5 Reasons To Supplement Your Mobile App With a Web App [Plus 8 Examples]

A web app is a great way to introduce your offer to a wide audience. But do you really need it if you've already built a mobile app?

July 13, 2021
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For a decade, businesses did their best to deliver pleasurable and competitive experiences for their users through mobile apps. Yet at some point, web development technologies evolved to a level that allowed offering the same experience through the web.

So if you have a mobile app already, when do you need to build one more instance of it for the web? Since the clients of our web development company often ask us about it, we'll list five top reasons why businesses go for it to help you find the answer.

1. Reaching the global audience

A web app is a great solution for a product targeting the global market, as it allows reaching new audiences with any Internet-connected device and any network speed without the hassle of downloading a full-fledged app.

The comparison of bundle sizes and dependency numbers during the initial and final phases of the m.uber web app development
Web app development technologies provide a lot of maneuver for data optimization. Source: m.uber case study

In the case of Uber, a taxi ride request service, they were able to build the m.uber web app so lightweight it loads quickly even on 2G networks. It comes in at just 50 kilobytes – compare it to a 63 MB mobile app! This became possible thanks to using Preact, which is rendered on the server in this case to allow almost immediate content loading.

2. Not an addition, but an alternative to a mobile app

A web app usually means that you need to open a browser first and then proceed to a specific web address. You can shorten this path by using bookmarks or making a shortcut on your mobile phone's Home Screen. However, if we're talking about progressive web apps, as a web development services company we often make them in a way that allows their installation.

Although it looks just like adding a shortcut to a home screen (which is alone capable of increasing the time spent by users on site by 28%, as it happened with George.com), the process also includes downloading a cache that contains service workers, core resources, and top content. The benefit of this approach is not just about launch optimization or performance increase – it can go as far as allowing you to launch the web app even if you're offline.

An image from the Nikke case study revealing the improvement of web optimization indicator values
The advantages of an optimized web app also include better search engine optimization and increased accessibility. Source: Nikkei case study

When Nikkei, a world-famous Japanese media business, did that UX improvement (among other significant optimizations of their web app), that eventually doubled their organic traffic. That means that a web app might be a substitution for your mobile app while you’re revamping it or building a new one from scratch.

And for users who are short on storage, using mobile web apps is the only way to get extra space for more important content. For instance, mobile.twitter.com requires only 1-3% of the size of Twitter's native mobile apps and has a "data saver" mode to reduce data usage by 40% during timeline scrolling.

3. Wider device and technology support

The fierce competition between Apple and Google forces them to invent unique features for their mobile operating systems. In iOS 12, Apple introduced Memojis. Android phones often have SD card slots. You cannot tamper with the file system of iOS for the sake of your data security, while Android phones allow installing alternative mobile operating systems to provide you with broader freedom of choice.

This list can be quite long, but the thing is such competition creates obstacles for mobile app builders for hire and complicates the utilization of newer technologies for users of both systems. A web app can partially address this issue, as HTML5 and other web technologies are fully supported by top-used browsers on Android and iPhone.

A screenshot of the tonite.dance web app
A screenshot of Dance Tonite. A yellow orb represents your point of view; figures around it move in sync in 8-second loops. To make the experience of your presence in this 3D space bearable, lots of performance optimization tricks were used, from instanced buffer geometry and motion serialization to progressive playback and movement interpolation. With them, a web app can also appear less resource-demanding (and thus less battery-consuming) than a native mobile app. Source: Dance Tonite Case Study.

One of the prominent examples is Dance Tonite, an open-source web project that allows you to take advantage of virtual reality and express yourself through motion. You can use a VR headset designed for a PC or smartphone-compatible VR goggles, or simply hold your phone to look around in 360 degrees instead of seeing the picture in 3D. If you'd try to make a mobile app with such functionality, you'd need to study the differences and consider the limitations of VR support for both Android and iOS (not mentioning the implementation for desktop systems).  

And When Microsoft figured out in 2020 they can't bring their xCloud (i.e. Xbox game streaming) service to iOS as a native app in the App Store due to Apple's unclear limitations, they delivered it as a web app. The same happened to Google Stadia.

4. A web app as a part of a marketing effort

As a web development firm we know that if you want the user to download your mobile app, you first need to provide them with an incentive. A web app is a great way to make a first impression on your new users and engage them into interacting with your product and service further, and this is exactly what Alibaba had done back in 2016.

A screenshot of the mobile version of alibaba.com made in July 2021
A recent screenshot of the mobile version of Alibaba.com. Nothing can tell that this is not a mobile app. Source: EGO.

When they upgraded their mobile web app, they saw a 76% improvement in conversions across browsers, which is natural but also increased the monthly active users on both mobile platforms.

Also, according to Alibaba engineers, having both a mobile app and web app helps them maintain their competitive edge. Obviously, offering users a choice between a native and a web app helps make them more loyal to your business.

5. In addition to all advantages, a web app can be cheap

Mobile app development implies building a full-featured instance of your product for both Android and iOS. Whether it's a native or a hybrid app, you'll need to incrementally design, build and test it to reach desired KPIs.

Yet once you have a mobile app, building a web app as an addition becomes much easier:

One of the prominent cases here for our custom web application development company is Tinder. They made a web app after a mobile app and achieved feature parity for them. And that took them only 3 months. Just like with Uber, it allowed Tinder to hit new markets where a slow Internet connection might be a roadblock in downloading full-fledged mobile apps for the most pleasant experience and highest performance.

Bottom line

Any update, upgrade, or improvement naturally brings its advantages and risks. With web apps, we're mostly talking about faster loading time, reduced data storage, and wider compatibility. Yet if your established user base uses your mobile app mostly, you'll need to make sure those benefits are actually wanted by them, or that you have enough marketing expertise to bring newcomers through a new web app.

Anyway, as usual for our app company blog, we don't find it honest to produce one-for-all tips and tell you when you definitely need to make a web app and when you don't. Every single case is unique and depends on the desired outcome and the resources you're ready to allocate in order to reach it. However, we're always happy to take a personal look into your case and talk it over. So feel free to contact us via any means comfortable.

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