Mobile Websites, Native Apps or Hybrid Apps?
Surprisingly, many companies still don’t have a mobile presence.
IAB counted 45% of the 2012 Fortune 500 list without one (June 2012) and Magus found 80% of the FTSE100 missing out (Feb 2012). The relative lack of depth of mobile content and options to transact with big brands is another issue. After a couple generations of touch phones with more than manageable screen sizes, it’s a growing surprise to me every time such numbers are published.
And speaking of surprises, Groupon’s CEO, Andrew Mason, also caught my attention with this statement: “With nearly 1/3 of North American transactions in July originating from mobile devices, we are quickly becoming one of the largest mobile e-commerce companies out there.”
There is likely no single reason for this huge adoption gap, but the question, “Should I build a mobile site or a mobile app?” is something I hear often. To be sure, there is a confusing range of options to reach customers on the go. This includes light changes to your desktop website to make it readable on smaller screens, device-sensitive delivery of dedicated mobile content per each device, native app development for a dozen platforms and screen sizes, and a combination of this with hybrid apps.
An important part of the appropriate answer here lies in the individual business and what role mobile can and should play. Objectives are essential. Assuming a “brand” or “reach” use case, a somewhat flexible way to update content and images and to analyze and optimize your performance is key. Learning and the ability to adapt are key elements, as well, particularly in the early stages of building engagement with your audience via a “new” channel. Meeting expectations on the audience side is, of course, also of great importance. This can be a challenge using any approach, app or mobile site.
In general, a close look at objectives and budget should help identify whether multiplatform app development would be optimal. Each additional platform will increase cost by 50-75% of the first app platform. Dedicated device support of mobile site(s) can achieve the same goal of a great experience at a fraction of the cost. It can be a really attractive option assuming you properly empower existing staff to manage experiences across existing and new channels. Authoring access is one thing, but access to timely and broad analytics of this experience is also key.
There may be a few reasons to consider apps as an additional investment nonetheless:
· Awareness building via App Stores (Top 10, Reviews, Home Screen real estate, etc.)
· Revenue stream via App Store payment and in-app purchase options
· Very rich graphical use case or use of device hardware
The App Stores can be important mechanisms to reach a broad audience and/or generate revenue. Hybrid Apps, which re-use your existing content, infrastructure and processes, can be a great option here. And in cases where you need to connect to device hardware (camera) and capabilities (contact list), hybrid app frameworks are a good choice. They can also ease multiplatform development. There are only a few cases where performance or the highest graphical experience will force real native app development.
Product Marketing CQ and WEM Mobile