What’s the Best Way to Serve up Mobile Content?

August 17, 2015   //   Digital Marketing, ,

Mobile content is a dish best served with your target audience in mind. With the way mobile trends are going, there is tremendous value in presenting your content in a way that makes it easily consumable on a smartphone.

If content is not easy to access via a mobile device, users will find another source for that content. Google has even adjusted their search algorithm so that mobile-friendly sites receive a higher ranking in searches made on a mobile device.

But what is the best way to get your content in front of your target audience? Do you develop an app? Do you build a mobile version of your website? What about responsive design or a web app (is that even different than a “regular” app)?

It’s essential to list the pros and cons of each of these solutions and help you find the one that will suit you best.

As a designer and business analyst who has worked with all of these technologies, I’d like to start you on that path, but first, let’s define them.


The App

A mobile application, or app, is a program that is installed on a mobile device. Each operating system has a store where you can go to download apps for that device. Apps require you to agree to varying degrees of permissions before they can be installed.

The Mobile Site

Usually, a mobile site is built after there is already an existing non-mobile site. When a user enters a non-mobile URL on a mobile device, the system recognizes that and redirects them to the mobile site.

Mobile sites can access various phone functionalities, but the user needs to actively give permission when they get to the site.

The Responsive Site

A website utilizing responsive design, also known as a responsive site, is a website that is designed to display differently depending on the device that is viewing it. Whether it is accessed on a desktop, tablet, or smart phone, the site knows the size of the screen and displays the page accordingly.

The Web App

A website application, almost always called a web app, is the least known of the options. It is a website accessed through a browser, but it is designed to look and function like an application. For all intents and purposes, it is just a mobile website. But where most websites are designed to serve information to a user, the web app is designed to be more “functional.”

What Are Your Business Requirements?

Let’s look at each of these pros/cons and examine some user tendencies to see how they might meet or fail to meet your business requirements.

Online vs. Off-Line

If your goal is for users to be able to access content while offline, an app is the way to go. Obviously, there are limitations: namely, the fact that all the content needs to be cached on the device.


A mobile site, a responsive site, and a web app can usually be used from any type of mobile device, whereas an app must have a different version created for each platform. And while it is true that there are technologies that let you build the app once and then “compile” it into different versions for each mobile operating system, these tools have limitations and will almost always produce less efficient code than if they were developed for one specific platform at a time.

Ease of Access

It is often easier to click on an app than it is to open your web browser and find a website. But users can be reluctant to download an app for something they do not think they will do very often, and there is an adoption curve with an app.


Research shows that a user is more likely to trust an app with personal information than they would trust a mobile website with the same information. There are a lot of complex sociological reasons for this, but the net result is that users are more willing to enter their credit card number in the Amazon app than on the Amazon mobile website.


Development considerations take two forms: expertise and cost.

Each of the options requires a (slightly) different skillset to create. Even if you are paying someone to create the app/site, you need to consider maintenance. You either need someone on staff who can make the updates, or you will be paying someone every time you want changes.

If you build a mobile site, every time you make an update to the desktop site, you (generally) have to make it in on the mobile site as well. If you employ responsive design; however, you only have to make the change once. Depending on how the solution is created, and app may or may not need to be developed separately for each device type.


Publishing information to a website is relatively easy. Apps are a different story. It takes approval time and can cost a fee for an app to be published to an app store.

The Verdict

In order to arrive at the right solution, you need the right developer. That’s where SWC comes in. We take a pragmatic approach to understanding your business needs in crafting a roadmap that solves your biggest challenges. Whether the answer is an app, a mobile website, a responsive site or a web app, our teams have the expertise and experience to tackle any project. Send us an email or call us today at 630.572.0240.