As the founder of a company that specializes in social media, mobile applications and web development solutions there’s one question I hear most frequently these days.
More and more small business owners are asking me, “Should we build a mobile app or a mobile website — and what the heck is the difference?”
The Mobile Era and your Small Business
As you know, the mobile era is here.
According to PC Magazine, “global smartphone adoption has exploded, growing faster than any consumer technology in history.”
In fact, “the rate of Android and iOS device adoption among international users has out-paced the 1980s PC revolution, the 1990s Internet boom, and the social networking craze of the ‘aughts, according to [research], which reported the rate of smartphone adoption to be 10 times that of what we might now perceive as the positively glacial pace of early personal computer adoption.”
So how do you harness one the greatest opportunities of our decade?
Well, you start by picking the right development path, of course!
What is a native app?
An application that is built to run on a specific mobile operating system (e.g. iOS or Android). The native app is often called a “mobile app,” or even just an “app.” It does not run inside of a browser, but rather is installed on your device. In order to install an app you should go to your devices App Store (called the “Market” on Android). The app store is a pre-installed icon on your device, so your next digital addition is just one click away!
What is a mobile website?
We all know what a website is, but what makes it “mobile?” Put simply, it is a website that is optimized for viewing on a smaller resolution screen – like the ones you find on mobile devices.
If you try to cram a full sized website onto a mobile phone screen for example, you have to zoom in and out, and move all around to get where you want. A mobile website will have everything laid out nicely so you can easily scroll to find information and links that are easy to click.
Which should your small business choose?
Native App: One big advantage of the Native App is that they appear in the App Store. This can be a very powerful marketing tool. All of the hard work in rounding up your potential customers and having them come to one place has been done for you! This alone is enough to constitute building a native app in some cases. You’ll want to take special consideration of the revenue sharing rules that are required when doing an app purchase though – this can be a deal killer for some people.
Also, native apps can take full advantage of the particular features of a device and its software.
For example, you can implement a sophisticated user interface (UI) that would be much more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to do in a mobile website. The downside to this flexibility is that the time and effort required to build and maintain a native app is typically higher than a mobile website.
There are some cross platform mobile app solutions that let you build once and run anywhere, such as Titantium by Appcelerator and PhoneGap – but there are other pros and cons in going that route too. Let me know if you want to hear more on that topic.