By Corrie Oberdin • 19 March, 2014
When discussing our client’s digital presence, the discussion frequently turns to the question of how to respond to the increasingly mobile world. And it should – according to Pew Internet, almost 63% of cell owners go online using their phones, while 34% of cell phone owners are using only their cell phone to access the internet (as opposed to desktop or tablet access). Because of the changing landscape of how users browse the internet, how companies approach their digital platforms is becoming a more challenging question.
We get the question “Should we do a mobile app or a mobile website?” and the answer can vary, depending on client needs, target audience and that target audiences behavior. Mobile applications and mobile websites do different things, and therefore, the costs, development time, and maintenance needs are all different. Below is a quick rundown on the difference between a mobile app and a mobile version of a website.
Mobile applications are programs that run on mobile platform (like iOS, Android, etc). In some cases, they can be interchangeable between cell phones and tablets (think about the apps you may run on both your iPad and your iPhone), and in some cases, they are only suited to one or the other.
One of the first questions we look at is whether a client really needs an app? Apps can be a great solution as long as they provides an experience or functionality that can’t be delivered via a website. Costs are also a consideration. Comparatively apps are more expensive to develop than websites, and for each platform you want to support, you may need to develop a separate app (i.e., one for iOS, one for Android, etc).
Frequently, applications for various types of platforms are sold through a device specific “store” (i.e. Apples ‘App Store’) and must meet a series of approvals form the store provider before being made available for download to the device. Other considerations include updating the app (as needed), technical support for the app and whether or not the services your mobile app offers are needed by your target audience. However, if you can provide a service that engages your customers and gives them an experience they need that can’t be duplicated via a web app, mobile applications can generate enhanced customer loyalty and engagement.
Mobile websites are websites that have been optimized for mobile browsing. In some cases, this means a site that has been designed to work specifically with the small screen of a mobile site. Now, sites are more frequently designed to be responsive – meaning they dynamically change based on the type of device an individual is browsing on. Mobile websites do not require approval by an app store, and work across different platforms. Updates are instantly reflected across all users without the need to re-download or update an app. According to recent research, mobile sites get about 82% of visits (compared to just 18% of mobile apps, even though those who use mobile apps are much more engaged than mobile site visitors.
So what’s right for you? As we said above, it depends on a variety of issues, and each client is different. What may work for one organization won’t work for another, but we can work with you to determine which approach (or both) would be right for you.