Going Mobile: Websites and Apps
Did you know more people own a mobile phone than own a toothbrush? Despite the disturbing nature of this fact, we cannot question the importance of making sure the content on your association website or in your digital publishing platform is mobile-friendly.
As with any important communications expense, before you build an app for your organization, you need to determine if the app can provide something far and above what the mobile web cannot. Here’s a checklist that outlines the key reasons to do so:
Five Reasons to Build a Mobile App
Apps provide the richest mobile experiences.
By developing a native app designed for specific smartphone features, you can deliver exceptional functionality that mobile sites cannot. Examples include tapping to a device’s GPS, accelerometer, photos, and microphone. Simply put, native apps can interact with users’ devices more fully in ways that a website cannot.
Apps can deliver offline access. Mobile users are by nature accessing your content on the go, but what if a Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t available? Websites won’t work when you’re offline, but you can build apps to work just fine without a connection. Apps can be made to run without a connection at all (i.e., a convention session scheduler) or to run with content that’s downloaded when you’re online and stored for future use (i.e., a news reader that’s refreshed with new content).
Apps maximize usability. Since apps are developed and optimized for specific device delivery (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.), an app can inherently tap into existing interface tools on each device so usability is ideal (the interfaces will feel more normal to users if they use native elements).
Apps facilitate sales. If you want to generate revenue from app sales, it is easier to go through an existing app store (like iTunes for the Amazon Appstore for Android) where there is already a pay-wall and centralized marketplace. Smartphone users are already familiar and comfortable buying through these marketplaces, and you can tap into the ease of monetization without inventing your own mobile commerce tools.
Apps are ideal for focused content/feature delivery. App are best for content and/or tasks that have a singular or very finite focus (like looking up members or keeping track of sessions at a conference) while a mobile website is more of a general information tool that can cover the same variety of topics as your desktop website.
Keep in mind that creating mobile apps are much different in terms of cost, time frame and delivery to different smartphone devices than building a mobile website, so make sure you spend ample time upfront to determine if an app truly meets your audience needs as well as satisfies your communications goals before getting started.
I recently came across a stat that stated more people on the planet own a mobile phone than own a toothbrush. While I question what this means for the world’s dental hygiene (!), I don’t think anyone would question that mobile content delivery via the web and apps have quickly vaulted into mission-critical initiatives that organizations must address head on.
How can your organization best benefit from a mobile app versus a mobile website? Do you even know the difference between the two?
In this day and age, every organization should have a mobile presence — smartphones are surpassing desktop computers at an astonishing rate, and being mobile-accessible is imperative to be where your audience is accessing you.
A quick overview of the two will help you better understand the right context for building a mobile website or mobile app at your organization and identify what mobile solution is the right match for your needs.
What’s a mobile app?
Apps are device-specific and leverage native features on the phones/tablets
Usually look and interact in more immersive ways that mobile web (for now!)
Apps are usually accessed via an online app store like Apple’s App Store, BlackBerry’s App Word, or the Android Market
What’s a mobile website?
Mobile web is accessed via the browser on phones
Typing the URL on the mobile browser brings up a mobile-formatted version of a traditional website
A mobile website offering can range from a different presentation your main site (good place to start) or a fully mobile-designed version (ideal end game)
Yes, mobile offerings are SEXY! But remember, they are just another communications tool in your arsenal, so be sure to substantiate the return on investment just like any other marketing initiative.