Mobile devices demand more from developers and designers in terms of presenting content. The days of creating websites that operate solely on a desktop computer are over. Marketers now have to think about how content will look on a variety of devices, screens, and operating systems. As usual, there are multiple ways to accomplish this. Presently, the most popular include developing a mobile app, or a separate mobile website, or creating a responsive design website. Which one is right for you?
Although many are quick to jump at the idea of a mobile app, the first question should be if you need one at all. Think of any app you’ve downloaded. Most successful apps serve a purpose or solve an immediate need. If your app is to act solely as a replacement for your current website, it most likely will not be widely received.
A good measurement of apps that serve a purpose are those which require the smartphone to perform properly. A mobile app that uses a camera, GPS, scanning capabilities, storage, or user personalization will perform very well. Small purchase and commerce apps have also proved to be successful. On the other hand, native apps allow more customized design than is possible with either mobile apps or responsive websites.
A hefty advantage mobile apps have is that they work without Internet connection. Even those that require Internet for some functions, such as synchronizing to the cloud, are more than capable at operating on a device’s data and run faster than accessing a mobile website. This may explain why people spend more time and consume more information on mobile apps than on websites. Between being instantly available after initial download and much more welcoming to users to play within the mobile space, apps have earned their place in the market.
A mobile website is a specialized satellite representing your main site. Conventional websites, when viewed on a smart device, are small, cramped, and hard to navigate. A dedicated, mobile website is redesigned for the smaller screen size and the different functions of a smart device. Information differing from that on the main website, and more appropriate for the mobile environment, can be displayed. The common practice of giving users a link to go to the full site allows any missed information to be received as needed.
Mobile websites are also a much more viable option for those with strong SEO strategies. Apps cannot be accessed by search engines and will not affect organic search results, where a mobile website is, at the end of the day, still a website and can be crawled by search engines.
Finally, regular websites are much easier to upload and edit than apps, because they do not have to go through the process of App Store approval. Each update or change must go through the approval process again, causing a cumbersome and lengthy wait for those who may need to update content on a regular basis.
A responsive website has all of the characteristics of a mobile website, with one difference: your mobile and laptop websites are not separate. Responsive design allows your website to display the same content over any device, restructured to best fit the environment in which it’s displayed.
This often requires a website to be completely redesigned. However, the functions on your website must all translate well to a mobile environment. To fill out a form, it must be readable and editable on all screens, while an online shopping center must be easily navigable on any device. While this often costs more than a normal mobile website, it is still considerably cheaper than developing a complete app and more sustainable for the future.
So, which one?
To make the best decision, make sure you know how your customers are getting your content. Which devices and browsers they’re using, and how high conversions are from these connections are all aspects to be taken into consideration when embarking on this sort of project. After that, you can move on to what type of experience you want, be it an app, mobile website, or responsive website. You may opt for one, a blend of these options, or attempt all three. Ultimately, the choice rests on what makes the most sense for your goals. As with any business decision, be as educated as possible before the final decision. You’ll be grateful in the long run.
Author: Zack Smith