The mobile web, just like mobile apps, is relatively new terrain. While many large organizations have already jumped on the rapid mobile web bandwagon, too many SMBs (small-medium businesses) are still stuck in the dark desktop age. By using a mobile strategy tailored to your customers you can now stand out and grow your business significantly. Let’s borrow the definitions of IT World’s Daniel Dern to explain the three common mobile strategies:
Responsive web design: The site’s code automatically receives key information about the user’s device and environment, and delivers a view optimized to take advantage of it. In particular, reacting to the width of the browser window – not just flowing the text, but often changing aspects of the page layout.
Mobilized websites: As the name implies, a mobilized website is designed specifically for mobile devices – in particular, smartphones. A mobilized website may share some content and back end with a “classic” (desktop-oriented) website but will have a lot of its own code – and is likely to present at the browser with a slightly different URL, like “m.WEBSITE.com” or “mobi.WEBSITE.com”.
The following set of questions can help you assess the best mobile strategy or strategies for your business:
- Is Your Budget Limited?
Recommended by Google in 2012 as the best strategy for optimizing websites for smartphones, responsive web design has since become a necessity for most organizations. Once viewed on a couple of desktop browsers, your website is now accessed through a multitude of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in various screen resolutions. Forcing your customers to go out of their way just to access your content on their mobile device is a bad idea. With responsive web design your site can provide a great experience on all devices by manipulating the existing piece of website code and using the existing URL. Initial development as well as maintenance costs are usually significantly cheaper than alternatives, making responsive web design a great starting point for those on a limited budget. According to Christina Warren, Mashable’s senior tech analyst, as sales start rolling in, commercial site owners can invest in native app development.
2. Does Your Website Have Many Categories, Menus or Product Lists?
Websites with many categories, menus, and product lists don’t play out well on mobile devices. Review sites like Yelp, news entities like CNN and BBC and commercial sites like Amazon, eBay, and Dell all fall into that category. These sites often require a redesign of their core functions so that mobile users can go through massive amounts of information and often make a purchase. Responsive web design doesn’t make the cut in these cases. Dedicated mobilized websites can provide a unique experience to mobile users, taking advantage of their mobility, geolocation services and more. Organizations with both desktop and mobilized websites (and sometimes mobile apps) will either present a welcome screen with a few site version choices or automatically detect the user’s device via code and load the appropriate site. With mobilized websites, large organizations often face significant costs of top-to-bottom website redevelopment. Mobilized websites usually replace a responsive web design.
3. Now, Can You Answer a Resounding “Yes” to Any of the Following Questions?
If you can, then you should consider building a mobile app!
A. Will your native mobile app have any of these functionalities: send and receive massive amounts of data, connect, navigate, inform, manage, log in or interact in any way?
An app will generally work faster than a responsive or mobilized website because it is less reliant on network and Internet speeds. So video sites like TED, image-heavy sites like Flickr and Pinterest and VOIP services like Skype will generally work better as apps. In general, apps are much more suitable for active use, interaction and productivity than websites. Apps can also be used for services that require daily access. According to MDG Advertising, there are some activities users prefer to do via apps: connect, navigate, inform and manage.
B. Will the native mobile app take advantage of phone features such as a camera or address book?
One of the advantages of an app over a mobilized or responsive website is its ability to take advantage of core phone features such as camera, accelerometer, address book and more. So if you want your users to scan barcodes, take photos and upload them (Instagram comes to mind…), etc, then you need to build an app!
C. Is there a significant portion of your customers on a certain mobile platform?
Christina Warren says: “it isn’t just about choosing native apps or choosing the mobile web –
it’s also about looking at who your customers are and what devices they use.” So if you’re a retailer and 40% of your users come from iPhone, maybe it’s worth considering an iOS app and performing market research to assess how many more monthly conversions the app can lead to. Large ecommerce websites such as Amazon and eBay offer native mobile apps on all major platforms in addition to mobilized websites. With native mobile apps the development costs are significantly higher because a separate app is needed for each relevant platform, and redesigns, new features, and updates are more frequent than in mobile-friendly websites.