Should I build an app or website?

"We should build an app!" Here’s our super quick, non-technical guide to the difference between apps and websites, and which makes sense for your business.

3 min read

Written by
Kieran Abbott

Head of Creative & Sales

Kieran Profile
Should I build an app or a website? Big Lemon

“Let’s build an app!” How many times have you heard this from a colleague, a boss or a marketer keen to explore other ways to engage your audience? Trust us, you’re not the first; it happens a lot.

We all know that we’re incredibly dependent on our devices. We use our smartphones for pretty much anything: to buy stuff, to communicate with friends, to count calories, track that run, a quick game of Plants Vs. Zombies*, and even to stream the latest shows and blockbusters.

(*I haven’t played mobile games for a while.)

It’s safe to say that apps have changed our behaviours considerably.

Just look at the increase in food delivery and take out apps, with users clocking up an estimated 128 billion sessions in food and drink apps in 2020).

That’s a lot of menu browsing.

Then there’s medical app download growth, spurred by demand of COVID training and telehealth apps which means a 50% increase year on year. Not to mention the time spent in business apps grew by 275% in a single quarter.

These statistics into app usage - whilst likely fuelled by the impact of working from home and COVID - would suggest ‘getting an app’ seems to be the right thing to explore, right?


Should we build an app?

We’re going to share with you some of the key considerations to make when it comes to app development.

We specialise in the design and development of mobile app development, which means we’ve partnered with a number of organisations to build their ideas over the years.

Sometimes, the app route isn’t always right for every project. There’s a ton of aspects to consider.

Here’s an overview of what we think you need to know to help you and your team move towards making that all important decision.

(Want more detailed info? Check our guide, how to create an app, which looks at definitions, costs and more.)

Is developing an app right for my business? Or should I go down the website route?

Apps are great, but aren’t necessarily right for every business because sometimes a well-thought out website can be just as effective.

The first set of questions to ask are:

  • What does your audience need to do?
  • Where is your audience going to be when engaging?
  • What is your budget?
  • What is your business strategy?

What does your audience need to do?

If your audience needs to carry out a task, let’s say book a taxi and use geolocation pinpoint they are, think about whether they can achieve this through a website or whether they'd be more likely to have a better experience using native features on the phone itself.

What about booking a weekly online shop? Is this something that will require your user to spend long periods of time browsing for items, on a larger screen? Do they need to make use of features like a camera or location?

Start digging in to exactly what task your audience needs to do, and in what context they need to do it.

Use the device’s capabilities, such as personalisation, camera, location, accelerometer etc.Reach a broader audience because of its ability to be found in search engines.
Available offline.Also available offline, but not as easily.
More complex to build and depending on the features you need, can sometimes be more expensive.Likely more cost-effective, and lots of ways to build for multiple budgets.
Harder to get users to download, but more likely to become part of a user's habit.Accessed without the need to download, but can be harder to get people to engage.
Generally takes longer to design and build than a website.Depending on features can be quicker to build.
Major updates rely on the user downloading a new version.Updates can be pushed and changed instantly.
Can be more difficult to fix bugs after launch.Easier to fix any post launch bugs.

There’s plenty more we could cover, but this is a very black and white way of comparing the two. There are options available that bridge the gap between the two - for example progressive web apps.

A progressive web app can have the same functionality of a native app - the type that relies on a smartphone's features, for example - but capitalise on some of the benefits of a website.

Questions to ask after you’ve explored the initial options:

  • What would an app give you over and above what a website couldn’t?
  • What would your target user expect from the service or product?
  • Where will your target user / customer be when they engage with your service or product?


This has been an introduction to the key distinctions between apps and websites that we hope will help you understand really what it is your audience wants and needs.

Because they’re the most important part, really.

Want to learn more? Check out how we partnered with Amber Energy to build an app with the Student Energy Project to give you an idea of why an app made sense for them.

Of course, if you'd like to talk to a human - we'd be delighted to chat. Just hit the chat button over on the right.