Let’s say you are a small business owner. You’ve deployed a nice, robust website. Your PR and marketing campaign is small, within budget and has been launched. And now, in your effort to stay current, relevant and cutting edge, you’d like to consider developing an app so your clients can reach you faster and easier, rather than using “search” every time.
But before launching any app, here are key questions you must ask yourself:
- What is the goal of the app?
- What are the technical requirements the must be considered?
- What will it take to market the app to reach the target audience?
I know. These considerations do not sound like fun; You’d like to get right to the sizzle and excitement of having an app. But an honest assessment is needed before charging forward (Gunelius, 2013).
You may find out an app won’t help you at all. What you may need is a better mobile website.
Let’s starting with the goal of the app. If you need a very interactive relationship with your customers, you may need an app. In 2014, researchers found that 51% of people spent more time on a mobile app than on any other platform (Comscore, 2014). That is good news. But if you are a business who really just wants to be found via search, and does a lot of e-commerce, a mobile website may be just the ticket.
Here’s what you need to know: Businesses seeking a more interactive and personal experience with its clients and consumers (such as gaming businesses, banking institutions or data-organizing businesses such as Dropbox or Shutterfly) would be well suited to develop apps. These apps can be accessed offline and can access certain features within users’ smartphones that mobile websites cannot.
Businesses should opt for mobile websites if they seek broad audiences, want to be easily found through search engines, are largely marketing driven (sales/e-commerce, branding/image building, and generally want the same functions available to users as the organization’s main website (Devaney, 2015).
If you go with a mobile website, it should be a responsive website – which means the site is intuitively “mobile friendly” and can be viewed well across all platforms, especially mobile devices – or redesign your existing website to be mobile friendly (Pilon, 2013).
To see how “responsive” your site is, go to https://website.grader.com/ or https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. Enter your url (uniform resource locator) in your search area and see what score your site receives.
As for the technical requirements, you should know the difference between native apps, HTML apps and Hybrid apps (Native, web or hybrid mobile-app, 2012).
Native apps perform and look the best of three. They are created based on the mobile platform to be used, such as iOS for Apple products and Android for other smartphones. As the Cadillac of apps, they are customized to the organization, use the computer coding language the associated with the platform, such as Objective-C or Java. They are the most secure as well. Native apps cost the most to develop. But their graphics and ease of use to the consumer cannot be beat (Native, 2012).
HTML5 mobile apps – These are basically web pages designed to work on smaller, mobile screens. Users cannot pinch and enlarge things as with native apps, just scroll. But HTML5 apps are searchable, which makes them good for consumers who want to shop for things. But these apps are housed externally. Security can be compromised (Native, 2012).
Hybrid mobile apps – As the name implies, this type of app is a combination of the two aforementioned varieties. In this case, developers use HTML5 code and insert it into a “native container” to get all the features the native platform has. Some mobile experts call hybrid apps the “best of both worlds.” Is it perfect? No. Glitches have been reported between Apple operating systems, but it can be a workable solution to organizations needing an app without having the requisite in-house development staff or finances to implement it. It can be developed to operate across multiple platforms and systems (Native, 2012).
And now for marketing your app. There are more than one million apps available to consumers (Leuva, 2015). With so many apps out there, it is obvious that not all apps will be discovered, or even known, to most consumers. Marketers will have a difficult time cutting through the fray to get their app to the public.
One of the most important ways to market mobile websites and app is through search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Keywords in describing your site are critically important. Businesses should keep them short and to the point (Mobile App Design Inspiration, 2016).
- Ask Google to re-crawl the sites. The “Fetch as Google” tool will do this.
- Ask users to give reviews of your mobile app or website. The more reviews a site has, the higher it will appear in a search list.
- Facebook has a tool called “Find Apps” on its mobile website that suggests new apps to Facebook users based on their likes and preferences.
- App Store Optimization – Just like SEO (search-engine optimization) ASO uses keywords to make finding relevant apps easier and quicker to find.
In summary, go for an app if you think your business needs to have a highly personal and interactive experience with your clients. Go with a mobile website if you want to be searchable and handle a lot of e-commerce.
Check out my chart to see where you and your business may be:
Devaney, E. How to Make a Mobile-Friendly Website – SEO Tips for a Post “Mobilegeddon” World. Retrieved from HubSpot. WVU IMC 629 – w03_hubspot.pdf.
Gunelius, S. How to Building Your First Mobile App in 12 Steps: Part 2 (2013, November 14). Forbes Welcome. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2013/11/14/how-to-build-your-first-mobile-app-in-12-steps-part-2/#5e6d23955bb9
Haselmayr, M. (2013, November 14). 12-Step Guide to Building Your Very First Mobile App: Part 1. Retrieved from https://www.allbusiness.com/12-step-guide-to-building-your-first-mobile-app-11193-1.html#.UoUPqqW6LlI
Mobile App Design Inspiration, Ultimate Guide and Resources. (2016, April 27). Retrieved from http://1stwebdesigner.com/mobile-apps-designs/#app-design-inspiration
Native, web or hybrid mobile-app development. (2012, April) Retrieved from IBM Corporation. WVU IMC 629 – w03_imb.pdf.
Pilon, A. What is Responsive Web Design? (May 8, 2013). Retrieved from http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/05/what-is-responsive-web-design.html
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