App, dedicated mobile website, responsive website or do nothing? What’s the best mobile strategy for you and your business?
The mobile revolution
Mobile – hard to ignore – actually, amend that, impossible to ignore. If you’re a business and you actually want to generate a return on investment from your online presence (it could be argued that the way some businesses operate they don’t) – then a mobile strategy is a necessity.
The mobile device (smartphone / tablet / phablet) is becoming king. Already, the majority of general internet searches are initiated on a mobile device and for local searches (defined as searching for geographically local services) the dominance is significantly higher. Further, interaction rates and purchases from mobile are all increasing.
Mobile: a personal connection
Unlike the traditional forms of internet access (the desktop and laptop) the mobile device has a much stronger relationship with the consumer – living as they do in pockets – and with developments in mobile networks ever increasing (although costly) bandwidth. Add in functionality like GPS, cameras and all the other various developments in mobile – the mobile is the center of consumer’s digital world.
Option #1 – do nothing
Not really an option nowadays, well not least since the latest Google update. Whilst mobile browsers have become ever more capable in rendering desktop focussed sites, even offering “text reader” options, the resultant user experience on a mobile is for want of a better word – poor.
And with Google now penalising non “mobile-friendly” sites in mobile search engine results – the days of the non-mobile site are numbered.
Also, by not having an online mobile compatible presence – businesses are, in effect, communicating to their clients and customers on mobile that they don’t really care and don’t really want their business.
Option #2 – the dedicated mobile site
Long preferred as the best way of tackling mobile, but becoming somewhat dated now (in our view at least).
With a dedicated mobile site, a business would have two websites – a desktop site (with desktop orientated content) and a mobile website (with mobile orientated content) – the visitor would then be directed to the appropriate website by a bit of (not as reliable as you would like) code.
Whilst the core benefit of this approach is that you can tailor content, structure and imagery to the mobile experience there are downsides, which for a more resource constrained business maybe over-powering, specifically:
- The need to manage two sites (rather than just one)
- SEO dilution – both in terms of content and links to the site (all that search engine optimisation goodness being split between two sites)
- Content Censorship – my personal bugbear – having different content on the mobile site to the desktop site (either abridged content or, in some cases, completely different content). From a user’s point of view – infuriating!
Option #3 – the App
App development from all the hoo-ha has seemed to be the best thing for sliced bread. And for some, very unique businesses – it is.
Having an app allows for significantly greater control over the user experience, and can significantly speed up user interaction over slow connections. However, it should always be used in addition as opposed to instead of a mobile capable website.
Unfortunately, the drawbacks of apps are such that for 99% of businesses, they are not appropriate, for example:
- The need to manage at least two sites (the website and the app)
- The need to develop an app that is compatible with iOS / Android and Windows (multiplicity)
- The fact that the majority of us do not have relevant content / freshness of content to justify a user downloading an app – instead of just accessing a website.
A great example of an App replicating a website is the BBC News App – where it uses the pre-loaded framework to import content from the main BBC News website and present it in user friendly format which isn’t as dependent on bandwidth as the website on its own would be.
Option #4 – the responsive website
Saved the best till last. In our opinion (and Google’s for that matter), we believe the best mobile strategy is for the development of a responsive website – a website that adapts dynamically to the screen size it is being viewed on.
There are many benefits in using the responsive website model, for example the need to maintain just the one website and the benefits in search engine optimisation to name but two critical ones.
However, if not implemented correctly – there are disadvantages. However, these only really become apparent if the site is coded incorrectly (should always be done on a “mobile first” basis) or structured inappropriately (monolithic blocks of small text).
Reality bites back
What is often over-looked on these “mobile strategy” type articles is content.
A fantastically well designed responsive website isn’t going to attract one visitor without appropriate, relevant and engaging content. Content drives all. On the whole, good content will deliver better results than good design – generally speaking visitors will put up with poor layout, design and a frustrating mobile experience if you have the content they want (unfortunately, there are very few sites which have this level of engaging content).
If this has whetted your appetite, and you want to find out more – please get in touch with us.