Responsive Web Design vs. a Mobile App – Seattle Web Developers Discuss

Mobile is becoming more and more important as users switch from clunky laptops and desktop PC’s to their lightweight, mobile tablets and phones. While many homes still incorporate a PC, more than 27% of the population no longer owns a computer, and instead relies almost solely on their mobile device to access the web and all that comes with it. With some 54% of millennials admitting to using mobile to compare rates and shop when in physical stores, mobile access can make or break a sale.

But, you get it, you need mobile. We don’t have to convince you of that. What you do have to consider is whether you need a mobile app or a responsive web design. This decision is a bit more complicated, because it requires understanding your complex market and user database.

What’s the Difference between an App and Responsive Web Design?


One of the most frequent questions we get about web design is ‘what’s the difference?’. In simple terms, a responsive web design allows your website to automatically resize based on the browser and screen size of the visitor. It can be accessed via any browser, so long as the user has Internet. A mobile app must be downloaded from the app store.

Pros and Cons of a Mobile App

A mobile app is a great way to engage with consumers and tell them that they are important enough to you that you made them an app. If used properly, you can offer a webshop, sales, discounts, consumer rewards programs like points, notifications, and much more through an app.  Apps are fast, capable of more functionality than websites, and can incorporate smartphone features (like GPS to offer real time directions to your store). They’re also popular, in 2014, consumers spent 27% of their time with mobile brands using apps. If you’re trying to boost your search ranking, another consideration is that app pages do not show up in search. While versatile, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive to deploy, they have one major flaw. The consumer has to be committed enough to your business that they are willing to download an app to clog up their probably already full mobile phone with your app. Unless you are one of their favorite stores or restaurants, you probably won’t be able to earn this kind of commitment.

Pros of Responsive Web Design

Responsive design is easy to integrate into almost any website, boosts your search engine optimization, and allows any casual visitor to quickly come along and check out your website. This makes responsive web design convenient, relatively easy to deploy, and easy for anyone to use. While it’s not going to push as many sales as an app, it does allow new customers to research your products, check your website from their mobile device, and get in and out quickly without being annoyed by a desktop layout website. Responsive design is not a cure-all, and it will require maintenance, but it’s a much more versatile solution than a mobile app.

Which Is Right For You?

For most small businesses with no strong consumer base, the answer is definitely responsive web design. However, for almost everyone else, the answer is both. Responsive web design allows casual visitors to easily check out your website and your products, price or quality compare, and then go back to whatever they were doing. An app requires a lot more commitment, which most new customers just aren’t willing to make. Of course, your long-term customers who shop with you regularly are almost sure to appreciate an app, especially if you use it to offer updates, sales, notifications of deals, and even special user discounts. Responsive web design is pretty much a must-have for everyone, so even if you have an app, you should consider responsive design. If you can’t afford both, focus on the web design first, and budget for the app later.

Want more local Seattle web design tips? Follow our blog. Or, contact Rory Martin for a quote on responsive design for your business.


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