You probably already have an Internet website and are now considering to create a mobile website. One of the main questions you might be debating with is whether to create a mobile application (app) or a mobile website. There has been quite a bit of discussion on the web regarding the pros and cons of each of these options.
With the huge buzz around Apple’s App Store and Blackberry’s App World it seems that mobile applications are taking over, but is an app the right solution for everyone? Doesn’t it seem like we have gone back fifteen years and once again being required to install packaged software? An interesting research by Pinch Media shows that less than 5% of downloaded apps continue to be used 20 days after being downloaded.
There are some cases where an app makes more sense as for example: businesses who have a very large and dedicated user base (e.g . Facebook) or solutions that requires special capabilities of the mobile device that are not accessible through the web (e.g. gaming).
But in the majority of the cases businesses and individuals will gain more from going through the mobile web route. The development costs will be lower, the potential market size will be bigger and it will be much easier for people to find your site by using any search engine.
Before making a decision several criteria should be considered. Below I summarized some of the main points to help you make the right decision for your business. Feel free to comment or add to my list.
Application designed to run on a specific mobile device – download and installation required
Website created specifically for mobile devices – accessible through mobile browsers, no download or installation required
|Portability||Needs to be developed for each platform (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Palm and the list goes on…)||Common platform – some solutions (e.g. DudaMobile) enable you to develop once and run on all web-enabled mobile devices|
|Hyper Links||It is possible to link to an app but since most users will not have the app installed, the most effective way is to link to the download page for this app. It is possible to link from an app externally to other websites||Possible to provide links to different pages on your mobile site and to link from your mobile site to other websites|
|Discoverability||Most apps don’t achieve critical success and fade into the world of anonymity. You will need a very well defined strategy to break into the top list for your category in order to make it (AdWhirl estimates $1875 per day advertising budget can get you there , Pinch Media says the impact of being in the top 100 is a daily increase of 2.3x in the number of users)||People can find your site by using any of the search engines and via links from other websites, blogs, Twitter and links embedded in emails. A good marketing strategy can definitely increase the number of visitors, especially if it is viral.|
|Distribution & Market Size||At the mercy of the App Store police in regards to availability of your app and approvals to get it in. Requires users to download – huge barrier to entry.
Limited to the number of users on the released platform
|Anyone on the web has access to your mobile site|
|Usage of Device Capabilities||Able to use all device capabilities (GPS, camera, voice, RFID, address book, calendar, etc.)||It is possible to use features like GPS, offline data storage and video from within mobile websites using the latest mobile browsers which support HTML5. Access from the web to some native capabilities of mobile devices is still limited due to security and privacy concerns (e.g. access to address book or calendar)|
|Supportability & Upgradeability||Difficult to support and maintain after app is downloaded. Every new release with bug fixes requires to go through the entire approval process of the app store.
After new version of application is placed in the store, it requires all existing users to upgrade in order to get it- big barrier
|Easier to support and maintain as developer has complete access to the site
No need to upgrade, all users see the latest version
|Entry Costs||some app stores charge extra fees for publishing or certifying your app (Apple charges developers $99 and enterprises $299, RIM charges $200 )||None|
|Revenue Share||Need to share sales revenue with the app stores (Apple takes 30%, RIM takes 20%)||It’s all yours|
|User Experience||Full control of User Interface||Limited to the capabilities of HTML/CSS. User experience will largely depend on how the mobile website is designed|
|Performance||Able to achieve high performance through app code that runs locally on the device||Performance will largely depend on how the mobile website is designed|
|Offline Browsing||Possible||HTML5 enables it to some extent, but is supported only on selected devices|