The mobile revolution has redefined our lives. Users can now stay connected while on the go with their smart phones. This phenomenon is now compelling companies to rethink business strategies. It is now mobile-first approach that works. However, this shift from desktop to mobile requires designers and developers to take a 360 degree approach with focus on mobile. There are several different ways to create an effective presence on the web such as responsive web design, native apps, mobile web apps or a dedicated mobile site.

Each approach has inherent advantages and downsides, development frameworks, and appropriate use cases. It is important that you take the right approach that meets your requirements and business goals.

Mobile Web App
App Developers often create websites for large screens, overlooking the fact of how the site will look when a user browses the website from a mobile device. Too much of zooming or resizing while viewing site from a mobile phone makes website difficult to navigate. As a result, several companies build separate version of websites specifically for users who access the site from mobile devices. The primary advantage of mobile website is that the site is optimized for viewing on mobiles and tablets.

A mobile web app depends heavily on the browser and its ability to render the application. On the other hand, native mobile app depends heavily on the device and its ability to render the application. Ultimately, mobile web app produces looks and functions just like a native app, only different part is that it is rendered through a mobile browser.

A mobile web app combines the benefits of a regular mobile site, working across browsers and a wide range of devices with the features supported by native apps. Mobile web apps support features provided by native apps such as offline browsing, location-based services and much more.

Mobile web apps are web-based, making them compatible with key smart phones, making it easy to reach out to a large mobile audience.

On The Flipside:
One of the biggest challenges for mobile web apps is getting discovered. What’s the point of web app, if users don’t know that your app exists? Finding a mobile web app with great functionality and user experience continues to be an uphill task.

Mobile web apps can only perform at optimum level at high speed internet connection and/or WiFi. They don’t function on older devices and browsers. As a result, you better hope people with latest smartphone and tablets visit your app.

Responsive Web Design
It’s unthinkable to build a website that is not responsive. Responsive website design an “approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones)” This technique is now the new standard and the default option for all websites. RWD comes with Google’s strong recommendation. Google states that responsive web design is its recommended mobile configuration, and even backs responsive web design as industry best practice.

When it comes to technology the framework comprises of a combination of flexible grids, flexible layouts, images and CSS media queries. As a result, when the user switches from once device to another, the website adapts to changing resolution and image size.

On the flipside
Designing a website using Responsive Web Design takes longer than building a normal website. If your website is already built using the normal website approach, rebuilding it using Responsive Web Design will add to your woes.

Which approach is right for you?
Well, everything boils down to your business goals and what you are trying to achieve with your website or app. Responsive web design provides optimum viewing across multiple screen sizes and devices with a single code base. It is low on maintenance and improves SEO. On the other hand, mobile web app provides faster implementation and provides better user experience.

Before you take a plunge, remember building a site using either approach requires you to take into account user needs. Don’t just blindly emulate trends. Think about users FIRST.

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