Engaging Your Mobile Users: Smartphone App? Or Mobile Website?

Many businesses are starting to discover the power of the Smartphone application (aka the "app") and wonder if they need an app for their business.

While many businesses look into the possibility of having a Smartphone app, they often come across the idea of having a mobile website and wonder which would be better – the app – or the mobile website? This can be very confusing for business owners who aren't tech-savvy.

First, let's explore the difference between a mobile website and a Smartphone app.

What is a mobile website?

A mobile website is really no different from a standard website you view from your home computer in a browser. The only difference is the Smartphone has a smaller screen and more limited functionality. Because of this, a website developer will design a special version of the website that displays only when a user is on a mobile device.

What is a Smartphone App?

While a mobile website delivers content, a Smartphone app is a stand-alone application that runs on the phone's native operating system. Think of the app as a mini computer program for your phone.

How do you choose?

A custom mobile website can be created for just a couple hundred bucks whereas developing a Smartphone app can cost anywhere from $1k-$10k depending on the features you need and the number of platforms you want to cover (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.)

Every business would do well to have a mobile website, but not every business needs an app.

Benefits to having a custom Smartphone app

  • Apps don't need to connect to the Internet to work. Some functions may require the internet, but with apps it's possible to engage the user without requiring an internet connection
  • Charging just $0.99 for users to download your app can bring in some serious cash flow with the right marketing
  • Apps can make use of the Smartphone's native features (calendar, alarm clock, etc.)
  • It's possible to create an app that leads to increasing your revenue through interaction

Drawbacks to having a custom Smartphone app

  • Apps can be very expensive to create because they require many hours of custom programming.
  • If the user doesn't get massive value from your app, or finds the experience confusing, expect your app to be deleted quickly
  • Only Android apps can be viewed on Android devices. Only iPhone apps can be viewed on iPhone devices. This means you'll need to spend more money developing at least two apps to cover the two most popular Smartphone operating systems.

Developing apps is expensive, so think it through before you choose to create an app in place of a mobile website.

Here are 2 questions you can ask yourself that will help you:

  1. Will the app support my business in a way that will increase loyalty, brand recognition or revenue?
  2. Is the app just something cool for people to download that won't increase my revenue?

While building a mobile website is essential for any business, your answers to the above questions will help you decide if building a Smartphone app is right for you.

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