16. Jul 2020Business

Mobile application vs. responsive web on mobile (what is better?)

What is better, mobile application or responsive web? Maybe this article will make your decision easier.

Clients sometimes ask us why they should have a mobile app when they already have a responsive website or why they should have an app created when they can make a mobile website. There are several reasons for this, so we have compared both solutions to help you make decisions.

mobile app or responsive web

What is responsive design?

The responsive web design ensures optimal display of websites on different types of devices (computer, tablet, smartphone). The layout of elements on the page varies depending on the size of the display used. The advantage is that there is only one version of the website. The administrator or website owner makes all the adjustments in one place, regardless of the target device. In short, responsive design guarantees that your website is displayed correctly on every device.

Preview of a responsive website

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Advantages of Responsive Web

  • Less data transfer compared to the classic web, sometimes up to 1/2 compared to a classic site.
  • Website is optimized for mobile devices in terms of user interface and usability.
  • Lower purchase price than mobile web, responsive web is only one site (one frontend).
  • The ability to have multiple levels of responsiveness, such as:

1) desktop with large display
2) laptop or tablet in landscape layout
3) tablet in portrait layout
4) large cell phone or phone in landscape layout
5) small cell phone.
This site is optimized for different display sizes and different devices and can adapt to them.

  • It automatically adapts to new devices that have not yet existed during web development.
  • With one URL per page, responsive web is SEO optimal.

Disadvantages of Responsive Web

  • Greater data transfer than a mobile website version. Responsive sites are not loading as quickly as purely mobile versions, but still faster than a classic site.
  • It usually does not have an option to switch to the classic view.
  • The server always provides the same content to all devices. The content that the server sends to the user is not adapted to the user with the mobile device. For example, if you want to display a simplified menu on e-shop on mobile devices, the server will provide both created menus, but the browser will display only one of them.

What is mobile website?

In a case of a mobile site, a different - mobile - version of the website is displayed on mobile devices in comparison to laptops or desktops. The server-side itself recognizes which device the site will display on and displays one or the other version of the site accordingly. Usually, you can switch between versions by clicking "view mobile version" or "view classic version". This is a stand-alone version of the same site.

example of mobile app

Advantages of mobile website:

  • With a mobile website, much less data is transferred over the Internet compared to the classic site, and therefore loading is much faster. For example, up to 10 times less data than a classic website.
  • It is (should be) better optimized for mobile devices in terms of user interface and usability.
  • It provides the option to switch to classic view.
  • Possibility to provide different content on mobile phones and PC.
  • It is possible to design only a specific part of a website as a mobile version. It means you can have eg. just an introduction as a mobile version and the rest can be a classic website. You'll save money, but it's not very user-friendly.

Disadvantages of mobile website

  • A higher purchase price than a classic or responsive website.
  • You have to actually create two sites. This means that you need to design, graphically process and program two different user interfaces and have only one of them displayed on a specific device.
  • b error. E.g. when you see a mobile web on your tablet it is not the most beautiful feeling.

App offers something extra, not just from technical point of view

Technical benefits of mobile applications over mobile and responsive websites are obvious, for example, in the form of local or push notifications that keep the user in touch with the app and your business. Their advantage is also the way users use the applications. The user turns on the mobile app several times a day for a few seconds or minutes and makes the most important things in a short time. He does not need all the features that you have on the web because he can do the same on his computer as well and it is easier and more comfortable. Therefore, a mobile application should not be a clone of the parent site, but it should provide a limited set of features to best suit the use of the mobile application.

The app can also support your business indirectly

Some companies tell us that mobile apps just don't fit their business. In many cases this is true, but it is good to realize that mobile applications may not serve as a direct "support" to your existing service and brand. A great example is a store with building materials. Probably no one can expect a man to buy building materials through a mobile application. But everything can change when a company wants to keep existing customers or attract new ones and introduces a "material calculator" that can quickly calculate the approximate price and amount of material needed for a particular construction job. People who are not yet your customers can start using such a well-done application. You can have links to your business in your app, and you don't even have a new customer.

Mobile application vs. responsive web on mobile

Mobile app

+ It is designed for a particular operating system
+ It can work in an offline mode
+ Apps are used frequently but for a short period of time
+ From marketing point of view, an app icon is visible all the time
+ It is usually faster than the mobile version of the website (app works in the OS natural code)
+ The app design matches the operating system interface
+ It can better utilize phone functions (camera, GPS, gyroscope)
+ It is more reliable
+ Simple monetization - mobile apps can be sold in app stores, making it easy to generate a business profit

- It is more expensive than creating a mobile site (check our blog about How much does the mobile app cost)
- Due to the number of platforms and frequent updates, it is much more difficult to develop

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Responsive web on mobile

+ The development is not as demanding as the development of a mobile application, so the price is also lower
+ Versatility of use
+ Simple distribution channel

- User experience and ease of use
- Many phone functions cannot be controlled in this way
- Reliability and speed
- The mobile and responsive site is less accessible to the frequent user


Mobile and responsive web is not the same as a mobile app and it shouldn't try to replace it. The app should include only the content that the user wants to use from his mobile phone, and it should be served as comfortably as possible. Distributing functions between the application and the web is a very good thing, and it's always better when the user uses your services on more than one platform. If the app is convenient for the user he will return to it. The difference in the use of the mobile application and the mobile web can be seen in the following graph.

If you want to know more about our app &web projects check our work.

Martin Macík
Martin MacíkHead of Business