What’s the difference between mobile app and mobile site?

The sense of the question

The question “What’s the difference between mobile app and mobile version of site?” appears very often during communication with our clients. If it is easier to adapt the site for mobile devices than to create mobile app, for what purpose is it necessary to apply to studio of mobile apps’ development?

What is a mobile site?

Mobile version of site is several pages that are the copies of main site’s pages, but that is adapted for screens of mobile devices, or reworked main site, imposition of which becomes “rubber” after reworking.

“Rubber” (adaptive) imposition automatically changes the style of its showing depending on screen’s sizes. But, as it will be said below, to adapt site for mobile devices doesn't only mean to put content on the small screen.

What is a mobile app?

A mobile app is a special packet that is installed by user with the help of markets (portals, stores, marketplaces) of apps (Appstore, Google Play) for mobile device. Mobile apps are programs unlike site markup, so in many cases they are created for peculiar platform (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.)

Mobile site vs mobile app

The pluses of developing a mobile site

The site adaptation for mobile devices has some positive moments:

  1. Crossplatforming. Site is available on all platforms and devices, even on those, about which few persons know.
  2. Make app cross-platform. We told about pluses and minuses of such way in the article about cross-platform and native development. This way has some sense in some cases.
  3. Instantaneous updates. For app updating in the stores it is always necessary definite period of time for its checking by the companies, owning these stores. Updated site is available for users immediately.
  4. Development cost. Cost of site development and support is smaller than cost of mobile app.
  5. Marketing cost. Marketing cost of site is also smaller than the cost of app. Price of one user depends on level of his ingoing (p.1), if it's higher - the price of its attraction is higher too.
Mobile site vs mobile app

The pluses of mobile app's creation

The mobile app development provides following things:

  1. Push-notifications. If you publish something new on the site, users will find it out only logining on the site. For mobile app you just send a push-notification.
  2. Local notifications. If user did some action in app that waits for his reaction, app reminds it to him about it.
  3. Feedback. Users send the messages in the app stores and personally with the help of app.
  4. Interface. All the elements of management (buttons, text fields, links) should be comfortable for pressing by fingers, but not by computer mouse.
  5. Navigation. Every mobile operating system has its own logic of transition between working screens in apps. In Android it is a button "Back", in iOS it is movement of finger from left to right. Users of every operating system has a habit to do the same in every app/ But navigation of every site is different, and logining the site you should look for the buttons "Ok", "Back", "Cancel", etc, but they can be absent.
  6. Interface structure. If app, for example, should show the list of restaurants, it do this according their placements depending on the location of user. The logic of mobile site's work is easier and doesn't take in account data that mobile app can provide.
  7. Personalization. In mobile app there is possibility to remember all data of user and to change the interface for his needs.
  8. Offline work. Internet is not always available on mobile devices. The development of mobile app is the only one way users don't lose the connection with your product.
  9. Possibilities. Mobile devices know a lot about their owners, and the use of this information for improvement of service level is one of the key reason of great growth of mobile apps.
  10. Hardware. Depending on the type of app you can get data from camera, accelerometer, compass, barometer, etc.
Mobile site vs mobile app


If you need minimal functional, you need to test something or to find temporary decision - you'd better to create mobile version of the site. It will be cheaper and can faster give understanding to you about actions and wishes of users.

If you need to build lasting perfect relations with client, if impression that you give to your clients, and level of comfort, that you provide for him, are important for you, so mobile app is natural choice.