30 Apr-2015

Mobile app or responsive website?

It is 2015. You know your business (or your blog, portfolio… etc) needs a mobile presence; but then this question is raised: “Mobile app or Responsive website?”.

And to be honest with you, I may have accepted this as a question a couple of years ago. Now in 2015, everything is moving — with very fast paces — to a mobile world that changes the question to become “Should I build a mobile application or is a responsive website enough?”

Responsive design is a must:

In a world where everyone checks their emails from phone, tweet or update their facebook status on the go — and do that more frequent than doing it on a desktop, having a website that doesn’t scale down to fit the screen of a mobile phone or a tablet makes no sense at all.

Simply, people need to have the information they are looking for as soon as possible; and this means, if someone is looking for your business on the go to get the address for example, they don’t need to keep pinching in and out to zoom, tapping on small buttons that looks perfect on big screens but awful on small ones, just to find your address; Specially, if they hit your page through a Google search that shows other competitors (whose website is easier to navigate), just beside your web page.

Also, a responsive design for your website doesn’t only reflect your respect to your customers — or visitors, it also shows that you are keeping up to date with the market needs when it comes to technology. Even if you go for a native mobile app to represent your mobile presence, always remember that not all your potential clients have the app, or can install it on their devices; yet, all mobile devices (phones, tablets, e-readers) have browsers by default.

Is responsive design enough?

Well, it depends. Although having a responsive design for your website is a must, it may or may not be enough. and you may need a supplemental mobile app.

Mobile applications, specially native ones, usually give the user more functionality than a web application; as they may be granted access to user’s personal data like contacts, pictures, location and more to better interact with the user. These are functions that a responsive website lacks.

So, if a native mobile app will add more functionality to the user and allow them to better interact with your business, go for it. An example for that would be allowing the user to save coupons, scan a bar-code, check order status without having to sign-in every time they use the app, like they would with the web version.

So, what is the rule?

The rule of thumb would be to add as much functions and information to your responsive website as you can; and always consider that not all your customers have (or can have) access to your mobile app. For any function that you want to give to your customers that web applications can’t handle, consider building a native app.

Side notes to consider:

  • Consider the cost of having a native mobile application, and the chances you lose if you don’t.
  • Consider the fragmentation in the mobile devices; different devices, different operating systems, different capabilities.
  • Always treat a native mobile application as a supplemental solution; and not a replacement to a responsive website.