Mobile channels: the different development options for your mobile strategy
This post is the second part of a series dedicated to explaining how to develop a successful mobile strategy that brings you more conversion. Click here for part 1 where we looked at some examples of company that have gone mobile first, and why they have made that move.
When was the last time you and your mobile devices were apart for more than 50 meters? These devices are fundamentally changing how businesses interact with their customers. Mobile strategy development is an area that certainly cannot be overlooked but it has become a bit confusing lately with so many options. Should you develop a native app for your loyal consumers, a responsive site to suit all your visitors or perhaps a hybrid app that functions as a bit of both?
The direction you take should be about matching the technology with your business goals. So let’s take a look through the pros and cons of each solution whichwill help you make that all-important mobile strategy decision.
Responsive Web Design
The sharp sales growth in smartphones and tablets has led to dilemma for website owners – stick to a desktop site and build multiple dedicated sites for tablet and mobile screens, or alternatively go responsive? Responsive Web Design (RWD) allows you to have one site that ‘does it all’. A RWD web page stretches or shrinks to fit the user’s screen size. This is not a mobile website, but a single website that adapts to its ‘surroundings’.
- RWD can be a money saver. Rather than paying for the design and implementation of several different sites (for iPhone, Android, iPad etc.), you only need to pay for one, and it will keep adapting as new devices are released (with little or no updates).
- You also only need to create one set of content rather than multiple sets for various different sites. Site updates will usually only need to be applied once, with a short amount of time spent adjusting these for the different environments in which they are displayed.
- It can also be a money spinner. The better mobile experience offered by RWD leads to much improved conversion. Your users are kept in your app without redirects to third-party pages, and therefore are more likely to spend their money with you.
- Responsive sites are streamlined version of desktop sites. This means that the user journey tends to stay the same. This can be a particular problem for ecommerce sites. Visitors on mobile are much more likely to know exactly what they are looking to purchase, they would want to be able to quickly locate the product they want and get to the payment page as fast as possible. On the other hand, a desktop site user is much more likely to want to browse the site first. Using a responsive design for your site can mean that you are losing the valuable opportunity of immediately presenting a mobile user with the option to buy.
There is no doubt that responsive web design is a powerful new tool for website owners and developers, but it is not currently without its drawbacks.
Mobile Web App
Websites in the form of apps. This is a server-side ‘app’ that uses HTML that has been styled so that it renders well on a mobile device. They are not really apps at all, just websites made to utilise the mobile web platform. They run on web browsers and are typically written in HTML5. Users access them as they would a webpage, they then have an option to ‘install’ it which basically puts a bookmark to it on their phone or tablet screen.
- HTML5 has been with us for a few years now and is constantly improving. Following initial teething-problems (including detractions from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg), the world of HTML5 development is fast evolving to catch up with native functionality. One of its best features is it’s compatibility across a range of devices. This leads to lower development costs – one app will work across iOS, Android and Windows.
- They also update themselves continuously, much like a website; every time the app is opened it will display the latest version, avoiding the annoying manual updates needed for native apps (though this can lead to longer page load time).
- HTML apps are often said to be more suited to emerging markets where mobile adoption is widespread and the devices used vary widely. Developing native apps to target this entire market would be a nightmare but a mobile web application could capture them all.
- Keywords within a mobile web app are searchable by Google, so it will aid in your SEO effort and helps acquire in new users.
- Many features of native apps cannot be utilised in web apps. These include; notifications, running in the background when device is offline, accelerometer information and complex gestures. If you want to use these functions within your app you will have to build native or at least hybrid.
- Not all web pages look the same across all browsers and the design might look completely wrong when displayed through a web application.
- These apps still lack some of the functionality of native apps and cannot contain rich content. Support for the technology is also somewhat lacking. All desktop and mobile browsers now support web applications but some still do not support certain elements.
