Native Mobile App or Responsive Website?

14th April 2015


In one of our previous articles, Why 2015 is the year of the mobile?, we explained why Google implemented several changes to mobile search results – including making ‘mobile friendly’ a ranking signal.

More recently Google decided to switch their index from desktop to mobile, following the popularity of searches on mobile devices. Mobile-first indexing means that Google will use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help mobile users find what they’re looking for. The mobile first indexing is currently rolling out and Google is notifying sites that are migrating to mobile-first indexing via Search Console. Best practices for mobile first indexing can be found here.

We know that having mobile friendly and responsive design is significant to businesses reliant on online sales and services but the question we are hearing more and more now is “should I invest in a mobile app?”

Responsive design can help a website display correctly on a wide range of devices but sometimes mobile apps are better suited to business needs. With mobile usage on the rise, having your own mobile application can help you capture some of this valuable, growing market.

What is the difference between responsive design and a mobile app?

The most common solution for companies looking for a mobile version of their website is to invest in a mobile friendly responsive website.  When a website is responsive, the layout and / or content responds or adapts to the size of screen they are being presented on – it will change to fit the device they are using, to provide the best user experience possible. This is a very good and flexible solution that lets you keep your content on your own domain and preserve your link equity.

Responsive websites:

  • Cross platform / cross-device
  • Available immediately – no installation of software required
  • Search & User friendly
  • Lower development costs
  • Easy and inexpensive to maintain

A mobile app, however, combines the versatility of the web with the functionality of touch-enabled devices. The mobile application retains the benefits of a regular mobile site but provides additional features; such as a rich look and feel, offline browsing, location based services and full media capabilities, for example.

Mobile apps:

  • Can access user details and information
  • Provides both location services and push notification – imagine walking past Costa Coffee and their app sends you notification about a free cookie with any coffee purchased!
  • Offline access
  • Higher development costs
  • Can require regular updates and maintenance

Do you need a mobile app?

You need to engage with what works for both your clients and your business.

If you are a consultancy business that interacts with its clients’ primarily on a face-to-face and / or over the phone basis then the answer is no, you probably don’t need a mobile app at this point in time. A mobile responsive website should suit your needs, allowing publication of news, blogs, corporate websites and provision of general information to your audience. It’s also a better solution for businesses with small budgets.

Conversely, if you are an e-commerce business, having a mobile app will be of a greater benefit than a mobile responsive website. With so much take up from smartphone users, your app will be downloaded and kept on their phone screen – prompting the audience to interact with your business on a regular basis, and therefore maintaining customer and brand loyalty. A mobile app will also provide you with increased social media interaction, as well as push notifications to the user about any offers or announcements, for example.



Online retail sales in the UK topped £133 billion in 2016, beating expectations with a 16% jump from 2015, according to the latest e-Retail Sales Index from Capgemini and IMRG.

34.5% of U.S. e-commerce sales were made on a mobile device in 2017. Mobile’s share of U.S. online sales is expected to reach nearly 50% by 2020, according to research firm eMarketer Inc. estimates.

This revolution is influencing many companies to shift towards a “Mobile First, Desktop Second” strategy for their business. What’s right for yours? The answer depends on what you are trying to achieve, whether through your responsive website or mobile app.

Your mobile strategy should work alongside your localisation strategy. Foreign Tongues will translate your desktop and mobile content, whether it’s for responsive design or a mobile app.

Stay with us for our upcoming series on how to localise your content for foreign markets!

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