Apps vs. the Mobile Web

Posted: November 21, 2011

Topics: Technology

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Everybody’s talking apps these days and with good reason – the market for apps is exploding and companies are looking to make sure they don’t miss out. For marketers, the temptation is also great and the rush to produce branded apps is on because just having an app right can provide some novelty value.

But before committing to an app, take a step back and ask yourself whether it’s really worth it. At this point, app development is …

1) Fairly Expensive – experienced app developers (and agencies with app developers) are in high-demand so you’ll be paying a premium.

2) Not Cross-platform – unless you build versions for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry, you’re ignoring a heck of a lot of users.

Those are two pretty big considerations and an expensive-to-develop app that plays to a limited audience isn’t necessarily a great marketing investment.

So before you decide to invest in an app, ask yourself a simple question: is this an “app” I’m thinking about or is it really just a mobile website?

You’ll likely get way more bang for your buck with a mobile website and be inclusive of a much larger audience. And in some cases, a website can be made “mobile-friendly” with relatively little work.

The mobile version of robotwhisperers.com we created for Dassault Systèmes is a great example. It includes all of the content from the desktop version of the site but has been optimized for mobile devices. It looks and performs like an app and works well whether it’s on running iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry mobile device.

Another good example is Gabriel’s mobile part search. Rather than spend a ton of time and money developing an app-based search tool, we leveraged all of the hard work that went into developing Gabriel.com’s part search and developed an optimized version for mobile devices. You can check it out at m.gabriel.com.

Of course, there are times when apps make sense. And apps allow us to utilize the cool technology that’s built into your mobile device (like GPS) – a mobile website can’t do that.

So the real question is: which option makes sense for you? If you need help deciding, shoot me or any other member of the push team an email. We’d be happy to talk through your options and help you decide whether you really need an app for that.

Rob Wilkie is the creative director at PUSH 22, an integrated marketing and communications agency supporting leading and emerging companies.