Johann Lohrmann is an Atlanta-based, Emmy-nominated and multiple Silver Telly award-winning documentary film producer who currently conducts B2B research for well-established businesses.
AM vs. FM.
Beta vs. VHS.
SD vs. HD.
Flash vs. HTML.
Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites.
This isn’t a new discussion. The formats may change but the question of how to best deliver information hasn’t. Open for debate is how to deliver information and entertainment on the go. Some are predicting that mobile apps will eventually devoured by all things web. Others believe that mobile apps will allow for even more target/niche marketing.
Mobile Website– a smaller version of a main website that is on your mobile device. Think of accessing the Internet on your phone and then going to CNN.com.
Mobile App– program that is downloaded to a specific device, typically for a specific reason. Examples of the devices include iPhone/iTouch, iPad, Android, Blackberry….
An example of a mobile app is Locate Wi-Fi anywhere. It’s essentially a directory of international hotspots. We’re talking 140 countries so it’s perfect for the traveler.
For the past few years there’s been something of a debate between the better of the two. As with most items Internet related, it really depends on the user’s end goals.
Here are three considerations when venturing down the mobile app vs. the mobile web road.
1. Are you interested in reaching the masses or reaching a target/niche audience?
If you’re interested in reaching the masses then a mobile website is the way to go. A mobile website gives you another channel of contact in addition to your website. Don’t be misled with the idea of a target audience here.
If you’re interested in reaching a target/niche audience then you’ll want to take advantage of the mobile app. Typically, there are three ways a user will learn of a particular app: invitation through beta testing, online via desktop (or online in general) or through a search on a mobile device.
Ok, so there were some obvious statements made there but think about how your audience finds you. Well-known sites liked LinkedIn and Facebook are the exception to this rule.
2. Think about it from the user’s point of view.
If you want the user to use an app for a specific task or for a limited number of tasks, then use a mobile app. The functionality of a mobile app works well within a device’s native application and the bonus is an Internet connection is not always required.
If you want to deliver content, then mobile websites are certainly the way to go. Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla! make it fairly easy to enable the mobile website feature on the backend of a website.
3. The Start-up Costs and the Return on Investment
Cost is a factor that should be considered when weighing the pros and cons of using a mobile app vs. mobile web. Of course, cost takes different forms. There’s the education factor and then the dollar amount.
If you’re already building a website (especially on one of the popular CMS platforms) then it’s relatively easy to activate the mobile website element. In the long-term mobile websites typically cost less and are easier to maintain. When a change is made to the parent website a change is also made to the mobile website.
Contrast the mobile website with the mobile app. With a mobile app you are limited when it comes to the do-it-yourself option. As well, a mobile app that works on an iPhone will not work in its particular form. To put it to you another way, you’ll need a developer to produce an app for each device. And if you want to update the mobile app then you’ll need to work with a developer to do so.
|The Idea||Mobile App||Mobile Web|
|The Basics||Produced for a specific task (Angry Birds).||Smaller version of your website (CNN Mobile).|
|Your Audience||Reaching the masses.||Targeted/Niche audience.|
|User’s Experience||Specific Task (Games, entertainment, device utilities….)||Delivering content including services and information.|
|Start-up, ROI||Easy to activate off popular CMS platforms.
Not expensive to maintain overtime.
|Each mobile device needs to have its own mobile app.
Can be expensive to change app overtime.
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