With the surge of consumers using their smartphones to shop online, visit web sites and overall communicate online, it's important that you strategically think if your company’s web site should be mobile friendly.
There are two main ways to do this:
Option 1: You could ensure that your website is able to display correctly on a mobile browser.
Option 2: Develop a native application that for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android or Windows and encourage users to download it from the App store of the respective phone vendor or wireless provider.
There are pros and cons to each option. Keep in mind, you might also want to develop a mobile application and ensure that your website is mobile browser friendly.
Whatever your decision is, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer, it really depends on what works best for your business and most importantly what your customers want.
Digital content guru, Lee Bogner said that he would lean toward using the mobile App as a way to engage with today and tomorrow’s business presence. He said that as a web businessman and ecommerce marketer and developer he would first create a mobile application that users could download to a smart phone, then consider the development of mobile website.
Most importantly, Lee told me that, no matter what, you need to be where you customers are -- so if they are on the web, be on the web, if they're on Facebook, be there too. The same goes gwith email, SMS, mobile Apps and mobile websites.
It is important to know who your customers are. Your various customer segments will have varying preferences, and these preferences change. Although this is challenging, to maximize your online communication you’ll have to stay on top of the various communication channels and measure which channels are most effective, so you know where to dedicate your energy.
Patricia Ju, who works in Consumer Reports eservices team, said that Consumer Reports just went through an analysis of whether to develop a mobile web version of their products or release an iPhone (or other) App.
After careful analysis they decided to put out a mobile web version of their popular Products & Ratings before putting out a significant iPhone App with barcode scanning and additional features (both require payment/subscription). Consumer Reports had different advice from vendors -- some suggested that they develop a mobile application while others suggested a mobile web site. Consumer Reports, in any case, is very happy with the choices they.
Patricia said that the challenge of developing a mobile application is that you must have separate development work for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows. This means more development dollars and time. With the mobile web, you build once (with templates for the handful of phone classes) and it will be usable be a much larger population of mobile phone + browser users.
On the other hand, Patricia told me that if you have functionality/features that are extremely engaging and can only be done in a native App, by all means go for it. It really boils down to the question, "What do your customers want?" Sometimes it’s nice to have a dedicated App for something as opposed to visiting a website.
If you want the best of both worlds: David M. Oliver of Oliver Coady said that another option is to build a mobile application (one that you download to a users phone) and embed an online web application into the mobile App. Thus, you can more easily update the mobile application, through the web application, with minimal effort.
Jaron Rubenstein, of Rubenstein Technology Group, advises his clients to ensure that their websites are at least properly visible and usable on mobile devices, if not fully optimized for their small screen size. Then, for added value and marketing benefit, they should develop a mobile App. Depending on a company's audience, an App may or may not replace the need for a mobile-friendly website.
An App needs to provide some value to the user beyond the regular or mobile website, Jaron said. Just replicating the same content in the same format in an App does not offer that value. It should offer features that are not on the website, including the ability to function as optimally as possible without Internet connectivity. It should include About and Contact tabs to market the organization further, and it should make it easy for the user to share the App and/or the App content with others. A successful App will also have one or more features that draws the user back to the App on a regular basis, such as regularly updated news content or a reference function.