Mobile-friendliness is no longer optional. It has been two years since Google announced that it would start penalizing sites that were not optimized for smartphones and tablets. Mobile now represents 65% of digital media time, and all future growth in the digital realm is likely to be on the small screen.
If your website does not already ‘play nice’ with its mobile users, it is long past time you tweak it so that it does. You have three options in that regard:
- Utilizing Responsive Web Design. With this approach, your site automatically detects the screen size of the user, and reshapes itself accordingly.
- Creating a Native Application that is coded for a single platform – ie. iOS or Android. These apps can access all the functionality of the device for which they are created, such as camera or iOS’s AirPrint.
- Developing a Hybrid Application which supports multiple operating systems.
We could compose an entire piece on the differences between Native and Hybrid apps. With that in mind, our focus here will be on whether or not you should create an app in the first place. Generally speaking this can be done either through the use of a third-party developer, an internal team, or through a tool such as Apperian.
With all that said, You Should Create An App If….
- You want to monetize or distribute your website through one or several app stores.
- You run an eCommerce website – there are several reasons why, trust among them. After all, if Amazon and eBay are doing it, maybe you should too.
- Your website would benefit from a location-based component – for example, if you run a restaurant that accepts online deliveries.
- Your site delivers information in real time, or allows users to upload content such as photos or video.
- You want to include advanced features beyond blog posts or appointment booking, such as:
- Complex navigation
- Offline mode
- Push notifications
- Access to device hardware such as the accelerometer
- Usage reports
- Personalized usage (i.e. Evernote)
- Security is a serious concern – mobile apps are far easier to secure than mobile websites.
- You have the development manpower and budget to create the app. More importantly, you also have the resources necessary to support and maintain it.
- Shareability and reach are not concerns.
- Your site is more than just informational – blogs, news sites, or corporate websites, for example, do not benefit as heavily from ‘appification’.
- Device compatibility is not a concern – you know all your users will be on iPhone, for example.
Mobile Apps May be the Solution for You
Smartphones and tablets are not going away anytime soon. If you have not already done so, you need to make your site mobile-friendly. Whether you do that through an application or through responsive design is entirely up to you. Choose the method that is the best fit for your site, your users, and your business goals.