I am frequently asked, "Should I build a mobile website or a native mobile app? If the answer is both, do I start with a mobile website and then build a native mobile app, or do I start with a native mobile app and then build a mobile website?" The answers to these questions will depend on several factors.
MarketingCharts.com reports that as of 2013, apps from retail businesses took up to 27 percent of consumer’s time. This speaks to how how critical a mobile app can be to reaching your customers. However, according to Google, 67 percent of consumers say they are more likely to purchase from a mobile-friendly website.
If you can afford it, you might want to consider building both a mobile website and a native mobile app to capture the attention of your entire mobile audience. The native app will provide a better user experience for your existing customers, while your mobile website can help provide an optimized experience to both new and returning website visitors.
If you decide that you need both a mobile website and a native mobile app, then which do you build first? It all depends on what is going to bring the most value to your business. Trying to do both at once is not recommended unless you have 2 separate teams to focus on both at the same time. Mobile app development requires a different set of skills from mobile website development.
If you can only afford to build either a native app or a mobile website, it is important to look at the pros and cons of each:
Pros of native apps
- Leverages native properties of the device including GPS, shake and camera,
- A well designed app typically performs faster than a mobile website.
- New users can discover you in the app store by searching.
Cons of native apps
- Ongoing Maintenance across multiple platforms can be costly.
- App users have to proactively update their apps when new versions are released.
Pros of mobile websites
- A website is much easier to update, especially when using a good content management system.
- No download from an app store required.
- New users can discover you with a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing.
Cons of mobile websites
- Performance and usability is typically inferior to a native app.
- Limited support of native device features.
Once your mobile offerings are out there, it is important to track, measure and collect user feedback and data.
You will need to continually maintain your mobile offerings and create a new road map for enhancements and new releases.
Best of luck with your mobile strategy and please keep me posted on your progress!