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What’s the difference between an app and a mobile site?

Both apps and mobile websites are accessed on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.  However, a mobile website is similar to any other website in that it consists of browser-based HTML pages that are linked together and accessed over the Internet.  The main difference between a standard and a mobile website is that a mobile website is designed for the smaller handheld display and touch-screen interface.  An app, or application, is downloaded and installed on your device rather than being pulled up in a browser.  Users visit device specific “app stores” in order to find and download apps for a given operating system.  The app may pull content and data from the Internet or it may download the content so that it can be accessed without an Internet connection.  Simply put, apps function separately from your existing website and mobile sites are a variation of your existing site.

Whether you should build a mobile app or website really depends on your end goals.  If you need interactivity or gaming, personalization, complex reporting or calculations, unique functionality or processing, or something with no connection required, building an app makes more sense.  If your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to the widest audience possible, a mobile website is the way to go.  In some cases, you may need both an app and a mobile website, but generally speaking, a mobile website should be considered your first step in developing a mobile presence.

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