Many businesses that offer services online struggle with this decision eventually – should your organization offer a proprietary app or build a website optimized for mobile devices. There are many nuances to both options, when it comes to access, connectivity, and sharing capabilities. There’s no fast and easy answer to this question. You’ll need to look over the following considerations and see if your organization will benefit the most from an app or a website optimized for mobile devices.
Define Your Digital Products and Services
Before you can move forward with an app strategy or mobile website decision, you need to carefully plan the features of your mobile tool. Work with your tech departments to set the parameters of this project. Create a concrete list of features this tool will have, and don’t deviate from it. Don’t start funding this project until you have a clear goal and vision for a digital tool. List the types of information and services you wish to provide to an audience.
Access Speed and Frequency
How quickly will your audience want to access your mobile products or services? Websites optimized for mobile devices can be accessed instantly from a web browser with a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Apps take a bit longer to access – they must first be downloaded from a digital storefront like the App Store or Google Play. This process can take longer if your app requires a high amount of storage space.
How frequently will your app be used? Is your mobile tool best used several times a week (like your mail client), or is it best used occasionally (like a small retailer app)? Apps can be more convenient for audiences that need to access information frequently, since some or all of the necessary data is already loaded onto their device. Products and services that are sporadically used tend to work better as a mobile website, since mobile users will often delete an app that is used infrequently.
Do your clients need a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection to use your digital products or services? This major consideration can help you quickly decide between a mobile business app or a website. Apps have an enormous amount of offline and online potential, since developers can build vast libraries of information and features into an app package, which is downloaded and stored onto a mobile device. This allows your audiences to view information offline. For example, the travel company Lonely Planet created a language translation app that can be used offline. This can be immensely useful if you’re traveling abroad without reliable Internet access.
Mobile websites are highly advantageous for audiences that need to receive information that is constantly up-to-date, without the extra baggage of downloading it to their device hard drive. For example, retail stores with a constantly evolving inventory might find it easier to update information on a mobile website, rather than releasing an update for every change to product navigation, descriptions, and images.
Mobile apps can dramatically influence shareability and viral potential, if your app includes social media authentication support. For example, Instagram makes it easy for users to instantly share a photo or video on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare networks. This is a degree of engagement that you would be hard pressed to find on websites optimized for mobile devices. Mobile apps can securely receive and store login tokens for various social media services, so that users only need to sign into your social media accounts once to share listing information, such as your business-phone-number and address. Mobile websites will generally require users to log in with every visit.
Once you have defined the goals, purpose, and features of your digital product or service, you must uncover the best way to deliver it to your audience. Mobile apps and website have different pros and cons when it comes to access, connectivity, and sharing. Your organization must discover the format that best fits your customers’ needs.