Online Strategy - Website, Web App, Mobile App

Which do I need, a standard Website, a Web App based website and/or a mobile app?

To often business owners and organizations get confused as to which is what and what each can actually do for them. So lets try to separate out each and understand what their benefits are, what they can do for your business or organization and ultimately what is your best online strategy? 

Standard Website (Desktop)

Standard websites are browser based static brochures style websites that consist of some basic information pages that give your customers information about who you are and what you offer. They are mainly used for lead generation and acquisition. Their advantage is they are easy and inexpensive to implement and can be viewed on a desktop and sometimes a mobile devices if designed to be compatible. The disadvantage is that they are boring, lack customer engagement and interaction, and do not retain your customer. They do nothing for building brand retention or trust. 

Responsive Web App Based Website (Desktop and Mobile)

WebApps are software driven engines, built into branded websites, that are browser based and provide engagement and functionality for customers to interact with your business or organization over the Internet. WebApp based websites are database driven give website features such as CRM, events bookings, donations, scheduling, online education, certification, online rentals, e-commerce, consignments, POS and much much more. The advantage is customers engage, interact and therefore trust building brand retention. They are mobile compatible and can be viewed through the mobile browser. The obvious characteristic that distinguishes a mobile WebApp based website from a desktop version is the fact that it is designed for the smaller handheld display and touch-screen interface.

        - Keep look and feels (branding)


        - No branded Icon on a Phone Home Screen

        - Customer has to open browser, type url…blah blah

        - Can not communicate with customer through push notification Inbox

        - Must have internet connection

Mobile App (Mobile Only)

Responsive Mobile App — Mobile Apps are actual software applications that are downloaded and installed on your mobile device, rather than being rendered within a browser. Customers visit device-specific portals such as Apple’s App Store or Android Market, in order to find and download apps for a given operating system. The app pulls in all content and data from your Web App based website,

        - Branded Icon on Phone Home Screen

        - Keep look and feels (branding)

        - All responsive Web App functions available

        - One click access to business


        - Additional Cost

        - Can not communicate with customer through push notification/ Inbox

        - Must have internet connection

Responsive Mobile App with Push Notifications — Same as above but with web app based push notification management page and delivery to mobile devices.

        - Branded Icon on Phone Home Screen

        - Keep look and feels (branding)

        - All responsive Web App functions available

        - One Click access to their business

        - Can communicate with customer through push notification/Inbox


        - Additional Cost

        - Must have internet connection

Native Mobile App - Same as Responsive Mobile Apps in that it is an actual software application that is downloaded and installed on the mobile device. Users still visit device-specific portals such as Apple’s App Store or Android Market in order to find it and download it for a given operating system. The difference is the native app however is a custom designed application that does a specific thing that a business may want. Therefore it will only pull the content and/or data specific to the app from the businesses database. it can pull in content from other parts of the internet as well as download the content so that it can be accessed without an Internet connection. Native Mobile app can also access the phones native functions and therefore use it’s gps, push notification, movements and so on.

        - Specific application / purpose or use

        - Branded Icon on Phone Home Screen

        - Keep look and feels (branding)

        - One Click access to their business

        - Can communicate with customer through push notification/Inbox

        - Added features such as GPS tracking, Movement..Etc

        - Internet connection may not be needed


        - High Cost

Understanding the differences

When developing your online strategy for your business or organization, one of the first considerations that will likely come to mind is whether you want to create a standard website, a Responsive WebApp based website and/or a mobile app. Determining which is most suited to your needs will depend upon a number of factors, including target audiences, available budget, intended purpose and required features.

Which is Better – an WebApp based website or a Mobile App?

When it comes to deciding whether to build a mobile app or a WebApp based website, the most appropriate choice really depends on your end goals. If you are developing an interactive game a native mobile app is probably going to be your best option. But if your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to the widest possible audience then a Responsive WebApp based website is probably the way to go. In some cases you may decide you need both a Responsive WebApp based website and a responsive mobile app with push notifications.

Advantages of a Responsive WebApp based Website vs Mobile Apps

Before we look into this, it is important to understand that many of the Responsive Web App advantages are inherent in the Responsive Mobile App as the responsive mobile app is a reflection of the responsive web app.

So, if your goals are primarily related to customer engagement, retention, interactivity, marketing, and public communications, a Responsive WebApp based website is almost always going to make sense as a practical first step in your online outreach strategy. Then adding on a Responsive Mobile App with push notifications is quick and inexpensive. This is because a Responsive Web App based website and a Responsive Mobile has a number of inherent advantages over Native Mobile App, including broader accessibility, compatibility and cost-effectiveness.

  • Immediacy – Responsive WebApp based Websites are Instantly Available 

A Responsive WebApp based website is instantly accessible to users via any browser across a range of devices (Desktop, laptop, Air, Ipad, Tablets, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc).  Mobile Apps (Responsive or Native) on the other hand require the user to first download and install the app from an app marketplace before the content or application can be viewed - a significant barrier between initial engagement and action/conversion. 

  • Compatibility – Responsive WebApp based websites are Compatible Across Devices

A single Responsive WebApp based website can reach users across many different types of desktops, platforms, operating systems, mobile devices, whereas native apps require a separate version to be developed for each type of device. Furthermore, Responsive WebApp based website URLs are easily integrated within other mobile technologies such as SMS, QR Codes and near field communication (NFC).

