Let me take you back to when you first purchased your mobile phone or tablet. You couldn’t wait to get to the app store and download some shiny new apps. Apps will certainly generate excitement in your organization. But a mobile app may not be the best answer.
First – you need to take a look at what you website looks like from a mobile smart phone and a tablet. There are a variety of sizes of devices from iPhones to Galaxy Notes from Kindles, Nooks and iPhone Mini’s. The number of visitors that view your website using a mobile device is increasing daily. There are a couple of ways to make your website more mobile friendly for viewers from these devices.
You can have a mobile website added to your existing website. The developers will add code to your site that determines the type of browser. If it is a mobile browser, the visitor will be sent to the mobile version of the site. These are typically built for phone devices and usually typically require one site for each size you want to target.
Another option for your mobile visitors is to have your website redesigned as a responsive or adaptive website. This is where one website adjusts to fit all pc monitor sizes, tablet sizes and smart phone sizes. The text and images of the website adjust to fit the size of the device. If the webpage has four columns of text and images, on the iPad and other tablets – two columns will display with the other two columns underneath. On an iPhone and other smart phone devices, the columns will stack one on top of the other and menus will become buttons large enough for fingers to tap.
Mobile Apps – There are several app stores today and a mobile app has to be built and submitted for each one. While the entire application doesn’t need to be rebuilt, there are features in the app that respond to differently and require different coding for each type. There are apps for Apple devices such as iPhone and iPads in the iTunes Store, apps for Android devices in the Google Play Market, and apps for Windows devices in the Windows Store. There is an approval process before an app is submitted to the store or market. Some are more stringent than others. I have heard of apps denied because the app just contains the same information as the company’s website. There are several features that you can interact with on your mobile device to make a better app for your visitor. For example, you can add mapping features that open the user’s map feature and give them step by step directions from their current location to your business. I will discuss other mobile app features in my next article.
So, do I need a mobile app for my business? One factor is budget – mobile apps are more expensive to build than mobile or responsive websites. Another factor is whether or not your mobile app will have staying power. Realize that visitors have to search for your app and download it to their mobile device. There are hundreds of thousands of apps in the iTunes store. The chance that someone will stumble upon your app is small. Your marketing campaign will drive people to your mobile app but there has to be a big enough benefit for the user to download, install, and keep your app. Most mobile device owners have purchased a device with a certain amount of space. Once that space is filled, most people start looking at which apps they can delete. Once you have determined that you do have an idea for an app that passes these criteria, then you can add features that keep users coming back to your app.
Another option to consider is a mobile or responsive website with a downloadable icon for the home screen. The website asks the mobile user if they would like to download an icon to their home screen the first time they visit the site. The icon only opens the device browser and your website. This is not an application that takes up space on a mobile device. This keeps your business in plain view of your users without taking up room on their device.
There are several businesses with successful business apps that users use daily. The first key to a successful mobile app is determining whether or not you need one. My next article will discuss features that you can integrate into your app for a better mobile experience and what to watch for when hiring a developer.