Newsletter #169 App or Responsive Website?

Posted by Alex on 5 October 2016


The Web is often the major marketing channel so the question 'Should we build a mobile app or just a responsive Website?', is an important one.

Mobile phone icons
A recap:

 

  1. A mobile responsive Website is one where your Website adapts to the screen size and should be usable on all devices whatever their operating system (OS). See #163 Responsive Changes Everything
  2. A mobile app is designed for a specific OS

 

So why would you build an app?

 

  1. In an app you have control over the environment and by extension the device itself. It means your app can control the camera, calendar, use GPS and other sensors like the barometer, accelerometer or proximity sensor as well as send push notifications
  2. As smartphones get smarter an app can take advantage of new technologies like voice recognition, augmented reality and so on
  3. The app will be more focused and lighter and so should load quicker and be easier to use than a comparable Website
  4. An app can be built so it doesn't require an Internet connection, something that a Website needs

 

So given all the advantages, why wouldn't you just go and build an app?

 

  1. It's a lot more expensive, up to five times so
  2. The process for developing an app is long-winded and requires approval from the OS owner you're building for (Apple, Android etc)
  3. It won't help with Web search engine optimisation. If your app has features that people are looking on the various app stores you may get some marketing benefits from that but not on the Web
  4. You need to ask why would people download and use your app? Further on this below.

 

As in 4. above the big question for me has always been whether your target market will download and use your app. Is it something they are going to use on a regular basis and does it make a lot better user experience than the equivalent responsive Website? People won't download and use it if there is nothing in it for them.

 

 

If you've got a big budget and it stacks up then maybe a mobile app is worth a go otherwise my advice would be:

 

  1. Build your mobile responsive Website first, that's a no-brainer, all businesses should do this
  2. Once your Website is in place and attracting traffic, check out your Web stats for mobile use and see what mobile OSs are being used and how many mobile users you have
  3. Does a mobile app have a good ROI using a very conservative take-up scenario?
  4. Can you afford it?
  5. Are there certain processes or functions on your Website that people use regularly and could be turned into an app?
  6. Can you build something related to your business that has global appeal and can drive your brand? Careful here people it's not as easy as it sounds!

 

If 2-4 stack up and you can definitely do one of 5 or 6, then go for it!


 


Best wishes

Alex Garden