In the digital era, a mobile presence is critical for businesses to attract, retain and communicate with customers.
With so many consumers now using their mobile devices to interact with businesses, it is imperative that companies are properly set up to meet customers’ needs. The questions many business owners ask when deciding whether to go mobile is whether to create a dedicated app for their brand or develop a website that is mobile-friendly.
Michael LaVista, CEO and founder of Web application development firm Caxy, outlines five steps to take when choosing which way to go:
- Unless the product uses a phone feature — such as the accelerometer, GPS, contacts or push notifications — then you don’t necessarily need a mobile phone app.
- If a business is determined to take advantage of the phone’s capabilities, then it must consider its audience when designing a mobile app. If a business’s budget is limited, it may need to choose just one platform, such as iOS, Android, Windows or Blackberry. This might require some market research about which devices a business’s customers typically own. There are some tools, such as PhoneGap, that allow businesses to develop for multiple platforms at once, but there are trade-offs with those.
- Organizations that decide they don’t absolutely need the phone’s features can design a responsive site, which is a type of Web design that adjusts how it looks based on the device — mobile phone, tabletor desktop computer — on which it is accessed. Nowadays, investing in a Web experience that isn’t responsive is probably a waste of money, because most sites have a big mobile audience.
- When designing a responsive site, it is important to pick your battles. It is difficult to imagine every possible scenario, and be prepared for the site to appear awkward on some devices. Again, do your research to find out which devices customers will use to access your site.
- Make sure the group designing the responsive site or app has expertise in that particular area. At a high level, mobile devices are about your big thumb and big buttons. A mouse is accurate, whereas thumbs are not. Mobile sites should be uncluttered, which means avoiding features like big company logos.
After deciding which path to pursue, it is critical to find a quality vendor to build the app or responsive website, LaVista said.