Which is the Best Strategy for You: App or Mobile Website ?

app vs mobile websiteTaking your customer experience from the desktop to mobile can be daunting. Here’s what to consider when deciding when to optimize your website for mobile or build an app.

Let’s say you’re comfortable with your website presence—you’ve hung your shingle on the internet, and your site has great search rankings. But most people can’t find the time to park themselves in front of their computers to soak up your home page anymore. Checking out your business is now integrated into the rhythm of their daily lives instead of a standalone action. Your users are more likely to look you up on their mobile device while picking up the kids from school, having lunch in a restaurant, or simply parked on the couch watching TV.

What does this mean for you? If you only have a website accessible via desktop browser, are you sure you’re giving your customers what they want, when they need it? If you haven’t already, you should probably consider the mobile dimension of your business. Nielsen reports that 71% of Americans have a phone capable of accessing the internet, and it’s estimated that just under one quarter of the world owned a smartphone by the end of 2014.

If you’re not easily accessible when and where your customers are looking for you, you become irrelevant. However, creating a mobile site and app will take varying amounts of of resources from your development team, so how do you know what’s right for your company?

Creating a mobile optimized site vs creating a mobile app

Your site may look great on a desktop, but what happens when users see it on a mobile device? If it looks like a zoomed-out mess of tiny images and copy, it’s time to optimize. The fastest and easiest way to make your mobile site as accessible as possible to your customers is by optimizing it through responsive design. There’s a plethora of resources on responsive design online, but in short, it’s a way to present your site on smartphones and tablets with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling. Responsive design scales and optimizes the contents of a site to quickly surface what’s most important to the user.
Optimization in action

To use a real world example of mobile site optimization, if a news site were to responsively design their site for mobile usage, it would consider what information is essential to their users. In the case of this news site, perhaps the most important content would be the top news articles of the moment. Consequently, it would simply present to the mobile user the most important elements of the homepage—such as logo or header, top articles, footer navigation and contact information—with an option to access the full desktop version of the site somewhere on the screen (just in case!). If the user accessed the site with a tablet, the site would automatically scale to provide additional information and take advantage of the additional screen real estate. What this means for the news site readers is that they can quickly keep up to date with the content they want.

When it’s time for a mobile app

If you’d like to take your consumer mobile engagement to the next level then you may want to consider creating a mobile app. An app leverages a mobile device’s inherent functionalities to enhance your consumer experiences in ways that can’t be easily accomplished on an optimized site. An additional bonus is that you can then claim space on a user’s mobile home screen with an app icon, thus increasing your brand visibility.

Some examples of functionalities you can use in a mobile app:

Location information

Photo access

Contact list access

Notifications

Social platform integration (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)

It’s a good idea to not load all of these mobile functionalities onto your app willy-nilly, as that’s the fastest way to frustrate anyone trying to use your app. Stuff too much into your offering, and your user will get lost in the noise and wonder why you are loading them with all of these unnecessary “features” and miss out on any potential value you’re trying to provide.

In order to create the most addictive apps, consider your core value proposition and how mobile functionalities can link those values to be relevant to your customers. By testing your prototypes with your target demographics, you’ll save time, money, and your development team’s sanity—not to mention preserve your brand image with the finished product.
A final word on diving into mobile app development

If you’re delving into mobile from the world of the web (hint, hint, you should!) just remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Creating an app on the iOS platform for iPhone is a completely different ballgame than creating an Android app—and then you add a third dimension of fun (and development cycles) if you’re targeting a third mobile platform such as Windows.

And don’t forget the app stores. You’ll need to factor in the time it takes for the various app stores, like App Store and Google Play, to approve your app for publication. App reviews can take days or even months depending on the app’s complexity, and may require several rounds of refinement before it’s accepted into the store.
So, are you ready to go mobile?

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