  • Find-ability – Responsive WebApp based website can be found easily

Responsive WebApp based website are much easier for users to find because their pages can be displayed in search results and listed in industry-specific directories, making it easy for qualified visitors to find you. Most importantly, visitors to your regular website can be automatically sent to your mobile site when they are on a handheld (using device-detection).  In contrast, the visibility of apps are largely restricted to manufacturer app stores.

  • Share-ability – Responsive WebApp based Website Can be Shared Easily by Publishers, and Between Users

Responsive Web App based website URLs are easily shared between users via a simple link (e.g. within an email or text message, Facebook or Twitter post). Publishers can easily direct users to a WebApp based website from a blog or website, or even in print. An app simply cannot be shared in this fashion.

  • Reach – WebApp based Websites Have Broader Reach

Because a WebApp based website is accessible across platforms and can be easily shared among users, as well as search engines, it has far greater reach capability than a native app. 

  • LifeCycle – WebApp based Websites Can’t be Deleted

The average shelf-life of an app is pretty short, less than 30 days according to some research, so unless your app is something truly unique and/or useful (ideally, both), it’s questionable how long it will last on a user’s device. WebApp based websites on the other hand are always available for users to return to them. 

  • A Website is an App!

Just like a standard website, WebApp based websites is developed as database-driven WebApplications that act very much like native apps. A mobile WebApplication can be a practical alternative to native app development.

Advantages of a Responsive Web App & Mobile App vs Native App 

With a Responsive Mobile app and Responsive Web app based website you still get all the benefits of a Mobile App, as listed below, including a Custom Branded Mobile App on the users mobile device home screen. Plus:

  • Upgradability – Responsive WebApp/Mobile App Can Be Updated Instantly

A Responsive WebApp/Mobile App is much more dynamic than an Native Mobile app in terms of pure flexibility to update content. If you want to change the design or content of a Responsive WebApp / Mobile App you simply publish the edit once and the changes are immediately visible; updating an Native Mobile App on the other hand requires the updates to be pushed to users, which then must be downloaded in order to update the Native Mobile app on each type of device.

  • Regular Usage/Personalization – If your target users are going to be using your app in a personalized fashion on a regular basis (think EverNote) then an app provides a great way to do that.
  • Support and Sustainability

The investment considerations of mobile app vs WebApp based website don’t end with the initial launch; properly supporting and developing an app (upgrades, testing, compatibility issues and ongoing development) is more much more expensive and involved than supporting a website over time.

  • Time and Cost - Responsive WebApp / Mobile Apps are Easier and Less Expensive

Last but certainly not least, WebApp based website development is considerably more time and cost-effective than development of a native app, especially if you need to have a presence on different platforms (requiring development of multiple apps).

When Does a Native Mobile App Make Sense?

Despite the many inherent benefits of the WebApp based website, Mobile apps are still very popular, and there are a number of specific use scenarios where an Mobile app will be your best choice.  Generally speaking, if you need one of the following, an app makes sense:

  • Interactivity/Gaming – for interactive games (think Angry Birds) an app is almost always going to be your best choice, at least for the foreseeable future.
  • Native Functionality or Processing Required - mobile web browsers are getting increasingly good at accessing certain mobile-specific functions such as click-to-call, SMS and GPS. However, if you need to access a user's camera or processing power an app will still do that much more effectively.
  • No connection Required – If you need to provide offline access to content or perform functions without a network/wireless connection then an app makes sense.

Some additional advantages to Responsive and Native mobile apps:

  • Push Notifications are a great way to send up-to-the-minute messages, specials and valuable information to your app users. When you send a Push Notification, the message goes directly to their phone or mobile device and is seen immediately by the recipient. It doesn't get lost in social media feed or remain unread in their email box.
  • Brand Awareness is one of the best reasons for having your own mobile app on everybody's phone! It's similar to a Billboard. The icon keeps your business in front of the consumers whenever they use their device.
  • You are able to engage with your BEST customers at any time and anywhere.
  • Having your products and services available through your mobile app means that people can connect with you or buy from you whenever and wherever at their convenience.
  • Loyalty features can keep your users engaged directly with and your business to create a branded and unique customer experience.
  • “Set it and forget it” Push Notifications allow you to input your messages in advance to be sent on a future day and time, and can automatically post to Facebook and Twitter at the same time.


When developing your businesses or organizations’s Online Strategy, the first and most important step is to build a Responsive WebApp based website that engages and interacts with your customers, building their trust and retention. Then add a Responsive mobile app with push notifications. Then enroll your most loyal customers to put your icon on their mobile home screen. They will download the mobile and and continue to use it, furthering their loyalty to your business or organization. This will then allow you to not only be in-front of your customers at all times but also push your notification and/or information to them. In order to be successful you MUST first build trust as it is core to their retention and then through the app you build loyalty and therefore ending the problem of the 30 day lifecycle of your investment. Then if you have a very specific application, purpose or need build a unique customized native application to take advantage of the mobile features such a gps, movements and so on.

Keep in mind, as with any project, when deciding what your needs are you will certainly want to ensure that you have a Responsive WebApp based website to act as  are always getting an optimal return on your investment.

For more information about Recify and how we can be your technology partner and create a online-offline synergy campaign contact us at or 1 844 RECIFY 1