Is It Easier to Build a Website or an App?
November 2, 2023
When entrepreneurs have an idea of launching a product or service, they are usually impatient to bring it to life as soon as possible. But what is the best way to realize this idea? Is it in the form of a website or an app? Entrepreneurs need to find answers to these questions by considering price, speed of development, advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches.
If we don't go into detail, a website is easier to develop. But! Websites and applications can come in various types, each serving different purposes and functionalities. Since the topic is more complex than it seems at first glance, let's look at an example of two business owners.
The first one is a large chemical company that wants to improve the process of identifying equipment defects. The repair team spends most of its time at repair sites, which are located in a large area with limited mobile phone coverage and no Wi-Fi. To reduce the time gap between identifying equipment defects and notifying the repair team, the company wants to use modern technology.
The second company produces and distributes organic fertilizers. Its goal is to have an online presence that allows potential customers to find information about the company, its products and its values.
Probably, both entrepreneurs want to choose the simpler way, because nobody likes complexity. But which way is easier: developing a website or an app? To answer this question, we need to decide which criteria to use for comparison.
Since we are looking at the application and website from the development side, we have come up with the following list of criteria:
- Development complexity
- Cost and maintenance
- Platform compatibility
- Offline capability
- User Experience (UX)
- Distribution and discoverability
What is a Website?
A website is a collection of related web pages and digital content that are accessible through a unique domain name or URL. It is hosted on web servers and can be accessed by users through popular web browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Safari.
Is It Easier to Create a Website?
For the company engaged in the production and sale of organic fertilizers, it is easier and more appropriate to choose website development. Why? With a website, the company can set up an online store where customers can browse and purchase its organic fertilizers directly. This provides convenience for customers who prefer to shop online and expands the company's sales channels beyond physical retail locations.
A website can include features such as FAQs, contact forms, and live chat, allowing customers to seek assistance, ask questions, or provide feedback. It facilitates communication between the company and its customers, fostering engagement and building long-term relationships.
Now let's take a closer look at creating a website for the fertilizer company using the previously mentioned criteria.
For the company that produces and sells fertilizers, the optimal solution would be to create a simple e-commerce website. This way, the business owner will be able to process orders, accept payments, manage delivery and logistics, and provide customer service. In addition, it will provide the user with the most complete list of information about the company, a basic list of services, products, contact information and a section with answers to basic questions.
Creating such a website is often easier and more accessible due to the availability of website builders and content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc.
The CMS eliminates the need for the fertilizer company to independently build a web page platform, manage image storage, and handle other essential functions. By taking care of these basic infrastructure tasks, it empowers the business owner to dedicate their attention to the more prominent aspects of the website.
The CMS helps the entrepreneur to create, manage and modify websites without having to deal with programming. The business owner does not need to be familiar with the technical aspects of coding to run a website smoothly. However, the initial setup of CMS requires a certain level of knowledge and patience.
Cost and Maintenance
The cost of developing a website varies depending on its complexity and functionality. Even a simple e-commerce site will cost more than a business card website with a few pages.
However, in general, building and maintaining a website is much more affordable than developing a mobile app. Based on a Clutch research conducted in 2017, the average price for website development falls within the range of $10,000 to $50,000.
Developing a website is typically faster compared to creating a fully-featured application. However, the time required for website development can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the site, ranging from a few hours for a simple site to weeks or even months for more intricate websites that require customized functionality.
Websites possess a unique and outstanding advantage that apps lack - they work everywhere! They work on desktops, laptops, tablets, phones. They can even work on smart TVs.
In today’s world, where the number of devices is so diverse, the fertilizer company owner must ensure that their web resource can be opened on any device. Therefore, while creating a website, developers take into consideration two approaches: responsive design and adaptive design. Although both approaches are aimed at solving the same problem, they use different strategies.
An adaptive web design has several fixed layout sizes created for each device screen. When the site determines the space, it chooses the layout that best suits the screen.
A responsive web design, on the other hand, will automatically adjust for different screen sizes and viewports.
The fertilizer company's website can be easily accessed and viewed online. It is conveniently hosted on a reliable web server and only requires an Internet connection.
However, it is also possible to create an offline version of the website that can be accessed without an Internet connection. The offline capability of the website refers to its ability to function and provide a certain level of functionality even when the user's device is not connected to the Internet.
A website's offline capability can vary depending on its design and implementation. Some websites offer basic offline features, such as displaying cached content or the ability to access previously visited pages. More advanced offline features include offline submission of forms, data synchronization when the connection is restored, and even the ability to perform complex tasks offline and synchronize the changes later.
