To App or Not to App: What's Your Mobile Strategy?

We are in the midst of a fundamental shift in web development. It’s all around us. Whether you’re on the go, in a meeting, or even when at home, relaxing, watching the television, there’s no escape. That very reason, however, is why we’ve grown so fond of it. Mobile is quickly changing the way we interact with the web and every website redesign going forward should include a strategy to utilize it.

The numbers are clear: 234 million Americans age 13 and older use mobile devices, with a shocking 39% of us, or 91.4 million, owning smartphones. [1] That 91.4 MILLION doesn’t include iPad or other tablet use. If your website isn’t designed with considerations for mobile use, go ahead and see what it looks like on a mobile device. Chances are it doesn’t look so great.

Concerned? You’re not alone. Now that you’re looking towards the future, the best thing to do is strategize how you want to engage with the mobile space. What are your options? What do you say to your web developers? In this article, I aim to highlight two approaches organizations are using to enter the mobile space: a mobile version of your existing (or redesigned) site, and creating an application.

1. Create a Separate, Mobile-Specific Site (Or Make Your Current Site Mobile-Friendly)

With a mobile-SPECIFIC site, the key is to simplify, simplify, simplify. The best interactions come from mobile sites that are easy to understand and navigate, but at the same time don’t feel like any of the information or experience is lost. For e-commerce sites, category drop-down menus are popular such as Wal-Mart’s mobile site (mobile.walmart.com – see left). For other sites, it’s important to group the most important menu items and to keep image use and size in mind. Some key things to think about:

  • What is your business trying to accomplish with your mobile site?
  • A single-column layout is the most basic and understandable on a mobile device.
  • The difference between “clicking” and “tapping.” In other words, is your site thumb-friendly?

2. No, There’s Not an App for That…Yet

Depending on your product or service, you may want to consider jumping right into the mobile foray. Mobile applications, both native (downloaded to the device) and web-based (lives on the web, just creates a bookmark on the home screen), are in increasing demand for businesses. These applications can be utilized by consumers, clients, and even members of the sales team. An app keeps your brand on the top-of-mind and provides an easy, enjoyable experience for the user. It also adds credibility to your business. The downside? Most applications are fairly expensive to develop.

Which One is Right for Me?

Well, like most things, the answer is: it depends. What are you trying to provide to users with your mobile strategy? Do you think your customers will search for you via the web or the app store? If users are looking for general information about a business, they will most likely go to the web. However, if your information is more user-specific and customized, such as online banking, an app might be more appropriate. Whichever path you choose, be sure to treat this new resource as equal in importance to your website. After all, any touch point to your business is an opportunity to build a relationship with a prospective or current customer.


Comments (1)
On 01/19/2012 at 4:03 PM,
Patrick Zuluaga [PMZ Marketing] said:

Any business serious with their web presence must implement a mobile version of their site as more customers and potential customers search and find information via their mobile phones. A serious challenge for small business is the initial and on-going costs for mobile apps which almost rules out this option for them.

Reply
On 01/19/2012 at 4:14 PM,
David Crouch said:

Patrick,

Great point! We find many clients interested in native app development, but then shy away when they gain an understanding of the resources required to build and maintain.

Web-based mobile apps can be more cost effective, especially when something like jquery mobile us utilized for the UI instead of designing and developing a completely custom design.

As Ryan points out, whatever solution is chosen it should be based on specific business requirements.

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