As more and more mobile smart phones are sold, the buzz around mobile phone applications gets ever louder. So, look at should rush out and have a mobile app developed - right? Not.
The low-down on mobile phone applications and mobile websites.
Let us get the definitions off the beaten track. Mobile apps are basically small applications that you download and are powered by your feature phone or smart phone. An app will run locally on the handset and may or may well not access services on the internet to update and refresh the content that's displayed. In comparison, a mobile web site is basically a slimmed down form of a normal website that's optimised to the smaller display area that's usual for feature phones and smart phones. Mobile websites are often accessed via a browser application on your own handset.
Which one must i choose for my business?
Well, first off, mobile apps are cool and due to the Apple iPhone and Google Android app stores, these are easier than ever to access and download. You simply must develop a different version of your app for each major mobile operating system though - about Four to five of those at the moment.
Conversely, a properly designed mobile website can be seen on pretty much any mobile which has web access. You simply can't do as much with them as you could having an app though, simply because they rely on web technologies , nor have access to all the fancy built-in-features that an app running natively in your handset will have - such things as the camera, GPS module, address book. There's always a catch.
The best option will depend on your business. We simply cannot give you the answer, but we could hopefully give you some helpful advice before you go spending any one that critical marketing budget. Overlook the hype, forget about the cool factor, and consider the following important points before making your decision - Need. Audience. Budget.
Must i really need a mobile app or mobile website?
Before commencing out, it's worth documenting your list of reasons for creating a mobile app or mobile website for your business. Think about what you would like to achieve and what you would like your product to do.
Are you currently trying to create a potential new revenue stream? Are you searching for new ways to promote your business? Are you targeting others or consumers? How must customers access your existing products and services? Will your product or service display interactive content or should it be used as a static information portal? How often will you be updating content? Which content will you be displaying? Can be your product fun or unique? Can it always require internet connection?
We could go on and on but ultimately it isn't a question of regardless of whether you need a mobile app or mobile website. Rather, it's about what is best for your business and we can only give some guidelines.
Should you not already have a website or are in the middle of building one, ask your online developers to build it in a way that it will be optmised for mobile. It could require an extra outlay and definitely will be less costly than starting from scratch.
If your existing website is relatively static but would want to enhance your online presence and get the benefits of mobile advertising, look at a mobile website. Readers coming from mobile ad clicks will have a good first impression of the business when they are offered easily readable information formatted nicely because of their mobile phone.
If your strategy is for fun, is highly interactive, is intended as a standalone marketing tool or revenue generator, was designed to be used offline, or requires users to regularly access large video or media files it likely makes more sense to go around the mobile app route.
Who will be the audience for my mobile app or mobile website?
Once we talk about audience, we are referring to two very separate ideas - the prospective market for your business and the overall set of people that can actually access mobile apps and mobile optimised websites.
To begin with, think about your existing client base and how they currently talk with your business through your website, For, Facebook pages, and LinkedIn profile. Since smartphones will only become more and more prevalent, a mobile app or website gives you a good platform to create on existing customer relationships and extend easy reach to a population that is certainly becoming increasingly mobile.
If the main aim is to increase your profile and presence within the mobile space, it's a wise idea to start off by taking advantage of existing technologies. If are featured Facebook on their mobile and click a link on your Fanpage to learn more, its a good bet that unless your page loads in certain seconds and displays well, they're going to give up and go elsewhere pretty fast. Bottom line - best to make certain any pages you hyperlink to from your social media sites load quickly, display relevant information, and look good on mobile.
The advantage of a mobile website is it's large audience reach. A site that is properly optimised for mobile should display well for the majority of feature phones and smartphones that are web-enabled. However, when you move into the realm of apps, things turn into a whole lot different. Since apps are mostly confined to smart phones, your audience is narrowed for the phones or platform(s) the application is designed to run on as well as the percentage of people actively using each platform.
Our main advice to you here is before going on the app route, consider the size of your own potential business audience to see how many of them are while using 5 major cell phone operating systems: iOS (iPhone), Android, Blackberry OS, Symbian (Nokia), and Windows. Using this method, you will get a good sense of how many versions associated with an app you should potentially develop.
How much should I budget for a mobile app or mobile website?
Answer: How long is a piece of string? There really isn' easy answer to this. It's going to come down to exactly what you want to achieve and what you want your site or app in order to do and ultimately whom you get to do it. It might be unfair to even give guide prices but what we can say is that any prices you're quoted should be grounded in reality.
If your site is depending on WordPress or some similar cms, there may be free or low-cost plugins available to display the pages optimised for mobile. Should your main website was built using recent technologies like xhtml and css, optimising it for mobile really should not be that difficult or costly, assuming it has mostly static content. When it has more dynamic content with lots of bells and whistles, you shouldn't be tempted to just replicate each page. Limit your web site to the pages that will transfer well to smaller mobile screens.
About the mobile app side, the expense can range from hundreds to tens of thousands, depending on the complexity in the app and the variety of platforms it will be developed for. There are sites on the internet where you can create basic apps free of charge but these will typically be tied to a predefined set of templates that allow minimal modifications. Some may also charge for hosting content which can be something to watch out for.