Responsive Website vs. Mobile App: What is best for the user experience?

Responsive websites are designed to be easily read and navigated across a variety of devices and platforms. Put simply, responsive design is a “one-size-fits all approach” when it comes to your website.

However there are many benefits that come with a responsive website, which leaves several companies to question whether they need a mobile application at all.

If you are mired in this debate, you’re thinking about things wrong.

Ideally, it’s not about selecting one or the other but rather, taking advantage of the benefits that both options offer in order to optimize the user experience and meet your business objectives.

Listed below are some of the most important reasons why you still need a mobile app even if you already have a responsive website.

Mobile Apps = New Engagement Possibilities

Responsive websites are ideal for those who have time to browse, are being sent to a landing page from an online ad, or those who want to get a feel for your pricing structure before committing to a purchase or a download of your app.

On the other hand, mobile applications are great for taking advantage of the device’s built-in capabilities. One major advantage is that they can provide a direct communication channel with your users.

Examples of this type of communication include product notifications (that can be based on the users’ own purchase, browsing or “watch list” history), to relay upcoming sale information, or to inform users when they’ve hit a specific rewards level.

In addition, new technologies like iBeacons (iOS apps that connect to physical signals in the store), sensors and in-store, self-service kiosks, offer brick and mortar locations a way to personalize their customers’ offline shopping experiences and drive the same loyalty that digital offers.

If a customer has taken the time to install your app, they are also more likely to be familiar with your brand. Because of this, you may be able to provide a deeper level of engagement with the app than you would a general website.

Rather than focusing on explaining what your brand is/stands for and what you offer (like a website would), an app can provide experiences that are more tailored to the expectations of a loyal customer.

Mobile Apps are Designed with the Device in Mind

Because mobile apps are designed with the phone or tablet (and accompanying screen sizes) in mind, apps can be displayed on the full screen as opposed to the having Chrome (or whichever browser you’re using on your mobile device) taking up important space at the top of your browser.

Allowing the app to take over the entire screen gives customers a more engaging experience as they are fully immersed in your brand.

Another feature to take into consideration is that apps can take advantage of the device’s built in hardware capabilities e.g., vibrating when alerts come through, accessing the camera, GPS, etc. An app is able to push the boundaries of the host’s technology rather than remain limited within the browser’s capability.

Mobile Apps Can Provide an Additional Revenue Stream

If you build an app that provides a value-add on top of your existing goods or services, your organization can turn this platform into an additional revenue stream.

By investing time and money into developing an app, you create the potential to grow your business in ways that better accommodate the busy consumer. Additional income examples include:

  • Cost to download the app itself
  • In-app purchases (sending gift cards to a friend or ordering add-on services like clothing alterations)
  • Displaying advertisements with affiliate links


While the responsive website is a baseline for your brand, consider going the extra mile by providing a mobile app if you have a compelling experience to offer, odd workflows, unique engagement ideas, loyalty programs, etc.

Always remember, the responsive website and the mobile app should work in conjunction with each other for the greatest impact.