Mobile apps vs. mobile websites


Mobile apps vs. mobile websitesHow does your company website look when people access it on their mobile phones? With the use of mobile internet growing exponentially, it’s vital you think about how easy your website is to use on a small smart phone screen

Mobile website or mobile app?

There are two main ways to get your business seen on the mobile web:

  • Create a mobile app, which can be downloaded by users and run on their mobile phones.
  • Create a mobile website, a version of your company website designed to look and function as well on a mobile phone as your normal website does on a computer.

Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages - what’s best for one business may not be best for another. The choice comes down to how well the chosen medium meets the needs of your audience and of your company.

Mobile websites: the lower cost option

Have you ever tried viewing your company website on a mobile phone? If not, you should. Many websites that are designed to look great on a computer screen look lousy on a mobile phone. Often, key functions like drop-down navigation elements just don't work.

The reason for this? Mobile phones are not the same as laptops. They don’t display web pages in the same as your computer monitor, because the dimensions don’t match those of a normal computer screen.

Indeed, most mobile phones are alive with touch screen technology and pinch-and-zoom functions. This means the standard version of your website may not even work properly. For instance, on a mobile phone there’s no concept of moving the mouse over an element – because there’s no mouse and no cursor on the screen.

A relatively simple way to get around this is to create a mobile version of your current website. If you’ve worked with a web design agency to create your site, they should be able to take care of this reasonably easily.

They’ll probably need to edit your website’s style sheets, which control how the site is displayed. These can be set up to show a different version of the site to people using a mobile phone. They might need to make some changes to the navigation too, so it’s easier to use on a smaller screen.

Consider reducing the amount of content and providing clear calls to action. Focus on streamlining the mobile experience and helping people find what they need, quickly.

Generally speaking, a mobile website is the cheapest way to cater for mobile users. This is because you can create one by restructuring the content of your current site and adding the functionality it needs to work on a mobile screen.

Mobile apps: a more personalised experience?

But wait. Is a mobile website the best way to engage your target audience, or should you consider creating a mobile app?

Apps are downloaded onto your mobile handset rather than streamed online (like a website) which means access is faster and there’s less chance of crashing or problems. An app is to a mobile user what a game CD is to a gamer – put it in your machine and off you go.

Millions of apps are available, so you can’t afford to ignore their popularity. People understand what they are and are comfortable with them. They tend to be fast and easy to use, making an app a good way to get your business seen by the masses.

Apps can also provide a personalised experience, allowing more customisation than a website and giving you the freedom to build something specific for your audience. You can create an app to perform useful tasks - so people will want to download and share it.

The downside to mobile apps

It takes time and money to create an app that works well. Even coming up with an initial idea will require user research to ensure you’re making something people actually want.

Additionally, the architecture and design of the app can’t just come from your website. Your app has got to be tailored to the mobile platform because the way people use apps differs depending on their purpose.

Finally, one app will not work on all mobile phones. You need to build different versions for different mobile handsets. Maintaining these different versions can be tricky.

Mobile website or mobile app?

Unfortunately, there’s just no right or wrong answer to the question of whether you should create a mobile website or a mobile app. The choice really does depend on who your audience is and what value your content provides them – plus, of course, what your business requires and how big your budget is.

However, remember that people will visit your website on their mobile phones no matter whether you want them to or not. As mobile phones have become more sophisticated, the proportion of people using them has shot up.

If your website isn’t optimised for mobile phones, you could be frustrating visitors or losing potential customers.

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