7 Technical Disadvantages of Mobile Apps vs. Websites

7 Technical Disadvantages of Mobile Apps vs. Websites

If you’re developing a website today, chances are pretty good that you’ll face pressure to “app” it – meaning you’re creating a mobile app that users can use as an alternative to accessing your website through a web browser. There is evidence that a majority of end users prefer apps over websites (although other studies have found different results).

Plus, from a business perspective, there’s an easy case to be made that it’s better to engage with users through apps than through websites because apps offer more control — not to mention improved ability to collect data not, which is something many businesses try to do, for better or for worse.

But that doesn’t mean all developers should succumb to pressure from managers or app-happy end users to turn their websites into an app. From a technical perspective, there remain a variety of fixed reasons not to create applications as alternatives to websites. When it comes to deciding between mobile apps and websites, this article discusses seven reasons why developers should stick with plain old websites rather than building flashy mobile apps.

1. Apps are more device and OS dependent

In general, compared to a website, the performance and user experience of an app is more likely to vary due to differences between mobile devices and operating systems. On a website, browser differences can affect the way the website behaves, but factors such as hardware functionality and operating system configuration are not very likely to affect the website.

This means that developing websites requires less testing and less worry about whether end users with devices you haven’t tested for will experience user experience issues. As long as you test your websites for mainstream mobile browsers, they’ll probably work pretty well for almost all of your users. But unless you test your app for the tens of thousands of different combinations of mobile devices and operating systems out there, it’s hard to guarantee a great experience for every user.

2. Websites load faster

In most cases, a website will probably load faster for your users than an app. The main reason why is simple: Websites run in web browsers, and it’s likely that your users already have their browser open, so less initialization needs to happen for the site to load. In contrast, to run an application, the application must be started from scratch.

To be sure, loading speeds for both apps and websites can vary depending on many factors—such as whether and how you cache data and exactly what needs to be loaded when a session starts—but in general, websites will deliver faster loading times than apps.

3. Websites persist between devices

A common problem with mobile apps is that they are not always migrated when users switch to a new device. This means that users who don’t want to take the time to reinstall your app may end up abandoning it.

Websites are not subject to this issue. Your website can run in any browser on any device, with no installation required. In this sense, websites provide a simpler way for developers to distribute their software to users compared to applications.

4. Websites mean simpler development operations

If you choose to create an app to accompany your website, you’ll likely end up having to create and manage an additional software delivery pipeline for the app—or possibly several additional pipelines, if you have both Android and iOS versions of your application must build . Much of the program’s code will be the same as that for your website, but it’s not all identical, so you’ll need separate sets CI/CD processes.

This means that implementing a mobile app can more or less double the amount of work that developers have to do. But it won’t really double what they produce because the website and app will basically do the same thing but in different forms. It would probably be a better use of development resources to create a separate website rather than creating an application that makes an existing website – and the CI/CD pipeline that powers it – redundant.

5. Websites simplify security

Because websites run inside browsers, they are more isolated from the devices that host them and the data that is on those devices than mobile apps. This means that security problems affecting websites tend to be less serious than those affecting mobile applications.

This is not to say that you can simply ignore website security issues; unsafe websites can certainly lead to breaches of a user’s device. But the overall risk is a bit lower than it is for an app.

6. Websites are easier and more reliable to update

Most mobile apps update automatically. But in the event that they don’t for some reason — such as broken permission settings on the device or — users can end up with apps that have performance or security issues because the app developers can’t push out updates.

Developers don’t have to worry about the lack of updates with websites. Because site content is hosted on servers they control, they can push out updates whenever they want without worrying about what’s happening on users’ devices. All website users get an up-to-date experience, which is not always the case for apps.

7. Websites use less storage space

Apart from any data they cache in the browser, websites do not take up any space on users’ devices. You can’t say the same for apps, which can easily annoy users by sucking up the limited storage capacity of their phones and tablets.

As a result, developers have to work harder when building apps to manage persistent storage in an efficient manner. With websites, storage management is simply simpler.

Mobile Apps vs Websites: Just Say No

I’ll make a confession: I was inspired to write this article when a website I frequent – which hosts “all the news fit to print” – started nagging me to download its app in instead of viewing content through its website. It made me think how much better the world would be if developers didn’t constantly try to force apps on users when websites can get the job done just as well.

Then I realized that in many cases it is probably not the developers themselves who are trying to force users to download apps. It’s their bosses who want customers to download apps because it gives businesses more control over customers and the customer experience – not to mention plenty of opportunities to collect data.

So, if you’re a developer who, like me, balks at pressure to download a company’s mobile app when its website works just fine, use the tips above to push back against pressure from the higher-ups around your organization apply’s website. Tell them that running an app just isn’t a good idea technically, no matter how good it sounds for the business.

About the author

Christopher Tozzi headerChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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