In the past, there was only one question, “Do you have a website?” Now you’re more likely to hear, “Is your website optimized for smartphones and tablets?”, and “Do you have an app?”. With all of today’s options, it’s hard to decide where to start.
In most cases a mobile-optimized website will be cheaper to develop, faster to deploy, easier to update and edit, and will reach a wider audience than an app. Morgan Stanley, through its own research and comScore data, learned that, “U.S. mobile browser audiences are two times larger than app audiences across the top 50 mobile web properties and have grown 1.2 times faster over the past three years.” BOLTGROUP recommends that a mobile website, optimized for multiple screen sizes, be the first step for any new endeavor into the connected space. There are a number of reasons this makes good business sense.
- The ease of mobile website deployment and its great reach onto most any device on the market today. A single website can be quickly developed and coded that will scale to any smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop that has a web browser installed (virtually all of them). Through this one action, you will have a portal through which to share your information with a vast majority of users, whether at work, home, on the go, or stuck at the airport. Also, this one website can be easily viewed across a multitude of devices—from Apple to Android to PCs to MacBook Pros. On the other hand, an app requires separate development costs for iOS and Android, and Android can cause headaches with the myriad screen sizes of multiple manufacturer’s devices.
- The ease of updating your message. Content is ever changing. How fast you can update information is vital. With a website, it’s easy to update copy or images, or to add additional pages of content. Once published, the content is available at once to any connected device. Not so with apps. Here you need to go through a new development round, then publish your new version to all your app marketplaces. Then wait for each user to seek out and download the new version of your app on their device. Additionally, as device operating systems evolve, new app versions are required to stay compatible and utilize newly implemented system technologies—often at additional, sometimes significant, development costs. This could become a roadblock to keeping fresh content in front of your users.
- Ease of discovery. A mobile website will be indexed by all major search engines and is easily located with a keyword search. A web address can be shared through text, email, or word of mouth. Once again, an app is not so simple. It is locked into the app store ecosystem and is harder to come across outside the marketplace. There can be dissemination of the app outside of the marketplace, but you rely on users to take the time to install it on their device. There is a disadvantage to apps because of their walled off world without organic discovery that a mobile website offers across the board.
However, don’t get the idea that we are app bashers. There are certain cases where this tool is the better option. When you need to take advantage of a technology that phone hardware leverages, app development may be the better path. Technologies such as the built-in camera for photographs or video communication, harnessing motion sensing capabilities, or utilizing Bluetooth and NFC communication radios, can be a powerful way of adding functionality that a website just can’t deliver.
Unless you need a specific functionality inherent to the mobile device to which you are intending to publish, we recommend mobile web as the better business decision.