What are Mobile Apps?
Mobile Apps are small pieces of self-contained software that install on the user’s mobile device. Apps are typically downloaded and installed from the mobile device manufacturer’s app store (iTunes on Apple, Play Store on Android). Apps require installation onto the user’s mobile device and typically require frequent updates to the software as content in your app change. As a result, the user must keep the app updated to ensure the experience is up to date.
What are Mobile Websites?
Mobile Websites are specially designed websites that are made to work on mobile devices. Mobile websites are designed to fit the smaller screen of the device it is being accessed from. Additionally user interface elements such as buttons, menus, links, etc. are designed so they can be easily accessed with the tap of a finger. Mobile websites are compatible across many different mobile device brands, types and versions making them accessible to all mobile users.
Which is Right for My Business?
When it comes to deciding to whether to invest in a Mobile Site or Mobile App we need to look at some factors:
Mobile Websites: Are universally accessible across nearly all mobile devices. It is not necessary to develop multiple versions for each device.
Mobile Apps: A different app must be created for each device out there. For example a different app must be created for Apple, Windows, Android, etc. Additionally each device such as a smart phone or tablet requires a different app version. As new devices are released all your apps need to be updated as well.
Mobile Websites: Do not require any installation or hunting around an app store. You type in the website address and you are connected instantly to usable information.
Mobile Apps: Must be downloaded and installed from the devices app store in order to use. Downloading and installation take time and are annoying when a visitor just wants information quickly.
Mobile Websites: Require no updates or downloads. As the website is updated all new content appear on all user’s devices automatically without their need to do anything.
Mobile Apps: Require constant updates as content changes or new devices are added. Users must keep their app updated in order to get the latest user experience. This can be annoying to a user to have to constantly update your app. Additionally, if the user is using an outdated app, he or she may be getting the wrong information.
Mobile Websites: Have no additional security concerns beyond a standard website.
Mobile Apps: Must be tested and updated to eliminate security risks to the users mobile device.
For the vast majority of businesses out there, apps are a waste of time, money and resources. Unlike a mobile optimized website, an app needs to be created for each type of device and the app needs to be updated as new devices come on the market. Additionally, apps need to be installed by the individual prior to using them. This creates a unnecessary burden for your visitors. If all they want to do is get a phone number or check to see if you have a product in stock, they will have to go to the app market, search for your app, download it, install it and then finally run the app.
All businesses should focus on developing a quality mobile website first before they consider developing apps. Additionally businesses should consider if apps will even be a benefit to their users. For example if you have a large customer base and a popular online store, an app may be beneficial to repeat customers. If, however, your current site has medium or low activity and is mostly information based, a mobile app is probably a waste of time.