Does My Business Need an “App”?

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Does My Business Need an “App”?

noun: app; plural noun: apps

  1. a self-contained program or piece of software designed to fulfill a particular purpose; an application, especially as downloaded by a user to a mobile device.
    “apparently there are these new apps that will actually read your emails to you”

In the “old days”, businesses were content to have things like business cards, brochures and TV commercials. These were, and still are, extremely effective ways of getting your message and image in the public eye.
Then came www dot (insert business name here) dot com.
The internet. Websites. Google. Words like “analytics” and “pay-per-click”.
The way of doing business changed just like that (fingers snapping).
Now, with over 130 million people using smartphones, it’s easy to see why businesses understand the need to have a website that is easily accessible via a mobile device. With the advent of the iPad, iPhone, and Android devices, a new term came into the public awareness. App.
So what is an “app”?
An “app” is a software application that is written in the “native language” of a particular platform, such as an iPhone or an Android phone (think Angry Birds or Kindle app) This gives it some great advantages such as:

  • High performance in terms of speed and response
  • They are usually readily available in an App Store
  • They work offline
  • “One touch” launching

It also has disadvantages:

  • Your app only works on the platform you’re using (Apple or Android)
  • You need to find a developer that can design for more than one platform
  • Customers need to perform multiple steps to get the app, as opposed to just viewing a website

Then what is a Mobile Website?
A mobile website is one that has been optimized, or made “scaleable”, for mobile browsing on your phone or tablet. That is to say, it is not just a small version of your existing site, but one that looks normal when viewed on a mobile device. It is reached through a phone’s web browser directly.  Some of the advantages to having a mobile site:

  • A mobile web site can work on any mobile platform (phone or tablet)
  • It is often faster and cheaper to develop a mobile site
  • A mobile site is usually a “version” of your primary website
  • Customers can “Google” you and go to your mobile site
  • Since it’s a website, it can be more easily updated

As with the app, there are disadvantages too:

  • Not written in native code, (device specific) so performance can be an issue
  • You cannot access all phone features that are available to apps
  • Harder to charge a user for access or usage

Now for the big question. Do I really need an app?
For most business, the answer is probably no. Or at least, not yet.
It is generally much less expensive to develop a mobile website, especially if you have an existing website that can be made scaleable for mobile devices. Most people will tend to utilize a web search tool such as Google to find information (and ultimately, your site), not an app store.
With the incredible rise in technology, the speed of web access on a mobile device is growing, making mobile websites not only easy to find, but faster for the user to get detailed information.
And lets face it, the web is probably here for a while but operating platforms can be fleeting.
Apps have their niche in the mobile world, and are certainly worth investigating whether your business will benefit from one, but for the moment it’s a better investment to stick with the web.

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