So you want a mobile presence on a handheld device, but don’t know whether an app or a mobile website is better? First things first – recognise the differences between the two.
An app is a downloadable application onto the device. Users will go to their device specific ‘store’ to find the apps that they would like. Some apps use data and content from the internet, while others download all the information required so that the content can be accessed without an internet connection.
WiFi or 3G networks will be required to access a mobile website. They have HTML browser based pages that are all linked together. Mobile websites are very similar to a normal website page, and will typically have content such as text, images and video. The mobile website is designed for smaller display on devices with a touch screen interface.
Whether you want an app or a mobile website depends on what you want to achieve. Generally speaking, there is rarely an app without a website already in place.
Develop your mobile presence by first developing your mobile site. The benefits are that they are accessible immediately through the mobile browser, and are compatible across all devices. They can be updated instantly if necessary, where application updates require the user to download the app again. Websites are also cheaper and easier and will always be there for the user to search for – so if time and cost is an issue, a website will probably suffice. The websites can be shared easily between users using a hyperlink via text message, email or on social media sites. Because of this ease of sharing, it is more likely to have a wider audience.
Sometimes only having a mobile website just won’t do! Especially if your target is interactive gaming, an app makes much more sense. Other circumstances where an app is useful are if you regularly need to provide content offline or don’t need an internet connection for the functions. Or if your needs require access to a devices photos, an app is more effective than the website. Other examples include if you need to access reports or manipulate data using calculations, or if your app will be used in a personalised manner regularly.
Have a look at what your goals are for establishing a mobile presence. It will be a good idea to first do a mobile website, and develop an app from there. Good luck!