Comparing a mobile app to a mobile website is like comparing apples to oranges. While they share similar characteristics, they are vastly different in usage and operation. The similarities between them often leads to confusion telling them apart.
What is a Mobile App?
A mobile app is a program installed on a mobile device (i.e. iPhone, Kindle Fire, iPad, etc.) that users download and run directly on their device, similar to a program you download and install on your computer. Depending on the app, an Internet connection may be needed, but not all apps require it. It is possible to run a mobile app without an Internet connection.
What is a Mobile Website?
A mobile website is a specially formatted website that knows when you are surfing the web using a mobile device. Since mobile devices have smaller screens than desktop computers, the website alters the look and feel of the site to better display on mobile devices. Since mobile websites are restyled websites, an Internet connection is required to view them.
Is one better than the other?
It depends on what you want to accomplish. There are times where a mobile app is better equipped to meet your goals than a mobile website and vise-versa. It depends on how you are wanting your audience to interact with your solution and what you are wanting them to do.
If, for example, you want mobile users to be able to quickly and easily find your contact information on your contact us page, then you should create a mobile website.
If you want mobile users to be able to search for available properties around their current location by accessing their GPS, then you should create a mobile app.
Defining and understanding your goals prior to choosing one option over the other is very important. It’s best for you to meet with your development team to flesh everything out before you potentially waste resources going down a route that later proves to be incorrect.