If you’ve been browsing the web on your phone, you’ve almost certainly seen messages asking you to install an app. It seems odd to create a mobile-friendly website instead of just asking people to use an app. Why is it so?
Aside from being generally annoying when you visit a site when you visit prompts, it begs the question as to why. Aren’t they proud of the experience a mobile site offers? There are some reasons why the website owner benefits if you use the app.
Native apps feel better
One thing that seems to be true no matter which platform you use is that native apps feel better on phones. Mobile browsers have gotten pretty good, but a native app will generally be faster and easier to navigate.
Native applications can be better integrated with system functions. Menus and navigation buttons may match what you’re used to in other apps. A mobile site usually looks the same on iPhone and Android, but apps can be more platform-specific.
Website owners want the experience to be as painless as possible so you keep coming back. That’s why they try to force you to use what they think is a better option. (Although, I have to wonder how the people working on the mobile site are doing.)
Apps bring you back
Another thing that native apps do better is notifications, and notifications are important to keep users coming back to the app. Mobile sites can also send notifications through the browser, but most people opt out when given that option.
Android, in particular, used to make it extremely easy for apps to send notifications. Users had to go out of their way to disable them, resulting in a lot of notification spam. That problem has been fixed in recent versions of Android, but people are generally more inclined to allow notifications on apps than on websites.
Apps are also easier to place on your home screen than shortcuts to mobile websites. Having an app icon on your home screen will make you more likely to open it again. That’s the ultimate goal, to keep you coming back again and again.
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More information for users and advertisers
As you might expect, advertisers also play a role in the sites that push the apps. Different information can be collected on a native app compared to a website.
When you browse the web, your data is collected through cookies. Information such as browsing history and user preferences are tracked. However, apps have access to anonymized demographic and location data, which is even more valuable to advertisers.
Of course, whether you’re using a mobile website or an app, your usage is being tracked and advertisers are learning about you. But your browser may have built-in ad and tracking blocking features that are not available in the website application.
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Users actually prefer apps.
The big question is, which do users actually prefer: a website or an app? There is some evidence that pushing people to install an app may not be necessary to drive activity and engagement.
In 2016, Google highlighted the results of Flipkart transitioning from an app-only approach to a progressive web app (PWA) that can run online and have a home screen icon just like the original app. Users quite dramatically preferred using the web app over the native app.
Users spent three times longer on a web app than a native app. There was a 40% higher engagement rate and a 70% higher conversion rate for people who added a website shortcut to their home screen. And, very interestingly, the web app used three times less data.
This is just one example, but as mobile browsers and websites have gotten better, especially with advanced web apps, it seems like native apps have never been less necessary. So please stop bugging us about it.
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