That question is incredibly vague. Obviously, if you have an idea for the next ‘killer app’, then the question is irrelevant; you need an app. However, more and more businesses are asking the question in the context of their whole marketing and customer engagement activities. The question is more accurately articulated as ‘Do I need an app, or should I mobile enable my existing website?’
Like every decision you have to make in business, and in life, the answer is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’; there are many considerations to take into account before you can reach the correct response to any decision.
What are the differences?
Before we take a look at the specific considerations that need to be taken into account to make the final decision, it is worth looking at the basic differences between an app and a mobile enabled website.
Apps are generally developed for specific devices and operating systems, Apple, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, and Blackberry, so they have a limited reach compared to a mobile enabled website, but because they are developed for specific devices they can make use of device functionality to provide a far superior user experience than can be achieved on a mobile enabled website. In addition to this, apps can provide a much better user experience in terms of navigation, design, and functionality.
A mobile enabled website has some seemingly obvious advantages; mobile websites are accessible by a significantly higher number of users than apps, and a mobile enabled website is far easier to update when changes are needed. However, there are a few caveats that relate to these points.
The reach of a mobile enabled website may be enough to sway you towards that route for your marketing and customer engagement strategy, however, it is worth considering a few additional points; the number of app capable smartphones being sold is increasing at an incredible rate, so the exclusive reach of mobile enabled websites in decreasing all the time. The second point is about the nature of app users. App users tend to be ‘glued’ to their devices; they will do as much as they possibly can through the apps on their smartphone. So, while the reach of an app may currently be less than that of a mobile enabled website, you are more likely to see a higher proportion of users from an app.
In order to reach the most appropriate route for your business to take, you need to consider many factors, including, customer reach, functionality requirements, design capabilities of each platform, rate of potential changes to the design, how the content is managed, value to the customer, benefit to the business, and of course, the cost. No single one of these factors will be enough to provide the necessary direction; they all need to be taken into account to ensure that the decision you make is the most appropriate one for the benefit of your business.
The most important factors in any business decision should always be the value offered to your customers/clients, and the benefit that could bring to your business. However, we can’t avoid the fact that the most popular topic in the ‘App or Mobile Website’ discussion is… here comes the fanfare… The Cost.
So, let’s deal with the cost. The simple fact is, it is cheaper, to have a mobile enabled website created than an app. Not only that, but a mobile enabled website only needs to be created once to be accessible to all smartphones, whereas a separate app needs to be created for each device type that you want to target (Apple, Android, etc…), which obviously increases the costs further.
The return On Investment (ROI) is a very important aspect for all businesses, but it cannot be calculated on cost alone. This is very important; take everything into account. Many businesses focus on the cost alone, and if luck is on your side it may turn out that the cheaper option is the most appropriate anyway, but none of us can afford to waste money by making uninformed decisions.
If you are broadcasting information to your users, then a mobile enabled website may be the most appropriate approach. However, in an increasingly Social Media aware world the expectation is that communication between a business and it’s clients/customers is no longer a one way street; consumers expect to be able to interact and respond to the information they are presented with. There are many very powerful features that apps can offer to fulfill this expectation, offering a much higher level of perceived value to the client/customer. This value should not be taken lightly; it could very well be the determining factor of how your business is viewed by the client/customer.
A good app development business will be able to analyse your requirements and guide you to the most appropriate solution. A good app development business will be able to provide either solution, and will be focused on building an ongoing business relationship, so they will ensure that you are getting the solution that best fits the purpose and will be the most likely approach to benefit your customers and ultimately, your business.
There are some very good interface designs on apps and mobile enabled websites, and both can be created to be very appealing to the target audience, but as one last consideration for you to take into account, perception is very important.
This will depend on your target audience, but in general, apps have the wow factor, they’re cool, they’re funky, they’re lots of other clichéd terms. They can show that you are going the extra mile for the benefit of your customers/clients, and your own business, keeping it fresh, modern, engaging.
This article is just an overview to get you thinking about the considerations that you need to take into account to enable you to make a decision that will benefit your business. Before making your final decision you should talk to a good app development business so that you can benefit from their expertise.
There is one, possibly obvious, question that we haven’t asked yet. “Do I NEED either?” Yes, absolutely.
Guest post by Jez Harper, Head Honcho and Technical Directory over at Tús Nua Designs, an Irish based iPhone iPad Android App development studio.