Mobile App? Or Mobile Site?

on October 31, 2011

Mobile optimization is one of the biggest trends on the web. From mobile apps and mobile-optimized sites, to QR code-driven landing pages and adaptive web design, mobile content is quickly becoming king. It makes sense, right? A user’s mobile phone is constantly on their person and always on. If a consumer sees your ad or marketing piece, there’s a much greater chance a user might interact with your brand or site while on the go rather than hours later upon sitting down in front of a computer screen.

Furthermore, a user might use their mobile device to access social media or review apps like Yelp, finding out key details about your product or service. If you don’t have a mobile experience ready to engage that user, it’s going to be frustrating when they come looking for it. Think about this: it’s estimated that by 2015 there will be more mobile web users than traditional desktop web users.[1] Even more surprising than that, there’s currently more than 5 billion mobile users worldwide.[2] If you’re not thinking for this user on the web, you’re going to miss a connection with them.

Before you starting building your mobile web interface, it’s necessary to determine what will best suit your needs. Let’s break it down:

Mobile Apps
A mobile app is a native application that lives on your phone. Regardless if it was free or not, the app physically resides on your phone and is not readily available to the public. In order for a user to access the application, they must acquire it from a source like the App Store or the Android Market.

Mobile Sites
A mobile website is a browser-based site that has been specifically developed for a fast and easily accessible experience through a mobile device. Mobile sites automatically detect that you are accessing the site through a mobile device and are then able to deliver the appropriate experience for that device.

Keep in mind, though, that neither solution is perfect. Native apps can take ages to launch due to the red tape that goes into the App Store and Android Market approval processes. Native apps have to be developed individually for each device and submitted separately to each device’s proprietary app store, which makes a native much more expensive. Mobile websites are often limited in their complexity due to 3G speeds and technical capabilities of mobile web browsers. Speaking of, these web browsers often vary wildly in capability, with the potential to deliver a sub-par user experience.

Now that you know the facts, which one is right for you? Before deciding on one or the other, make sure you understand your business goals and set realistic expectations on what the app or site will deliver. It’s also imperative to understand your target audience and how this new development is going to affect them. Your audience may not utilize a particular brand of smartphone, or your product or application may require significant processor power to function. Be sure to weigh all the pros and cons before making your choice, and when you’re ready… call us!

1 Source: Mobi Thinking

2 Source: Digital Buzz Blog