The increasing usage of mobile phones is a clear indication of why today’s businesses are relying more on apps than on websites. Apps help engage with customers, streamline operations, and enhance brand presence.

Some Interesting Statistics!

 

  • The statistics show that there are more than 6 billion smartphone users worldwide and 8.93 million mobile apps are streaming today.
  • With 50.59%, mobile phones have been marked as the significant source for web access.
  • The mobile apps have generated revenue exceeding $935 billion globally by the end of 2023.
  • In Australia, users spend 3 to 5 hours daily on mobile apps.

Considering the above insights, turning your website into an app will accelerate your company’s growth on the digital platform. However, a common dilemma still arises: should you invest in a web app or a mobile app?

The choice between these two platforms is far from trivial, as it impacts user experience, development costs, and overall business strategy. Both web and mobile apps offer distinct advantages and cater to different user needs and behaviours.

Understanding the difference between a web and mobile application is crucial for creating the perfect digital product for your business.

Thus, to help you make a precise decision, we have created this full-fledged article. In it, we’ll study the comparative analysis of web and mobile apps, explore their respective pros and cons, and provide guidance on which option might best fit your business.

Hence, by the end of this blog, you’ll have a complete insight into whether you want to build a browser-based, sleek web app that captures users’ interest from multiple devices or a stunning, feature-rich mobile application that bustles into users’ minds through the app arena.

But before that, let us give you a quick view of when you can use a web application or mobile application:

Use a Web App When…Use a Mobile App When…
  • You need to increase your reach to a broad audience across various devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones).
  • You prioritise a familiar desktop-like experience for users accustomed to working with keyboards and mouse.
  • Cost-effectiveness is a major concern, and faster development timelines are crucial.
  • Automatic updates on the server side are essential to ensure that users always have the latest features and bug fixes.
  • Your app relies heavily on built-in device features like GPS, camera, or offline functionality (maps, note-taking).
  • Your app thrives on real-time user engagement and benefits from features like push notifications for reminders or updates.
  • Discoverability through app stores is vital for your target audience, and you want to leverage app store search features.
  • Your app caters to users who are constantly on the move and require functionalities even in situations with limited or no internet access.

Let’s get started with the detailed study!

What is a Web App?

A web app, or web application, is software that operates on a web server and is accessed through a web browser. It allows users to use the app on any device with internet connectivity.

Unlike traditional desktop applications that require installation on individual machines, web apps are platform-independent and can work on various devices, including laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones

Web App Features:

 

  • Responsive Design: Adapts to different screen sizes and orientations, ensuring a seamless user experience on desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
  • User Authentication and Authorisation: Allows users to create accounts, log in, and manage their profiles securely.
  • Offline Functionality: Uses service workers and caching strategies to allow the app to function without an internet connection.
  • Push Notifications: Sends timely updates, reminders, and alerts to keep users engaged.

They are built for wider access and are typically developed using advanced web technologies such as JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. They often utilise frameworks like Angular, React, or Vue.js.

web App Architecture

Web App Architecture

Web apps are known for their ease of maintenance, as updates are deployed centrally on the server. This ensures all users can access the latest version without performing manual updates.

However, web apps generally require an internet connection to function. They might not offer the same level of user experience and high performance as native mobile apps specifically designed for particular operating systems.Web App development services

Pros and Cons of Web App

Web app development for your business may offer several advantages, including accessibility across multiple devices and platforms. As they run in web browsers without installation, they are cost-effective and easier to maintain. Since updates are pushed server-side, it ensures that all the users have the latest version instantly.

Giants using Web Apps!

 

Several companies around the globe are making huge profits by using web applications to increase their user base. Some of them are:

  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Alibaba
  • Stripe
  • YouTube

They enhance discoverability and can be indexed by search engines, making them a beneficial choice for SEO.

However, web apps have limitations, such as dependency on internet connectivity, potentially slower performance compared to native mobile apps, and restricted access to device-specific features like the camera and GPS.

