The best mobile experience for your customers and best outcome for your business may be delivered by a mobile web-app (aka adaptive web). But you may be bucking the trend if you go with a web-app instead of building a downloadable mobile app or just going for the one-size fits all ‘mobile first’ website design.   This post explores pros and cons of a mobile web app, compares to two other popular options and provides a case study of a successful web-app implementation for a global brand.

Pros and Cons of a Mobile Web App  AKA adaptive web 

Likely to be less complex (therefore less risky) and costly than designing and building a downloadable mobile app.  The best mobile experience for the customer will undoubtedly be where the digital journey has been designed and optimised specifically for mobile visitors, with screen size formats in mind and usage/operational time constraints covered in the design.

Unlike a mobile app, customers using a web-app won’t have to worry about downloading  the app and keeping it up-to-date (for each particular device they use). There are no more worries about eating into limited storage/memory on the customer’s mobile phone either.

When comparing to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach using a responsive CMS to accommodate one version of the content, a draw-back is that two versions of the content must be created (one for the main website and the other for mobile visitors).  I suggest this drawback can be minimised as the mobile content can be included on the same content management system that is used for  the desk-top.  The overhead of creating a two versions of content can be minimised through the CMS workflow as mobile and desk-top content can be uploaded at the same time.  Mobile content can be derived from a single data entry for the desk-top version (subject to workflow design and business rules creation). The up-side of taking this approach is that content and functionality for the mobile experience will always be completely up to date with the main website which will be the single version of the truth.

What about a mobile first design on a mobile responsive CMS?

Many business have been applying mobile-first principles when re-designing websites, and for simple websites (that don’t need much content) this works fine.   For the majority of retail websites that are selling simple products, this approach offers a completely acceptable customer experience.  One size fits all is great for the business too as the content management system only needs one version of the content.

With some online products though it may be that the content (and/or the user experience) must to be designed for one or other format. There are online products and services where a single  mobile-first design may not be transferable desk-top and different product is required for that application.  I’ve noticed this challenge with some digital media publications for example.

Imagine the reader experience for  consumers of a broadsheet newspaper (such as the Sunday Times), if one day they were to find that editorial content, facts, figurers and analysis had been crammed into the relatively small printable space of a tabloid newspaper (such as The Sun). Translating this into digital and we can see that immense care will need to be taken to ensure the customer experience still works for the target persona group when the content is presented on either platform.

What about a mobile app?

Mobile apps are undeniably a favourite option for many users.   They are designed for a specific set of mobile devices, with features and functionality to match the underlying mobile platform capabilities.   The content on the app is tailored for the app user experience.


  • Can be linked to live CMS so that content refreshes into specific parts of the journey.
  • Many users prefer reading content on an app.

Down sides

  • users need to keep downloading the latest version of the app (from Apple, Google, Amazon etc) for each different mobile device.
  • Apps take up valuable space on the user’s phone and can quickly go out of date.


The best mobile experience for your customers will be delivered by the underlying platform architecture that supports both the desired content and type of interaction and services that the customer is expecting to receive.   The decision about whether to  build and app, a web app, or just rely on the responsive features within the CMS is down to the use-case.   Recommendation is to start with the outcomes we would like for our customers and for our business and work back from there. Web Apps are not expensive to build and can offer a great way forward for some many use-cases