Decisions, Decisions: Responsive Web or Native App?


It may come as a shock to some, but not all digital products are meant to be mobile.

That may sound contradictory, especially in today’s mobile-focused world. 

So, what exactly do we mean by that?

We don’t want to make you think that your website shouldn’t be optimized for mobile (because it definitely should!). But when it comes to creating mobile-friendly digital products, you have a decision to make: a responsive website or a native mobile application?

89% of people are likely to recommend a brand after having a positive brand experience on a mobile device, whether on an app or a browser. Not sure which is the right choice? Read on for questions that will help you hone in on the best solution for your organization. 

Responsive website

Today, there are around 6.64 billion people in the world that use smartphones. That’s about 83% of the world’s population! With those kinds of numbers, websites need to be responsive. Users spend more time on websites that are intuitive and easy to navigate on a variety of devices.

If you answer “yes” to any (or all) five of these questions, a responsive website could be your ideal solution:

  1. Does your content change regularly (at least every three months)?

If you’re gung ho about updating certain content yourself, a native app will require a CMS backend that’s built for easy editing or a maintenance contract with an agency to make those updates for you. Either way, both of these options come with a price tag. A responsive website will be easier to update on a frequent basis and will ultimately cost less.

Related reading: Why Your Website Needs A Content Strategy

  1. Is your product text-heavy, even if that content is static?

It’s much easier to read large volumes of text on a laptop, desktop, or tablet. A responsive site will retain the look and feel of the desktop experience so users can easily transition from one to the other without needing to learn how to use a new interface.

  1. Do you have an existing website and want it to be more mobile-friendly?

If you’re happy with your website and don’t need any major renovations, making it responsive will enhance users’ experience in any format!

  1. Is SEO a top priority for your business?

Google has made it clear they favor websites that are optimized for mobile. With users searching from mobile devices more than ever before, a responsive website is more likely to have higher rankings in Google’s algorithm than a non-responsive one. 

  1. Do you have a limited budget?

Generally speaking, a responsive website will cost less to develop compared to a mobile app, as there are interface and functionality differences between the iOS and Android platforms.

However, there are development options like React Native that allow you to build an app once and apply that code to both iOS and Android. If an app built in React Native meets your needs, this could level the playing field, cost-wise.

Every project is unique, so make sure you do your homework when it comes to cost analysis.

Native mobile app

Providing fast performance and a high degree of reliability, native mobile apps are coded using a specific programming language for each operating system.

As of this time last year, there were 7.65 million apps available in the top app stores, with an average of 70,000 apps being added every month. This upward trend isn’t going away either; it’s expected to continue its exponential climb. But is securing a native mobile app the right move for your business?

If you answer “yes” to any (or all) four of these questions, the native mobile app route could be your ideal solution:

  1. Does your product provide a service uniquely suited to being (literally) in your user’s back pocket?

If your users are on the go when they interact with your information, an app is the better option, as it provides a more consistent user experience. As with every marketing endeavor, it is crucial that you know your users before creating a market-ready solution.

  1. Does your product leverage built-in smartphone technology (e.g., GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, camera, Apple Pay/Google Wallet)?

Make the most of what is available to you. Smartphones have amazing services you can tap into to make your users’ lives better and their experiences with your brand richer!

Related reading: 44 Ways to Promote Your New Mobile Application

  1. Do you want to limit access to your product behind a login?

Users expect free and open access to much of the internet. Immediately serving visitors with a login screen on a website could be off-putting and unexpected. Users are much more willing to accept that an app requires logging in before you can access the product.

  1. Do you need to tell your users something in real-time, RIGHT NOW?

Push notifications from an app allow you to send alerts to your users informing them of new updates, promotions, or features. It’s a handy tool that can re-engage users quickly and inspire action.

Related reading: 4 Critical Areas You Need to Test for Mobile App Accessibility

Examples of responsive websites and mobile apps

We’ve had the great pleasure of working with many organizations seeking help with their web and mobile app projects. Here are just a few examples:

Additional examples can be found on our work page.

Decision time

When it comes to making your digital product mobile, there is no universally “correct” strategy. 

It all comes down to what works best for your goals, your services or products, and your audience(s)!

Still not sure which is right for your business? Drop us a line and we’ll work with you to determine the best mobile solution for your customers!