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NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – More Internet users are using tablets and mobile devices to search the web, and as more people get smartphones and tablets, these numbers will grow. This shift in usage from desktop computers to tablets with varied screen sizes has some businesses scrambling. Should they invest in responsive design websites, or should they consider developing a native mobile application?
Before we delve deeper, let’s break these two options down.
Web designers understand that users could access a site from a small smartphone screen, larger tablet screen or even larger desktop screen. Responsive design refers to a website built to adjust to varying screen sizes. The result is a website that looks amazing on any scale. It may be more challenging to develop, but users will enjoy a seamless experience across all devices.
Mobile applications are made for mobile devices such as smartphones or tablet computers. They are independent of websites, and users download them from a mobile app distribution platform. Apple users get apps from the App Store, Android users find apps on Google Play and BlackBerry users get apps from the BlackBerry App World. Once the application is downloaded, it is accessible from the device even if there’s no cell or Wi-Fi signal.
There is not a simple answer to which would work best for you. Lots of factors will go into your decision, and asking these questions will get you closer to your answer. You should discover the advantages of each option and have a clearer picture of the best plan for your unique business.
Are your mobile visitors looking for different information than your laptop and desktop visitors?
Yes → Mobile App
If you develop a mobile application, chances are you’ll still need a regular website. Mobile applications shouldn’t be replicas of websites. If your visitors simply need your store hours or your contact information, a mobile app isn’t really necessary. Users expect different information and functionality when they download a mobile app, which brings us to the next question.
Do you want to utilize navigation? Photo capabilities?
Yes → Mobile App
Mobile apps have more interactive features, including navigation and image/video capturing capabilities. One really cool aspect of mobile apps is that they can use a mobile device’s accelerometer and gyroscope. If you own a sporting store that focuses on selling running shoes, you could develop a mobile app that lets users track their speed and running distance, allows them to set goals and sends them tips to achieve their fitness goals. Your app may also suggest a great pair of running shoes. In this case, the app achieves something tangible that a website cannot deliver.
Are you selling products on your website?
Yes → Either
If you are, you need to consider your mobile strategy. A recent study by Google and Nielsen revealed that mobile users make decisions fast. For instance, 55 percent of conversions (either a purchase, a phone call or a store visit) occur within one hour of a mobile search. This means mobile users are fulfilling a goal, and they mean business. If you sell something online, you may consider selling your product through an interactive app that will wow your users. Responsive design is also a good choice for selling products, and in many cases responsive designed sites will be less of an investment than creating a mobile application.
Does your store have a strong cell connection or offer Wi-Fi?
Yes → Either
No → Mobile App
One advantage of mobile applications is their accessibility. Since mobile applications live on a user’s device, the user doesn’t need an Internet connection to use the app. For a large store that has spotty cellphone service, a mobile app may be the way to go, especially if your users are attempting to access information while they’re in your store. A mobile app can give users sale information, coupon codes or product information even when they have unreliable phone reception.
Do you already have a lot of online traffic?
Yes → Either
No → Responsive Design
If you already enjoy a large user base, you can easily spread the word about a mobile application through your website, social media outlets and email marketing. If you’re struggling for views, it’s probably best to start with a responsive design website and invest in SEO services. A responsive website will allow you to optimize your site and gather valuable content for your blog. SEO companies can help you gain links and build a credible website that Google will reward.
This is only a starter guide for deciding which plan is best for you. Mobile apps certainly pack a lot of punch, and younger generations will appreciate a useful app. Responsive websites, though, have a larger reach and can benefit more from SEO services.
Which have you chosen for your business, and how have your customers responded?