for your small business, check out some of the best responsive website builders below.

1. Squarespace

Squarespace is sometimes regarded as the best responsive website builder on the market today. In fact, this website builder is a market leader in creating responsive sites, according to Website Builder Expert.

Every design that Squarespace offers automatically includes “a unique mobile experience that matches the overall style of your website,” according to Squarespace.com. Squarespace also includes a responsive image loader. This generates several scaled versions of each image you’ve uploaded to your site, and the image loader detects and selects the appropriate size for each device.

Squarespace pricing is reasonable for the awesome quality you’ll be getting. You have two options—a personal account or a business account. The subscription for a personal website will cost you $12/month while the business plan is $18/month.

2. Weebly

While Weebly intentionally doesn’t have as many tools as Squarespace does, this keeps the Weebly interface minimalistic, simple, and user-friendly. That doesn’t mean this website builder can’t still produce an attractive and functional site, however.

Weebly offers mobile work with responsive themes and device preview with the Mobile Website Builder. Full mobile optimization and customization is easy with drag and drop elements, a fully responsive template, and a visual editor. The device preview allows you to see exactly how your site will look to mobile visitors.

Weebly pricing ranges from free for basic use to $25/month for the business plan, which includes a free domain and Google Ads.

3. Wix

On Wix, you have the option to add a Quick Action Bar to your mobile site. The Quick Action Bar allows visitors to instantly contact you from their mobile phones and provides quick access to the parts of your site that you want to highlight, or those that are most important. Simply select which actions you want to be featured on your bar, and then customize the bar to match the rest of your website.

Like the other responsive website builders listed, Wix is an affordable option. The free version allows you to create one complete website with a certain limitations that you’d need to purchase a plan to be able to activate. The price options range from basic, small business, entrepreneurs, personal, etc. The premium plans offer free web hosting, setup, support, customization and more. And, the services start at just $4 a month.

Conclusion

Forty percent of online consumers will go to the competitor after a bad mobile experience, according to OuterBox. This is scary news for those whose company websites are not optimized for mobile devices. But, while these numbers may be daunting, they also show the immense opportunity that lies in creating a mobile responsive, user-friendly website.

Be sure to check out nase.org for more resources to help your small business.

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