Additionally, while they can be made responsive, the user experience might not match mobile apps’ seamless and intuitive experience, which is optimised for specific devices and platforms.

Let’s look at the table below to get a brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages of developing a web app for your business.

ProsCons
Cost-effective development: Faster and cheaper to develop compared to mobile apps due to a single codebase.Offline functionality: Limited functionality without an internet connection.
Wider reach: Accessible from any device with a web browser, reaching a broader audience.Limited device features: Restricted access to features like GPS or camera compared to native mobile apps.
Automatic updates: Updates happen automatically on the server side, ensuring users always have the latest version.App store discoverability: No presence on app stores, making it challenging for users to discover the web app.
Easy to share: Web apps can be easily shared through a simple URL.Security concerns: Web apps are observed to be vulnerable to security breaches if not developed and maintained or updated correctly.
Scalability: Web Apps can be scaled quickly and easily to accommodate a growing user base.Slower performance: May experience slower performance compared to native mobile apps, especially with unreliable internet connections.

Case Study of Canva: From Humble Beginnings to Design Domination with a Web App

Canva search bar

[Source: Canva]

Canva is an Australian graphic design platform that launched in 2013. Its web app allows users to easily create a wide range of customisable visual content.

Before Canva, professional design software was often expensive and required significant training to use effectively. Many individuals and small businesses lacked the resources or skills to create high-quality designs, leading to a gap in the market for a user-friendly, affordable design tool.

Canva captured this problem area and found the solution by focusing on making graphic design accessible to everyone.

It introduced simplicity by providing an easy-to-use platform with powerful features. They invested heavily in user experience design and ensured that the app was accessible to both novice and experienced designers.

This approach of Canva resulted in:

  • User Growth: Canva rapidly grew its user base, reaching over 10 million users in its first two years. By 2020, Canva had over 30 million monthly active users across 190 countries.
  • Revenue Increase: Canva’s freemium model, with options for premium features and content, contributed significantly to its revenue growth. By 2021, Canva was generating over $500 million in annual revenue.
  • Market Valuation: Canva’s success led to multiple funding rounds, increasing its valuation. In 2021, Canva was valued at a whopping $40 billion, making it one of the most valuable private companies globally.

Key Takeaways

Canva’s focus on making design accessible to non-professionals was witnessed as a key factor in its widespread adoption. The freemium model allowed Canva to attract a large user base while monetising through premium subscriptions and additional content purchases.

Providing a vast library of templates, stock images, and other design elements made Canva a one-stop shop for design needs. It helped increase Canva’s reach to its global audience, contributing to its rapid growth and success.

What is a Mobile App?

A mobile app is a systematic software application designed by the developers specifically to run on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Mobile app development processes cater to building an app for a particular operating system, such as iOS or Android, and are available for download from respective app stores like the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Features of a Mobile App

 

  • User Authentication and Login: Secure methods to create user accounts, log in, and manage their profiles.
  • In-App Search: Enables users to easily find specific content, products, or functionalities within the app.
  • Content Feeds: Curated or personalised content streams like news articles, social media posts, or product recommendations.
  • Messaging and Chat: Enables users to communicate directly within the app, either through private messaging or group chats.

Mobile apps offer optimised performance and a seamless user experience by leveraging the device’s native features, such as the camera, GPS, and sensors. They often provide offline functionality, allowing users to access content and perform tasks without an internet connection.

Mobile App Architecture

While they typically require installation and periodic updates, mobile apps are known for their superior interactivity, speed, and ability to deliver tailored, engaging experiences to users.

Pros and Cons of Mobile Apps

On the positive side, mobile app development provides a superior user experience with fast, responsive, and highly interactive interfaces explicitly tailored for mobile devices.

They have direct access to device features such as cameras, GPS, and sensors and can also work offline, allowing users to perform tasks and access content without an internet connection.

Furthermore, mobile apps can enhance user engagement and retention through personalised experiences, push notifications, and seamless integration with other mobile applications and services.

Giants using Mobile Apps!

