Mobile Websites vs. Mobile Applications

Mobile is fast becoming one of the most important delivery channels for business today. But what is better to have: a mobile website or a mobile application ?
Any mid to enterprise level company without a mobile web presence will need to take the plunge soon or risk being left behind by competing companies. Mobile is here to stay and is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways that consumers access information and make purchases. Mobile websites are the first step for companies that are just starting to establish a mobile presence.

Why Mobile?
Everyone has heard about the rise of the mobile horizon in the past years. What has happened to enable mobile devices to become the central structure of online marketing and growth strategy? The reason behind mobile’s newfound relevance and popularity is due to the dismissal of two former monumental barriers: device usability and device accessibility.

Device Usability
Due to the advent of new touch screen smartphones, and smart devices, mobile users are no longer handicapped by awkward interfaces and painstakingly slow device navigation. Now, with a touch of a fingertip, users can navigate browser pages, and enter information quickly and effectively into the mobile device. Ease of use has brought mobile devices incredible popularity of all forms of communication, entertainment, and commerce.

Device Accessibility
Simply put, mobile device manufacturing has seen increased technology along with increased competition. For the consumers, this means better phones and a much lower price, making smartphone technology available to both hi-end and mainstream consumers.
Now that mobile devices are easy to use and easy to obtain, a vast world of information is available to every single one of these consumers. Your company should be seen and heard by this audience on the mobile platform. A mobile website should be the primary in a multi-step plan for mobile web presence.

Removing Entry Barriers
Starting with a mobile website makes sure that the first time someone types in your URL from their mobile device, they are immediately detected as a mobile channel user and redirected to a mobile-optimized experience. This approach doesn’t force your users to download an application before interacting with your brand and it can still serve a device-optimized experience for your users. This will become more important as many mainstream users don’t know what an App store is and don’t care to learn.

Graceful Degradation of the User Experience
With mobile websites, you will also be able to reach users that have less popular or older devices by including a variant of the mobile website design which is targeted for the 20% of viewers that are on older devices. This will serve as the lowest common denominator in your brand’s mobile design. There are just too many device types on the market with unique form factors to build an optimized experience for them all. But as with all good design, your brand should handle this with a graceful degradation of the user experience.

Optimize for User Experience and Conversions
Once your mobile website has been released into the market, you’ll be able to learn what you did right and what you can improve. Using a mobile website as your web presence will enable you to monitor how visitors are actually using the mobile site. You can watch user behavior, measure with analytics and listen to the chatter on social media. This will help you identify areas for optimization and other issues, enabling you to continually make sure that your mobile website caters to your visitors’ needs. Unlike a mobile application, a mobile website enables you to refine the experience and publish your changes to the entire user base without any user action. This means everyone will experience the new update on their next visit, unlike a mobile application which needs viewers to download and install updates. Since there is always a portion of users who refuse to install updates, using a mobile website will make sure that users always get the most up-to-date information.

Content Management System
You know the headaches different products on different platforms managed through different tools can bring. Your mobile website should be managed through a content management system (CMS). A content management system has a serious impact in terms of your ability to make changes quickly, effectively, and frequently to keep up with the fast-paced mobile information world.