The fertilizer company's website will be accessible through web browsers on various devices and cater to a wide range of users and usage scenarios. It will follow standardized navigation patterns, such as menus, links, and search bars, to help users navigate through different pages and sections.
Websites typically have more screen real estate to work with, especially on larger devices like desktops or tablets. This allows for the presentation of more content and features simultaneously.
Distribution and Discoverability
Customers can access the website using a web browser by typing in a URL or simply clicking on the search engine results. It can be accessed from any device with an Internet connection, without requiring installation.
What Is a Mobile App?
Now let's move on to a mobile application, which is specialized software that is installed and runs on particular devices such as smartphones and tablets. Apps are designed to perform specific functions and provide a more interactive and personalized user experience. They can use device features such as GPS, camera, and sensors to provide functions and services.
Is It More Difficult to Build a Mobile App?
In the case of the chemical company, creating an app for it would be undoubtedly the optimal decision. Why? First of all, because apps can be designed to work without an Internet connection. And this is one of the main requirements in this case. These are commonly known as offline apps or offline-capable apps. Offline functionality would allow members of the repair team to access and use certain features of the app even when they are not connected to the Internet.
Now let's run the application development through our criteria.
Building a mobile app typically requires more specialized skills and knowledge of programming languages. For example, if the chemical company wants to make an iOS app, they need to hire a developer who is proficient in the Swift programming language. For Android, it is often preferable for a developer to know Kotlin along with Java. Finding developers who are proficient in these specific specialities is often difficult and time-consuming.
Cost and Maintenance
The chemical company owner should also keep in mind that mobile apps usually cost much more than websites. According to the Clutch research, the cost for building an app is about $170,000.
Before estimating the cost of developing an app, it is important to decide how the app will be developed. For example, it can be developed by an expensive outsourcing company, or it can be created by a freelancer. This has a significant impact on the cost of app development services.
Cross-platform compatibility is the ability of a mobile app to run smoothly and consistently on different devices and platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows or web browsers.
For example, if a business owner chooses an Android app, the developer must ensure that it works on the various devices and browsers that the repair team's employees may use. This is a complicated and time-consuming process, as the developer has to build everything from scratch to ensure compatibility with each platform. Therefore, it would be much cheaper to buy several identical devices and distribute them to all employees to work at remote repair sites.
With offline mode, users have the freedom to fully enjoy the app without relying on a Wi-Fi or cellular signal. This difference may seem insignificant, but it can make a big difference for the chemical company. Offline mode is especially useful in situations where the internet connection is intermittent, unreliable or simply unavailable, such as when working at repair sites.
One of the advantages of mobile apps is that they provide a more immersive and interactive experience than websites. App development enables personalization of data about customers and their preferences. The user sets their preferences, and the business owner can then tailor content to each customer's needs.
In the case of the chemical company, app development is favored as it allows recording, tracking of user interactions and geolocation. The app utilizes all the capabilities of the device to perform its functions, for example: camera, GPS, access to contacts and calls.
Distribution and Discoverability
Since the application is exclusively intended for internal use by the chemical company and its workers, the business owners do not plan to make it available beyond the plant.
However, as a general rule, apps can be distributed through app shops such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, which involves following certain rules and procedures for app review.
When an app is ready, it must be approved for distribution. This procedure can take a long time, even if the entrepreneur does everything right the first time. And that's just for a single platform. For a multi-platform app, they will have to repeat this process for each platform, but the requirements will be different.
No one's approval is required when creating a website. Once the website is ready, domain registration and hosting become a mere formality. The only delay is the time required for credit card transactions.
Back to the main question: should I create an app or a website? An app vs website standoff gains momentum when it comes to choosing one to run your business online. The complexity and scale of a project will determine whether it is easier to build an app or a website.
- If the entrepreneur needs a simpler online presence or wants to reach a broad audience, it may be easier to start with a website.
- If the project requires advanced features or interactivity, developing an app may be a better choice, albeit with additional complexities and requirements.
- If the business owner needs information about a user's location and can't do without this feature, they should start developing a mobile application.
- If the project needs to convey information in real time and this is the main function, it's better to prioritize application development.
- If the entrepreneur is targeting older users, such as people over 65, a website may be a better starting point because a survey showed that a significant proportion of older users may not have access to a smartphone.
At Cyfrania, we develop both websites and mobile applications. Our team of experienced Android and iOS developers has a proven track record in a variety of industries, including real estate, healthcare, fintech, and e-commerce. We develop working, tested software that is easy to expand and maintain to make the technology behind the business solid and stable. We work with the customer to deliver the app with the goal of a successful product launch.
If you need help choosing between a website and an app, we are here to provide assistance. All you have to do is contact us.