Do you really need an app for that?

Today, with 80 per cent of internet users owning a smartphone and mobile searches increasing, it's more important than ever for businesses to build a mobile-optimised online presence. However, with a declining shelf-life and high costs, are apps right for your business?

Do you really need an App for that, asks David Johnstone
Do you really need an App for that, asks David Johnstone
When deciding whether you need an app, consider business objectives and user needs.

Take a restaurant: its core online offering is to drive reservations. Mobile users, with less time, will be looking for a specific piece of information such as opening times; desktop users might be more inclined to browse for directions, menus or picture galleries.

While an app often fulfils a mobile user’s needs, a mobile-optimised site could be a better use of your budget.

The primary difference is development time, flexibility and design; it’s ultimately about whether the business’ core offering and objectives are best suited to a responsive site or if they also need an app. 

Availability
In the past, limited internet access meant that apps allowed businesses to reach customers even when they couldn’t access the web. However, in today’s digitally connected society, responsive sites are usually instantly available and encourage more initial engagement with the brand because apps need to be downloaded and often require login time. Also, whereas apps can be deleted or left stagnant if not used or updated, responsive sites do not have an expiration date. Google’s most recent update to its mobile search algorithm means companies are now ranked based on their website’s ‘mobile friendliness’. This means companies with a website not optimised for mobile will be penalised in mobile search results. While an app may satisfy part of your business, you still need to update your website to cater to mobile audiences.

Compatibility
While native apps must be designed specifically for an operating system, responsive sites work within a one-size-fits-all model, with content viewable across multiple platforms meaning content is more accessible and budget stretches further.

Functionality
With features such as click-to-call and GPS servicing, responsive sites also allow for additional functionality on mobile devices. Increasingly, websites are being built from a mobile-first and user-first perspective, meaning a stripped-back, intuitive user experience. Where apps come into their own is when an activity can be simply managed and personalised, such as checking bank balances, playing games or accessing loyalty points. An app allows users to create a customised interface with a brand but they only bring value if they make a task easier or more effective.
 
Updates
Responsive sites are ordinarily simpler to update with changes being made instantly in the CMS while apps require specialist development time and are often delayed by submission processes. What’s more, costs don’t stop when an app launches. Just with any content and marketing platform it requires ongoing maintenance and development. So, consider whether you actually need an app to meet your business objectives or if a mobile-friendly site will achieve the goal just as effectively. 

David Johnstone is the commercial director at We Are AD

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