 

Several companies around the globe are making huge profits by using mobile applications to increase their user base. Some of them are:

  • Uber
  • Airbnb
  • Spotify
  • Starbucks
  • Nike

However, mobile apps also come with certain drawbacks. Developing and maintaining apps for multiple platforms (iOS and Android) can be costly and time-consuming, requiring specialised skills for each platform.

[Want to know the estimated cost of building a mobile app? Read this]

Users are required to download the app from the app store and install it on their devices, which can be a discoverability challenge and barrier to adoption, especially if the app requires significant storage space.

The table below briefly overviews the advantages and disadvantages of mobile applications for your business.

ProsCons
Rich user experience: Leverage device features like GPS, camera, and offline functionality for a more interactive and engaging experience.Development cost: Creating separate apps for different OS (Android, iOS) can be expensive and time-consuming.
App store discoverability: Increased visibility through app stores, making it easier for users to find your app.Installation friction: Users need to download and install the app from an app store, which can be a barrier to adoption.
Offline functionality: Many mobile apps can function without an internet connection, providing greater usability.Update management: Users need to manage app updates manually, potentially leading to outdated versions.
Push notifications: Ability to send targeted notifications to users, keeping them engaged and informed.Limited reach: Native apps are restricted to specific operating systems, limiting your potential audience reach.
Monetisation potential: Mobile apps offer various ways to generate revenue through advertising, subscriptions or in-app purchases.Security risks: Mobile apps can be vulnerable to security breaches if not developed with proper security measures.
Data collection: Can collect valuable user data and analytics to understand user behaviour and improve the app.Battery drain: Some mobile apps can drain phone batteries quickly due to constant background processes or location services.pen_spark

Case Study of Domino’s Pizza Australia: Delivering Delicious Convenience with a Mobile App

Domino’s Pizza Australia

[Source: Domino’s]

Domino’s Pizza, operating globally, including in Australia, is a household name synonymous with quick and convenient pizza delivery. The company managed to face a high degree of competition in the Australian marketplace. However, in the age of smartphones, it recognised the need for a user-friendly mobile app to enhance the pizza ordering experience further.

Before the mobile app launch, Domino’s faced challenges such as long wait times for phone orders, limited order customisation options, and difficulties tracking orders accurately.

They needed to modernise their ordering system and provide a more convenient and efficient way for customers to order and track their pizzas.

This approach of Domino’s Australia resulted in:

  • Increased Sales: The mobile app significantly boosted sales by providing a convenient and personalised ordering experience.
  • Improved Customer Experience: Customers appreciated the ease of use, order customisation options, and real-time tracking, leading to higher satisfaction rates.
  • Enhanced Loyalty: The app’s loyalty program and exclusive offers encouraged repeat orders and increased customer retention.
  • Operational Efficiency: The app streamlined the order management process, reduced errors, and improved delivery accuracy, leading to cost savings and operational efficiency gains.

Key Takeaways

Domino’s Australia’s mobile app success story exemplifies the power of mobile technology in the food and beverage industry. It provided customers with a convenient and hassle-free way to order their favourite pizzas anytime, anywhere.

The customisation options, loyalty rewards, and targeted promotions personalised the user’s experience, driving engagement and loyalty.

Thus, by leveraging the app features, Domino’s contributed to increased sales, market share, and brand loyalty, leading to sustained business growth and profitability.

Key Distinctions between Web Apps and Mobile Apps

Both web and mobile apps deliver digital experiences and cater to different needs. Web apps, accessible through any web browser, offer wider reach but might lack offline functionality and rich device features.

Mobile apps downloaded onto specific operating systems leverage features like GPS and cameras for a more interactive experience but require installation and updates.

Hence, while web apps offer the advantages of easy maintenance and broad accessibility, mobile apps provide superior performance, offline functionality, and richer user interactions by fully exploiting the device’s capabilities.

