Many business owners struggle with whether they should design a responsive website that works across mobile devices or focus exclusively on building a native mobile app. It’s a difficult choice to make since both options present advantages and disadvantages that must be taken into consideration when moving forward.
According to mobile industry reports, 7% of all website traffic worldwide came from handheld devices in 2011. In 2012, that figure rose to 12% and according to eMarketer (a leading digital media market research firm), more than 60% of adults will be regular mobile web users by the end of 2016. Tablets and smartphones are becoming the default choice for connecting to the internet. The web has become an essential part of our lives, and users are connected to their internet devices from anywhere and all the time.
It’s a tough call to make when deciding between a responsive web design or a mobile app, but in the end, it depends on the goals of your business.
If your organisation can afford it, it’s highly recommended that you build both a responsive website and a native mobile app in order to help your business work towards capturing the attention of your entire mobile audience. The native mobile app will provide a mobile centric experience for your existing and most loyal customers, while your responsive website can help provide an optimised experience to new and old visitors browsing your website or discovering it for the very first time.
Most organisations can’t afford to do both, which is why it’s important to understand the advantages of both options when addressing your mobile priorities.
Responsive design isn’t a cure-all
Responsive design is an approach to website development that creates a continuous user experience on all mobile devices, regardless of screen size and orientation. Responsive web design is certainly the most affordable option for your business as compared to the development of a mobile app. Take into consideration the initial costs of redesigning your website to be mobile friendly, then the cost of occasional upkeep and upgrades.
If visibility in search engines is an increasingly important part of your strategy to grow your business, then a responsive website is critical in helping grow traffic to your website. A mobile app lives in a closed environment and cannot be indexed by the search engines, which requires driving traffic to this app through alternate methods.
Depending on your web designer and the size of your website, a responsive Web design often takes far less time to create than a mobile app, since there’s no app store approval or extensive guidelines to follow as compared to what Google Play, the Apple app store and the Windows Phone app store require for launching an app.
If the goal of your destination online is to be universally accessible from any device, then responsive design is the solution. A mobile app is designed for a unique experience; exclusive to the operating system it lives on, which means it isn’t a one size fits all fix. However, don’t think of responsive design as the easy way out when it comes to optimising your website across mobile devices. Although a responsive website optimises your experience, it doesn’t incorporate all the smart phone features like the camera or GPS that a native mobile app can.
A mobile app will provide users with unique functionality and speed that can’t be achieved with a responsive website, but can be experienced on the operating system you choose to design your app on.
It’s better than not having a mobile-friendly version of your website, but it’s not the final solution for your customer’s experience with your business on mobile. Again, the choice between responsive and a mobile app depends on what your goals are for mobile.
Consult analytics to inform your native mobile app
A mobile app offers a compelling, unique and mobile specific experience for your customers, which is one of the main reasons why your company should consider designing an app over worrying about making your existing website mobile-friendly.
First and foremost, if you have existing data to analyze than it is important to use your analytics tools like Google Analytics to see what mobile devices are used the most to visit your website in the past few months. This can help inform what operating system you decide to design your app on.
Whether you decide to go with Apples iOS, Android, Windows Phone or another less popular operating system, it’s essential to match the features of the operating system with the type of app you’re looking to create.
Besides being able to utilise more of the features incorporated in a mobile device into the experience, a mobile app often has access to more data from a user and therefore, can provide a more personalised experience. This personalisation through data could play out in the types of push notifications an app sends you, for example recommendations, suggested content to view or other specific user-driven actions. When a user makes a profile on an app, it makes gathering data about a person and their online habits much easier for a business and much quicker and smoother for the user continually using this app to find events, watch videos and perform other tasks.
As of now, a native mobile app offers the best user experience for a person on a mobile device since there are still limitations to how wed design can be parsed on mobile. As the complexity of the responsive website increases, the more likely the user experience will begin to suffer. A native mobile app offers the best user experience to your audience, taking advantage of the phone’s functions and the expectations of customers using these devices.