Essential Tips for Understanding Mobile Websites Vs. Applications

The buzzword today is mobile. It’s critical to first understand two fundamental realities. These would be that a) your current desktop Web site is not conducive to viewing on a mobile device, and b) apps for mobile devices require specific platforms to be viewed optimally.

If not considered, the resulting experience can be so frustrating for your customers, that they may get upset and won’t return. As businesses plan a mobile strategy, they need to be very careful, research thoroughly, and think about future needs and goals.

One of the first decisions will be whether to create a mobile application (app) or a mobile website, or you may be considering both. At first appearance, they can seem similar, but several elements will be necessary to consider when determining which is most appropriate for your needs. This would include, but not be limited to, how to best target your audience, your available budget, and which features are most important to optimize the user’s experience.

Apps are usually not the optimal resource for Web site viewing and are more effective and used by consumers or company reps for specific purposes such as gaming or business intelligence and dashboards. But, if reps bring their own devices, mobile site development may be better due to the higher costs necessary to maintain cross-platform apps.

If strategies indicate a need for both a mobile site and an app, it may be wise to have the mobile Web site in place first due to wider access as well as cost factors. As an example, I recently attended Expo West, where a top-tier company launched iOS apps, but didn’t have a mobile web site available. This unfortunate decision left all Android and BlackBerry users feeling left out.

Mobile Web sites are much more dynamic, are much more user friendly, can be found through search results, and their design or content can be easily changed. Mobile sites are great for social networking and sharing through links posted by users. Apps, on the other hand, are unable to be shared in this way. Additionally, without a model that encourages repeated use, the average life of an app is less than 30 days, while mobile sites are always available and can be freshened easily, encouraging users to return.

Essentially, marketing-driven goals and delivering content that can be easily found on search engines and shared by users will mean mobile Web site development will usually be the best choice.

Geoffrey Robinson is founder of Digital Earth Network, a leader in the emerging world of mobile and digital marketing content and associated applications. Geoffrey was the former founder of Eye Force Productions, a web based advertising company, and has an extensive professional background, particularly in the Natural Foods industry, in sales, marketing, business operations, consulting, Point of Sale technology and other related verticals.

Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, June 22, 2012