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An App or a .Mobi site? Which is Better for your Company?

Mobile apps are almost as important as mobile sites these days, and if you have to choose between the two, you may have a bit of a rough time deciding which direction will best support the needs of your company.

Author: Gary Klingsheim
Date: Dec 27, 2010 - 4:33:53 PM

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Mobile apps are almost as important as mobile sites these days, and if you have to choose between the two, you may have a bit of a rough time deciding which direction will best support the needs of your company. The idea of both is certainly an appealing one, but if you must go one way or the other, which might give you the level of visibility in the world of mobile technology? The final choice depends extensively on both your goals and your budget.

The first step in the process is to look at your target audience. If you're trying to reach a relatively large group of people, working on your mobile site is probably the best use of your money. Mobile apps can be great for a number of reasons, but they only work on the device for which they've been created. So, if you design an iPhone app, it will only work on the iPhone. It won't work for your customers who are carrying Blackberry devices or an Android phone, and that can leave out huge numbers of your target market in a hurry. Even if you design mobile apps for each of the major platforms, which necessarily involves quite a bit more cash at the outset, you may still be leaving part of your market in the dust. If, however, your strategy is centered around your mobile site, any device can access it. From iPad users to the simplest prepaid cell phone, these days, mobile access is everywhere, and they're all looking for a level of functionality the web just doesn't have.

After you've thought a bit about your target market, it's time to start thinking about your goals in this process. This is a key factor, because considering the end user makes a huge difference in the way you want to go. Apps are so popular because of the number of things they can do. They work within the mobile device they're designed for, giving a smooth experience to any user, and they don't have to be connected to the internet to offer that experience. As a result, if you're looking to offer an unique utility to your users, apps are certainly the way to go. Sites, however, are ideal for shopping or content needs. What's more, however, is that sites are far better for SEO than apps are. After all, apps tend to be housed in a centralized location like an app store while content can simply be picked up by search engines. Many analysts suspect that as use of the mobile web dramatically increases, so too will functionality, so the idea of apps may be obsolete in a few years anyway.

Your final step in this process must be cost consideration. The bottom line is that sites are cheaper to develop. You can work from a number of different free platforms, and getting a designer to help is relatively inexpensive. When you're talking about apps, however, you're going to need help from a programmer, and that can get expensive fast. Don't forget that you need one app for each mobile device you're considering. Mobile sites, as we talked about before, can reach any WiFi or Bluetooth device. What's more, however, is that you have to think about update costs. If a mobile device updates their platform, the apps have to be updated as well. This just isn't true with mobile websites. You can either update the site yourself or leave it as is because mobile browsers will still be able to find it.

The key in making your final decision is to come up with what's going to work best for your company. While a good starting place is probably the mobile website, there's little reason that as you grow, you can't begin thinking on the mobile apps front as well, reaching both markets at the same time.

Moonrise Productions is a San Francisco Web Design company specializing in both custom web development and design. Whether you need social network web design or mobile app development, contact us and we'll get it done right!

View all articles by Gary Klingsheim

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