Device Real Estate: Mobile App or Mobile Friendly Site?

While smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices were once only used by the tech-savvy, recent years have seen these devices become commonplace for people of all demographics. With that, the hot, new jewel in the corporate crown for many businesses is a mobile application for their business that lives on iPhone, Android devices, and more. While the prospect of having a mobile application for your business may be enticing there are several questions that we at Words by Nerds like to ask before beginning development on a mobile application for a business.

However, before we get started let’s go through the differences between a mobile application and a mobile-friendly website.

1. Mobile Application.

A mobile application is a piece of software that lives natively on a users device. Apps can store data directly on your device and can be accessed without an internet connection. Mobile applications can also access other applications and tools installed on your device such as camera, phone book, email contacts and more.

2. Mobile Website.

These days a mobile website is no different from the desktop version of your website. At Words by Nerds we design all of our websites to be responsive, meaning that whatever screen size users are viewing your site on, they will be presented with a user friendly design that is easy to navigate. Mobile websites can have much of the same functionality as a mobile application with the exception of being accesible without internet, and access to your native applications.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way it’s time for your decide whether your company would benefit most from a mobile application or a mobile website.

Budget

Before we dive into the nitty gritty details we should first discuss pricing. Mobile applications cost significantly more than web apps with the same functionality. There are a few reasons for the this but primarily it breaks down two large “breakers” for cost.

1. Apple’s Hoops: To get an application on the Apple’s “App Store” developers must first submit their work for approval. More often than not, Apple will deny a developer’s first attempt at getting on the App Store and request that certain changes be made to the platform. This back and forth can take weeks and months before you can actually get your app on the platform. As we all know, time is money and the adminstrative/development costs can quickly balloon.

2. Developing for multiple platforms: If you are developing solely for IOS devices then you only have to develop for the various iPhones and iPads on the market. However, if you are developing for both Android and iPhone (which we always recommend), you must develop two separate systems and your app needs to work on the literally hundreds of different devices that utilize the android marketplace. This essentially doubles the development hours to build both platforms.

With these breakers in mind we typically say that a mobile app with cost four times as much a web-app with similar functionality.

Functionality

What do you want your mobile application to do? If all you are hoping to do is use the application as an informational resource similar to your website then we recommend that you save the bucks and opt for a mobile friendly site.  Keep in mind that users will have to download your application, and (typically) create a profile before they will be able to use the app.

Mobile applications should be built with purpose of being used fairly regularly. There is only a finite amount of storage on all of these devices and if the hassle of installing an app is greater than the convenience of the service provided I recommend a mobile website. However, if the application you are launching will provide value to your customer in perpetuity then a mobile app might be your best choice. To illustrate my point I’ve highlighted two company mobile applications

1. The Taco Bell app: In 2014 Taco Bell released an application for iPhone and Android that allowed users to order Taco Bell from the app and pick it up from the nearest location. While the app may have worked on some level as a marketing tool. It was something of a failure when it comes to continued usage. The ability to order tacos via an application is far less convenient than just waiting through the drive-thru. This, paired with the hassle of downloading the application make this not the best choice in the app market.

2. Chase Bank: Chase Bank has an application for iPhone and Android that allows users to check their balance statements, pay credit cards, transfer payment and even deposit checks. If you bank with Chase chances are you would like the ability to check your finances on the go. This application, while simple in scope, encourages continued use and is an example of a “good” application.

Conclusions

At the end of the day, the choice between developing a mobile web app and a mobile application comes down to your individual business and your customers. You must ask yourself which platform will provide a better value to your customers. Mobile applications can be clunky and frustrating to get started on but users will suffer through it if they percieve continued value. Mobile websites can be tough to reach at a moments notice but are cost effective and circumvent pesky installation and registration times.

I recommend that you sit down with your in-house development team or a reputable third party to discuss your options.