Web apps can be a great alternative to a traditional app. They function across all devices and can be a smart way to implement a mobile strategy on a budget. But the snazzier features can be limited and occasionally it will not display as intended on all browsers.
Having your brand (and shop) constantly sitting on the screen of your customers’ mobile devices has got to be a good thing right? A native app allows you to do just that. The real estate of a person’s phone or tablet screen has a huge marketing value. They will see your logo hundreds of times a day. When they are ready to shop, they will very likely tap on your native app.
- Speed is king. Native apps do not need to download design layers in addition to content and so can concentrate on only downloading the data for the app. This can then be cached and used offline, while more data continues to download in the background. For more info on why speed is so important on mobile check out this blog.
- Native apps also get full support from app stores and marketplaces. This makes them easy for a consumer to find and download.
- Complete smartphone features are available to utilise in a native app. Camera, push notifications, location services, advanced navigation gestures and more are all there to be harnessed.
- Native apps can be expensive for the owner and time-intensive for the developer. This is especially the case for developers creating apps for different platforms. This is also an issue when maintaining and upgrading native apps.
- Native apps and updates must be approved by the app stores. This can be time-consuming and costly.
According to a Compuware Survey 85% of mobile professionals showed preference for mobile apps over mobile websites. This is put down to native apps being faster, convenient and easy to navigate and that number really speaks for itself. Native can be the best product for customers but businesses have to consider its cost and time required to develop.
A hybrid app looks and feels like a native app and sits on a person’s mobile screen, but it works like a web app. Hybrid offers a trade-off between the ease of development of web apps and the performance of native apps. It is written in web-based code but runs on the device rather than on a web page, making use of the devices browser engine without using the browser itself.
- Accessible across different platforms.
- They also live in the app stores as they are a web app with a native ‘wrapper’ on. Companies will often build a hybrid app to get a presence in an app store without the significant effort and cost of developing for both iOS and Android.
- Hybrid apps can have an impaired performance when accessing web content online. The performance simply cannot beat a properly coded native application but a good developer should be able to create an app that irons out most of the quirks across each platform.
- If a feature doesn’t translate across all platforms it is often not included by developers. Some functionality is lost in that case. By creating a generic app it is difficult to come up with a design that keeps up with the interface guidelines of all the major platforms. One set of users could end up with a sub-standard offering.
- Debugging across a hybrid app is very complicated and can significantly add to the upkeep costs.
Hybrid apps offer you the look of a native app and the quicker implementation of a web app. There are many advantages to this and the technology behind it is always growing – a great sign that it is a technology with future potential.
Every company has defined objectives for their mobile channels and it is important to approach this major decision for your business in a strategic way. Work out exactly what you want from it (social shares, conversions, or loyalty), what your budget is and when you want it to be implemented. Read blogs and studies by mobile professionals. Then talk to some experienced developers. Get an understanding of your customers’ mobile behaviour and develop your mobile channels accordingly.
This mobile world may seem a bit complicated, but once your goals are firmly set, making the right choice for your business should be a walk in the park.
Keep reading this blog series to find out more about implementing a successful mobile strategy. Next time, we’ll take a look at how to design and implement a successful UI and UX.
About Judopay · Judopay simplifies in-app payments, enable frictionless checkouts and intelligently prevents fraud for leading companies globally. Our payments and mobile experts help guide businesses and their development partners to create best in class apps to make paying faster, easier and more secure. Founded by serial financial technology entrepreneurs in 2012, Judopay is backed by leading venture investors and supported by banking and card scheme partners to offer in-app payments that are simple, frictionless and protected.
Image sources: "The iOS family pile (2012)" by Blake Patterson - Flickr, "Responsive Web Design for Desktop, Notebook, Tablet and Mobile Phone" by Muhammad Rafizeldi - Wikipedia, "FT Web App on iPhone- Podcasts" by FT, "iphone 4 apps" by Sean MacEntee - Flickr, "Hybrid apps" by Johanna Gaßmann - Wikipedia