The proliferation of mobile devices and the changing expectations of users are reshaping the way we access information. While users once primarily visited your website from the comfort of their home desktop, they now more often look up online info from their mobile devices while on the go.
Now businesses and organizations are challenged with tapping into this mobile market and establishing a mobile presence. But is it better to simply mobilize your website, making it readable from a mobile device’s browser, or developing your own downloadable mobile app?
A mobile website is simply a website designed for the smaller handheld display and touch screen interface. Mobile web pages contain browser-based HTML pages linked together and accessed over the Internet on mobile devices. They may have a dynamic layout which shifts to accommodate various screen resolutions. . There is limited to no access to device specific features like GPS, Bluetooth, Push notifications, etc. While it depends on the nature and purpose of a business, the choice for most will be mobile website rather than an app. Mobile websites are typically less expensive to develop and have a number of advantages.
A mobile website is easy to distribute since there is nothing to download and install (the user presumably already has a browser app installed). Mobile websites are simply accessed from a mobile browser in a similar way as a normal website. A mobile website is also easier to find since it can appear in an organic search using a search engine.
Mobile apps on the other hand are actual applications that are downloaded and installed on a mobile device rather than simply being rendered within that device’s browser. A mobile app may use more of a mobile device’s functionality, including GPS or the camera. Since they are downloaded once, they may not require an Internet connection. Apps are programmed using native languages like JAVA or Objective C, depending on the device they are built for. Apps are available on device-specific portals such as Apple’s App Store, Android Market, or Blackberry App World.
Ultimately, if interactive engagement and building user experience using high end graphics and animation is your goal then a mobile app is the likely choice. Otherwise, if the goal is to simply provide content and establish a mobile presence then a mobile website is a less expensive choice, faster and overall simpler choice. At times starting with a mobile website is a good way to test the waters, then developing a mobile app down the road as it seems necessary.