I got a call today from a nonprofit here in Westchester. We had an interesting conversation about creating a mobile website vs. a mobile app. It’s a question lots of businesses and nonprofits are asking lately so I thought I’d share some of what we discussed here. Feel free to ask follow-up questions or share your experiences.
What is a mobile website?
When mobile devices first started getting smart you needed to create a special mobile version of your website so visitors could see things properly on their tiny, little device screens. Then more devices started getting smarter so you needed to have multiple versions of your mobile site – in addition to your “real” website – so that they rendered properly on all the various smart devices.
Now, design standards are getting smarter and developers are turning to what’s referred to as “responsive design.” Responsive design allows website designers to create one website that will respond to media queries and render the page in a device-appropriate way. So if you are visiting a page on your desktop you may see two columns with a full menu across the top of the page. If, however, you are using your iPhone you may only see one column with the menu displayed as a list under the content.
Here are some great examples of responsive design at DesignModo.
What is an app?
An “app” is an application that is designed to let users perform specific tasks much like a software on your computer. There are two kinds of apps; mobile and native.
A mobile app requires internet access and works like a specialized website. A native app does not require internet access and runs on the device operating system.
For more information, you can see a side-by-side comparison of mobile vs. native apps on WebMonkey.
Which do I need?
Arguably, a website is a must for your business or nonprofit. It’s how you share your message with your audience and how you establish your credibility.
A mobile app can provide your audience with a great tool, improved user experience and potentially provide a revenue stream.
The first thing you’ll need to do when evaluating whether to update your website or have a custom app developed is to decide what your goals are. How will either better serve your audience and make their life easier, more enjoyable or more productive?
If you don’t know the answer to that, don’t waste your time on either.