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Mobile Site Or Native App?

Mobile site or native app? The burning question on the minds of business decision makers as they develop mobile strategies.

With the explosion of smart-phone and tablet use there has been a craze towards anything mobile. So how do you decide what is more suitable for your business? Let’s start by taking a look at the advantages of each and what key factors should be considered before making your final decision.

Advantages of Mobile Websites

    •   A big advantage of a mobile site is the broad reach it offers. The mobile visitor already has everything they need to use your site on their smart phone or tablet. They open a browser and type your URL. Nothing to download and wait for to install.
    •   Customers are more likely to visit your mobile website than download your app if they aren't already familiar with your company and brand.
    •   Your mobile site can be advertised and discovered through the use of search engines promoting its use.
    •   Code can be used to automatically redirect users that visit the desktop version of your site to your mobile optimized version if visiting from a smart-phone. This means immediate acceptance and use without the mobile user doing a thing. On the other hand with so many choices in the app store yours could be difficult to find unless someone is looking for it specifically.
    •   Mobile websites are also easier to share. Someone looking to share your site on a social network need only post a link that anyone could follow and reach the appropriate site for their device.
    •   You don't have to make the decision on Android versus iOS or foot the bill for both. Your mobile site can be optimized to work for all mobile visitors including Blackberry and Windows Mobile. Remember, mobile websites can be cross-compatible and viewed from any browser, regardless of the underlying platform.
    •   Mobile sites are easier to upgrade with additional features without the huge costs associated to similar changes within an app.
    •   Mobile websites are typically faster to deploy and more cost effective to develop as compared to a native app.

Advantages of Native Apps

    •   Native apps may be more expensive and time consuming to develop, but they offer a more interactive experience for your customers.
    •   Your app can take full advantage of the hardware and other software on the device to increase its capabilities. Core features like the camera or GPS locator within the device can be used by your app strengthening its capabilities without creating totally from scratch.
    •   Apps allow offline access. This is a big plus compared to a mobile site that requires an internet connection in order to operate. In this way your app could function in remote places or while the user is travelling. Even on a plane.
    •   The performance and quality of internet connections can vary widely. The user of a native app will most likely have a more consistent experience when using it versus a mobile optimized site.
    •   Once downloaded and installed, a native app is faster to use than a mobile site offering a higher engagement to the user. In general people will spend more time using a great app than being on a similar site.
    •   If you are providing services like note taking or performing quick financial calculations then a native app will likely offer a better experience.
    •   Businesses which work with complex data where logic is applied generally prefer the closed environment and sophistication an app can provide.
    •   Brands can strengthen relationships with their customers by offering exclusive coupons and discounts to those with their apps installed.

So which one is best for you?

It depends on the business goal. If you are looking for ways to grow your existing customer base and primarily have marketing content or offer simple to understand products and services for sale, then an easily accessible mobile site should be strongly considered. If your business involves large amounts of information or interactive content that changes constantly such as news a native app probably makes more sense. Every business is unique and many businesses could benefit from offering a native app but every business should strongly consider having a mobile optimized site to support the smart-phone and tablet visitors already viewing their site today.

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