Apps vs Mobile Websites - An ROI-focused analysis

Posted by Paul Rogers on 17 August 2011

Mobile applications have taken the world by storm since the introduction of the Apple App Store in 2008, whilst we have also seen signifcant improvements in mobile websites, which leads me to the topic of this post – which will provide better ROI for your business, an app or a mobile website?

Apps / Applications:

What is an app?

An app (short for application) is a downloadable programme that will generally provide a quick and easy alternative of accessing information or features to using a website.

The Apple app store features hundreds of thousands of apps, ranging from mobile browsers, utility tools, technical software, shopping solutions and games to stubs, which is basically a short-cut to a mobile website.


  • Lots of different platforms (Blackberry, Android, iOS etc)
  • Apps are hugely popular
  • Improves perceived quality of a brand
  • Create awareness of your brand (if your app serves a purpose)
  • Reach a different demographic


  • Limited functionality
  • Expensive
  • Unlikely to be cost-effective unless it has a USP or has a big brand behind it
  • Lots of competition

Mobile websites:

What is a mobile website?

A mobile website is basically a simplifed version of your existing website that has been designed and optimised specifically for mobile users.

A mobile website should be easy to use, load quickly and provide a similar service to the full version of the website.



  • Huge increases in the amount of mobile web users
  • Reach a new demographic
  • More conversions as the website will be easier to use
  • More accessible
  • Improve brand
  • Likely to be more affordable than an app
  • Stable market


  • Apps reduce the amount of people browsing the internet
  • Lack of demand


I think that apps are a really good marketing resource, however you need to have a big brand or budget behind your application in order to generate interest and get return on your investment.

A mobile website is a probably going to be a more affordable option than an application, and it is more likely to provide more value. A mobile can provide lots of value for smaller businesses too, as their customers will find it easier to use the site and be more likely to convert.

You can use data from your Google Analytics account to provide insight into levels of visits that your main website generates through mobile devices.


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