Let us understand their core differences below:

FeatureWeb AppMobile App
PlatformAccessible through any web browser on laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones.Downloaded and installed on a specific mobile device operating system (OS) like Android or iOS.
InstallationNo installation required, accessed directly through a web browser.Requires download and installation from an app store (Google Play Store, Apple App Store).
Offline FunctionalityTypically, limited functionality without an internet connection.Many apps offer features usable offline (data access, games).
Device FeaturesRestricted access to device features like GPS or camera.Leverages built-in device features for a richer user experience (camera, GPS, push notifications).
Development CostGenerally cheaper and faster to develop due to a single codebase.More expensive and time-consuming, especially if building separate versions for different OS.
UpdatesUpdates happen automatically on the server side.Users need to manage updates manually through app stores.
ReachWider reach across various devices and operating systems.Limited reach to users with specific mobile OS (Android or iOS).
DiscoverabilityNo presence on app stores, making discovery challenging.Increased visibility through app stores.
SharingEasy to share through a simple URL.Sharing might involve app store links or QR codes.pen_spark

Important Considerations Before Making Final Choice

Before diving headfirst into web or mobile app development, consider these key factors carefully. Understanding your target audience’s habits – do they primarily use desktops or smartphones? – is crucial.

A mobile app might be better if your app relies on features like GPS or offline access. On the other hand, a web app offers a wider reach across devices and is generally cheaper to develop. Evaluate your budget and resources – a web app typically requires less investment.

Finally, consider the importance of offline functionality. If your app needs to work without the internet, a mobile app might be the way to go.

Here are some crucial considerations to help you make the best choice:

Consideration FactorWeb AppMobile AppIdeal For –
Target AudienceReaches users across various devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones).Primarily targets mobile device users (Android, iOS).Reaching a broad audience, users who primarily use desktops/laptops.
App FunctionalityLimited access to device features like GPS or camera.Leverages built-in device features for a richer user experience (camera, GPS, push notifications).Apps that rely heavily on device functionalities require offline access or utilise location-based services.
Development Cost & TimeGenerally cheaper and faster to develop due to a single codebase.More expensive and time-consuming, especially for separate OS versions.Projects with limited budgets and tight deadlines.
UpdatesUpdates happen automatically on the server side (no user action needed).Users need to manage updates manually through app stores.Projects requiring frequent updates or where automatic updates are crucial.
Offline FunctionalityTypically, limited functionality without an internet connection.Many apps offer features usable offline (data access, limited functionalities).Apps that require functionality even without internet access.

Thus, ask these 10 critical questions from yourself before making your final decision:

  1. Who is my target audience? Are they more likely to use mobile devices or desktops/laptops?
  2. What platforms do my users prefer? iOS, Android or Cross-platform?
  3. How tech-savvy is my target audience?
  4. What core functionalities (like GPS, camera, or push notifications) do I need to offer?
  5. Do I need offline capabilities?
  6. What is my budget for development and maintenance?
  7. What is my timeline for development and deployment?
  8. What type of user experience do I want to provide?
  9. What are your primary goals for the app? (e.g., increased brand awareness, lead generation, direct sales)
  10. What are my technical resources and capabilities? Should I hire a professional app development agency or rely on my current in-house team?

By carefully evaluating these factors, answering these questions and aligning them with your specific project objectives and goals, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision between developing a web app or a mobile app.

Think about your priorities:

 

  • Wider reach and desktop-like experience: Web App
  • Device features, offline functionality, and push notifications: Mobile App
  • Cost-effectiveness and faster development: Web App

You can even consider a progressive web app (PWA) that combines elements of both for a more flexible approach.

Conclusion

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the web app vs. mobile app debate. The best choice hinges on your specific goals, target audience, and project requirements.

Carefully consider the factors discussed here – from functionality and development costs to user needs and offline capabilities. Remember, a progressive web app (PWA) can also be a compelling option, offering a web-based experience with app-like features.

However, by partnering with a professional web app development agency, you gain access to expert guidance and technical expertise to help you navigate this choice effectively.

Ultimately, whether you opt for the broad accessibility of a web app or the rich, immersive experience of a mobile app, collaborating with seasoned professionals to build your stunning web application or mobile application ensures your project is executed with precision and quality, driving your business success.