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The Difference Between Mobile Websites and Apps

Often we get potential customers asking us about developing mobile websites and apps. Sometimes people confuse the two -- since they are both accessed from mobile devices.

These days, we focus on building websites programmed in PHP with MySQL databases -- which is all open source and has become the industry standard. We also use HTML 5 and AJAX/JavaScript techniques -- including implementing jQuery.

We now also offer the "option" to create a separate mobile website tailored to smaller screens that would be "easier" to navigate on smaller devices like cell phones.

Technically that wouldn't be an app -- just an alternative and simpler version of the website customized for smaller devices... and mobile devices with larger screens like iPads or tablets could still access the entire full version of the site. We no longer use any flash elements in building websites, since those elements aren't viewable on mobile devices.

Note, it's not 100% necessary to create a separate mobile site, as the main website would runs on all of today's smartphones -- the  optional separate site would just be designed for use on the smaller screen....

Actual "apps" are something entirely different -- people sometimes confuse them with websites since they both run on phones over 3G/4G/WiFi networks. Apps are independent software programs that must be download and installed on mobile devices in order to use the particular app.

Apps must be developed to run on the specific platform you are targeting -- thus there are arguably 3 or more platforms that would require separate development:

  • iOS / Apple devices -- applications for iOS are generally programmed in Objective C -- all apps created for iOS device must be approved by Apple before they would be available for download -- so you must develop the app and then get approval -- note that Apple has been very "selective" is approving apps that have in-app purchasing.

  • Android devices -- generally these apps are programmed in languages like Java -- which is distinct and entirely different from JavaScript which often runs client side functionality on many websites.

  • Windows mobile devices -- these apps are pretty much brand new for Windows 8 devices, and potentially Windows phones -- currently this is the newest/smallest app library but could be a large area of growth as Windows 8 devices/phones are adopted. Apps written for Windows 8 can be programmed in multiple languages but all ultimately link in with Windows Runtime API and would not run on the other platforms.


In other words the programming and languages for developing apps are fragmented and different from the programming that is commonly used to develop websites....

The skill sets are different, and usually a company that does one well, is not necessarily skilled in implementing the other.

For those reasons, we have chosen to stay focused on developing websites rather than branching out into apps. Apps can be right for some customers, but they usually serve an entirely different purpose than a website.

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