So you have a web site but you want that information to be easily accessible to the growing market using mobile phones & tablets? How do you go about that?
Two popular paths are:
Building a mobile application or an “App”; or
Building a “Responsive Web Site”.
Both have different strengths and weaknesses which will be the deciding factors for which path you choose. We will outline both technologies in this starter guide but as is the nature of technology, it’s always changing, so always check with your designer / developer about new features.
At the moment Apps seem to be more popular across the board with the increase of mobile devices. Apps are custom made programs that are designed to run on specific hardware e.g. Apple iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy Tab. Users will go to their device’s app store (Apple Devices: App Store, Android Devices: Google Play Store) where they search for your company/product and download your app.
Apps have exploded in popularity over the last few years mainly due to the introduction of smart phones and tablets. Arguably their biggest benefit is that they can be used offline (when the device has no WiFi or 3/4G signal). This is a huge benefit to companies that are located in areas where connectivity is scarce e.g. remote tourist locations or mine sites. Another advantage is that because Apps are custom built for the device that they are on, they can use all of the device’s hardware features. This means Apps can be built to go faster, to use special features on the device such as notification alerts, cameras, accelerometers (ability to detect when you’re rotating the device), calendars, contacts etc.
The downside to Apps mainly is their price. Having to build an individual application for Apple devices (iOS devices such as iPhones & iPads) and Android devices (such as Samsung S3, HTC and much more) can be quite costly especially when you have to update information on the App that’s not sourced from the internet.
Another issue which is both good and bad is that you have to submit your app to the respective App Store for approval. The good side is that once it’s on the App Store, it’s quite easy to charge money for the App (If your App requires this). The bad side is that the stores are crowded and your App can get lost in amongst the other thousands of Apps available.
Responsive Web Site
The term Responsive Web Site is relatively new to the general public but it’s quickly becoming the most popular way to resolve the issue of how to get online content across desktop computers/laptops, tablets and phones.
Web sites can generally be accessed on any device these days, however, different devices will display web sites differently depending on their individual set up. Responsive means that the web site detects or “responds” to the individual device it’s being used on and will then reshape the layout of the site to fit the device and its set up.
http://www.omdrl.org/ web site
In this sense, Responsive Web Sites have a big advantage over Apps. One web site can work over many different devices without the need to create individual Apps for different devices. Further, if you need to make a change to the content, one change updates all devices which can be very cost effective. Another advantage is there is no App Store to contend with. This means that you do not have to submit your web site for approval which saves time and money. It also means that the user only needs a web browser to access your site, whether they input the web address direct or simply “Google” it. This saves the hassle of searching the App Store, downloading the app and putting in usernames and passwords, which can become a complicated, tedious and costly process for users.
As with anything, however, there are always drawbacks. The biggest drawback for Responsive Web Sites is the user interface (Navigation / Layout) of the web site. It can be very difficult to create a web site that is clear and easy to navigate, but which is also flexible enough to work on a mobile phone and a desktop computer. This can take a fair amount of designing, planning and testing, which can be costly for the company. Further, web sites require a constant connection to the internet to work and they have no offline mode like Apps do. Consequently, depending on the needs of your users and where they are located, a web site may not be appropriate.
These are just a few advantages and disadvantages to be aware of when considering Apps and Responsive Web Sites. At the end of the day, the decision as to which is more appropriate for your company will be determined by what information you want to share with your users/customers and how you want them to interact with the information. Once you have a clear idea about what you want to achieve with your digital content, the decision will become easier.
We would love to talk more and find the best digital solution for you.