With mobile website use set to overtake fixed Internet access by 2014 and an ever increasing mobile world with consumers looking for greater website access on the move, businesses need to think carefully how they are going to stand out in the mobile website revolution. After all, getting a mobile website wrong could be more damaging than not embracing the platform at all.
When taking the leap into the mobile world there is a lot to be considered. First of all you need to consider what is best dependent on; website/application, user habits, timing and of course, budget. If your business’s aim is to simply display content, such as a brochure website, then a responsive or mobilised website may be most appropriate.
Whereas if the businesses goal is to create an experience with a higher level of functionality and interaction, such as payments, notifications or gamification, then a mobile app may be the way to go.
Generally there are three main approaches that can be used to provide information and interaction to mobile device users: Responsive web design, mobilised websites, and mobile apps. Of course each option has its pros and cons, and a decision on which is best for an individual business will vary in accordance with these, as we now outline below.
Pros: The same content can be delivered to multiple devices; can be highly adaptive with content optimised for every possible device; less expensive in the long run.
Cons: Cannot tailor content for specific devices; increased time needed to design for multiple formats/resolutions and also the time to implement and browser test each variant of the design in a large variety of tablet and mobile browsers; no offline browsing.
Pros: Allows for mobile specific variations of content to be delivered to the appropriate device.
Cons: Multiple versions of content to maintain; same issues as responsive in regards to additional time required for testing across the large range of mobile browsers that exist; no offline browsing.
Pros: Do not necessarily need to be connected to internet (at least for some functionality), can push information to user, ease of access on mobile device; potentially quicker and more responsive; easier interactivity e.g. photo/video uploads, location services etc.
Cons: Expensive to build with separate apps for iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry etc. Restrictive app store policies results in slower release times; backwards compatibility with older phones can be an issue; requirement to download an app can be a barrier to uptake.
Businesses must also be aware of the dangers of taking the leap into mobile without assessing all of the options first. Many businesses that have fallen into this trap, can end up spending a great deal of time and money pursuing a mobile option that does not meet their needs, or could have been achieved through a cheaper and often quicker, alternative solution.
The other consideration is that the industry is trending toward responsive design websites at present, rather than mobilised versions. As such, while investing in a mobile version may be the cheapest in the short-term, organisations risk of their investment becoming outdated sooner rather than later, thus having to reinvest in another solution in the not-too-distant future in order to maintain currency.
Fundamentally, when considering mobile website alternatives businesses must first and foremost objectively assess their needs – either themselves, or ideally with an independent organisation who can provide an assessment as part of a consultative approach. From the offset of a mobile project it is imperative to fully determine goals, the intended use of the website or application and user habits, which will naturally narrow down alternatives, with budget and timing restrictions ultimately acting as the deciding factor should multiple options remain on the table.