The most common question I used to ged asked when running my startup company was “Should we make a mobile site, or a mobile app?” There isn’t really a straight answer, but here’s my opinion on the factors you should consider when making that decision.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably asking that question too. The first thing to say is that it’s great to know that you are asking the question. It shows that you realise people need to access your content or services via a mobile device. You also realise that there are different ways of addressing this need. Apps are not for everyone. There are actually three options hidden in here:
- Mobile site – A website designed to be viewed on a mobile device
- Web application – An application that lives on the web e.g. twitter or an e-commerce system
- Native mobile app – An application that lives on a mobile device
- Hybrid apps – An application built in using a tool to publish on many different platforms
It is important to create at least one of these options starting with the most appropriate to your company and customer base. Ask yourself the following three questions:
1. What is the main objective of the app?
If your answer here is “to make an app” you need to think a little harder. Think about your organisation. What are you trying to achieve with your mobile application strategy?
- Generate leads?
- Raise revenue?
- Lock in customers?
- Stimulate mobile commerce?
- Save cost?
- Improve brand perception/engagement?
- Extend reach?
- Differentiate your product or service?
2. Who is your target customer?
Given the complexity of the landscape, and with so many different mobile devices available it’s important to consider who you are trying to reach. You may find that all of your customers are teenagers using Blackberry phones and only use them for texting, email and browsing the web. Alternatively you could be serving mid 20s male iPhone power users. Therefore, you might want to hire iOS developers to create an app for iPhone users.
You probably have a good understanding of your typical customers, but you might not know what mobile devices they use (which is important). Log in to your website analytics account e.g. Google Analytics. You should be able to see what devices and browsers people are using to access your website, which should give you a feel for which platform you should work on first.
Bonus points here for analysing which parts of your website mobile browsers specifically are looking at most.
3. What is your budget?
You can get up and running with a simple mobile website relatively cheaply whereas a series of native apps across several platforms can stretch into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“If you build it they will come” is not a strategy here either. As well as planning, design, and development, mobile sites and apps require promotion in order to reach the end user. You should bear this in mind when starting the project. There may be cheap or free ways to promote by telling your existing customer base, or some cleverly thought out PR.
I’ve got answers… Now what?
Once you have answers to the above three questions, you’re ready to tackle the core question here: “Should we make a mobile website or a mobile app?”
With the main objective in mind, come up with as many concept solutions as possible. Do this by considering as many different mobile technologies as possible, making sure that you consider apps and mobile sites. Here we include the relatively basic static mobile site all the way to things like augmented reality and motion sensitive apps. With the great big list (you should have between 50 and 100 concepts) filter according to demographic and budget, eliminating the concepts that don’t fit. This leaves you with a shortlist of viable concepts.
Build on, combine, and play with these concepts until you have run out of ideas of where you can take them.
Now pick the concept that best meets your main objective and work it up into a polished solution. Simple!