Mobile Website vs. Mobile App: Do You Need Both?

Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Business Technology [ 0 Comments ]

mobileOver half of Americans use smartphones today, and that includes your customers. Do you know how to reach them on mobile devices? When they look for your brand on their smaller screens, what do they find? Is your website compatible with mobile display?

To ensure you reach your mobile audience successfully, you have two main options: mobile websites and mobile apps.

Related: Start mobile marketing with one of our vendors, today

Mobile Websites

Traditional websites often look different on phones than they do on desktops—the proportions of images and text get muddied, the content becomes hard to read, or the navigation bar disappears—and that’s why mobile websites are so helpful. In a mobile version of a website, the content is displayed with a mobile viewer in mind.

Here’s a look at some of the benefits of a mobile site:

  • Optimized for smaller screens
  • Designed to display only the most important information
  • Creates a cleaner, lighter presence
  • Easier to navigate than a desktop site

Even after considering the benefits of a mobile site, you may still wonder if it ever makes sense to skip it. Maybe it’s helpful, but is creating a mobile site necessary? The answer is maybe. Consider these drawbacks of a mobile site:

  • Less functionality than a traditional site
  • Time and cost involved in creation
  • Potentially unnecessary if the main site already functions well

Do You Need a Mobile Website? While the answer to this question depends on your particular brand and industry, a mobile website is generally a good idea. Business News Daily reported, “Of the 1.2 billion computing devices sold in 2012, smartphones and tablets out-shipped PCs by 2-1.”

Related: Make sure your website is mobile friendly – hire a professional web designer

Should you want to implement one, you have several options, from free plugins to online services to custom design. Here are a few to consider:

  • MoFuse (free): Designed to work with a MoFuse account, the MoFuse plugin automatically redirects mobile users to a mobile version of your site.
  • WordPress Mobile Edition (free):  This plugin displays an interface designed for mobile devices when visitors access your site on smartphones.
  • bMobilized ($5 monthly or $9 monthly with customer support): bMobilized automatically creates a mobile website in moments.

Custom Design (various rates): Using a plugin or an online service is a helpful mobile solution, but your options are limited. If you want full functionality, hiring a designer makes the best sense.

Mobile Apps

To go a step farther than a mobile website, some companies opt for mobile apps—customized, interactive applications that fans download and use on their mobile devices. Apps perform more complicated operations than websites and can be games, programs, etc.

Related: 4 Tips for Developing Business Apps

What’s more, research shows apps are on the rise: By last December, use of mobile apps outpaced mobile websites by more than 20 minutes a day, according to Mashable.

What are the benefits of mobile applications?

  • Wide scope of functionality: live phone numbers, hot-linked content, access to Google maps, etc.
  • Increased brand awareness
  • New opportunities for sponsorships or ads

How to Know if You Need a Mobile App? While apps offer significant benefits, they are also expensive. What’s more, apps must cater to your specific audience. So to know if designing an app makes sense for your company, ask yourself the following questions:

What customer need am I trying to meet? Don’t create an app until you can articulate this need specifically.

Do my target customers use apps? Your app will be useful only if it can fit into customers’ habits.

Will the app be either fun or useful? It must be one of these two to be worthwhile.

Your Thoughts

Does your company have a mobile website or an app or both? Why or why not? How could one of these mobile tools benefit your audience and your brand?

Bio: Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago Web design agency specializing in SEO, Web development, and other online marketing services. Follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.


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