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Should you build a mobile website or develop an app? Or should you do both?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 | By Taskmaster

Some people still say mobile phones are just for making calls and that computers are where you should view websites. Well, Old Taskmaster says that’s baloney!

 

It’s not the 1990s anymore. Smartphones and tablets are not going to become a big media for browsing the web – they already are!

 

Consider this: according to market research firm IDC, there will be 134.4 million desktop PCs and 180.9 million laptops shipped worldwide this year. By comparison, there will be 227.3 million tablets shipped this year – along with a massive 1.013 billion smartphones.

 

Meanwhile, smartphones now make up 80% of all mobile phones sold in the US during 2013, while phone-and-text-only featurephones now account for just 20% of the market, according to Nielsen.

 

Websites designed for full-screen desktop PCs translate awfully to smaller smartphone screens. Forcing that poor experience on your customers because of the misguided notion that people only view the web from their computers will just lead to your customers having a terrible user experience and shop elsewhere.

 

This leads us to the bigger question: Should you go for an app or a mobile-optimised website?

 

Mobile websites

 

In a nutshell, a mobile website is a website that you can find in the browser of a smartphone, and is optimised for a 5-inch screen.

 

There are some perks to this. For example, you can have one mobile website that should work no matter whether the user has an iPhone, a Samsung, a Windows Phone or a BlackBerry. You don’t need to have a separate version of your website for each platform – one website should serve them all.

 

If you’re just starting out, this can be a huge cost saving.

 

Mobile apps

 

But there are also some big downsides to just relying on a mobile website for your mobile offering. For example, do you want to take advantage of the camera, contact list microphone or Bluetooth functionality on your users’ smartphones?

 

Perhaps you want to create an interactive game? Or push updates straight to their notification feeds? Maybe your big mobile idea requires storing large amounts of data (including images) on your users’ phones? Well, at this point, you really can’t do those things with a mobile website.

 

If you want to take advantage of these more advanced features, you’re going to need an app.

 

There’s also big money in apps. Gartner expects total revenues from apps to hit $US26 billion in 2013. Around 9.1 billion paid apps will be downloaded this year, along with 92.8 billion free apps.

 

But there are some downsides. You’ll need to develop separate apps for Android smartphones (including Samsung), iPhones and other platforms such as Windows Phone. Apps are also less shareable than websites.

 

The best of both worlds

 

Of course, depending on your business, the best option might well be to do both. Offer a mobile version of your website for anyone looking up your website in the browser, along with an app with more advanced features.

 

Whatever your situation, if you’re launching a business in this day and age, you need to have a careful think about your mobile strategy.

 

Now, over to you, dear readers. What’s your mobile strategy? Do you have a mobile-optimised website or an app? Or both? Or perhaps you’re a holdout and think Old Taskmaster has it all wrong? Well, leave a comment below!

 

Get it done – today!