Mobile Apps, Mobile Sites or Both, The Debate
With the advent of smart phones, it's unsurprising that strong debate has erupted over corresponding mobile applications vs. mobile websites. As business owners determine how best to interact with existing clients, grow their business, and cultivate new relationships, many find themselves at a loss.
'What does my business really need?' they ask. 'Should we build a mobile website? Everyone says we need an app, right? We should do both just to be safe.'
Before you proceed with any type of mobile development, familiarize yourself with a few rules of thumb to help you evaluate what's really in the best interest of your business.
Mobile Applications vs. Mobile Websites
1. Is the mobile application the product itself?
If you are building a new product or service and they way in which a customer will access the product is via the mobile application then a mobile site will most likely not meet your needs.
Example: Gaming applications.
It is far easier to build a mobile gaming app, compared to building a mobile website packed with the same features and functionality needed for the site to operate as intended for gaming. Uber online game developer, Zygna Inc. would have had a difficult time building all of their mobile application games as mobile sites. Farm-ville and Words with Friends are much more enjoyable (not to mention less buggy!) as mobile applications.
2. Are you repackaging existing information available on your current website?
If you are simply repackaging the same information that's already available on your current website, a mobile application may not be the right move. Why? A mobile website typically allows you the ability to offer a mobile version of your website, while taking advantage of your existing database, content and infrastructure.
Important to Consider: the experience of your user.
Smart phone users have numerous apps to maintain. It is annoying to users to download a new mobile application only to find that the same information could be (and is!) available more instantaneously and seamlessly via a mobile site.
And finally you need to ask yourself...
3. Do I have the resources to maintain a mobile application?
Mobile applications are not a 'one and done' deal. Whether you are building a mobile application for iOS, Android, or Windows, all will require ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure interoperability within their respective operating systems, to keep the mobile application listed on the app store or the marketplace, and to release updates when and if they are needed.
Remember: mobile apps mean commitment is non-negotiable.
Websites and related applications are an investment.
There are many more considerations when deciding whether or not you want to build a mobile app or a mobile website. Choose carefully! Once you have selected your path it is difficult to abandon your investment. The world of mobile is still relatively in its infancy, making it impossible to predict what your needs may be a year or two down the road.
By doing your research and understanding the differences between mobile websites and mobile apps, you will be better prepared to determine the best solution for your business.