I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the Victorian Tourism Conference on ‘Maintaining the Attention Span of Gen Z‘. A topic of relevance for any organisation in any industry. I highly recommend considering how you plan to communicate with this up-and-coming segment as they are (if not already) soon to become your next target audience.

In the panel session to follow it was evident that the question on everybody’s lips was “should I build a mobile website or application?” And a very good question it is. For those of you hanging on your seats for the answer, my response and more below….

In my mind, when addressing the website vs. application debate, there are a few key considerations:

  • Your target audience

  • Your budget

  • Your timeline

  • Value

  • User Experience

Your target audience

Your target audience is the best place to start when considering whether to build a mobile website or application. Younger generations will appreciate an application much more than older generations; who may have only just wrapped their heads around social media and the fact that you can access the world wide web from your phone! Beyond an educated guess, commercial website analytics packages now offer information on percentages of website traffic arriving from various platforms and devices. If very little traffic is arriving via mobile devices, this would be a good indication not to leap into the development of an application (and vice versa). As your mobile traffic grows however (and trust me, it will), it is extremely important to have a mobile-friendly website. From there you can take next steps as you see fit.

Your budget

Your budget is another key consideration. How much do you have to spend? A mobile friendly version of your website could cost anywhere between $2,500 upwards, depending on your supplier and the level of development you require, and is accessible by all phones with an internet browser; whereas mobile application development sits in the tens of thousands , and is accessible only by the smartphone it was built for (eg. An iPhone app is not compatible with an Android phone).

Your timeline

If speed to market is critical, a mobile website is the way to go. Applications take much longer to develop as they are generally built from scratch and also require comprehensive auditing before approval is granted for listing in an App Store.

Value

A mobile website will ensure your visitors enjoy a positive online experience from anywhere, at any time and will without a doubt be worth the investment. On the other hand, the number of applications on the market has more than doubled in the last year alone, and the market is soon to become saturated. Prime real estate will soon be hard to come by, and unless you plan on developing an application that will offer real value to your customers, don’t do it.  

User Experience

Mobile websites and applications are all about user experience, and having one or the other (or both) will always be better than doing nothing at all. Having said that, the level of interactivity possible is much greater when using an application opposed to using a mobile website, because an application can leverage the hardware of the smartphone it was built for (GPS, motion, etc).

Lastly, a little bit of mythbusting for you

Both a mobile website and a mobile application offer real estate on home screens – so if brand awareness is an objective but an application isn’t in this year’s budget, promote your mobile website, and ask visitors to ‘save to home page’. Many believe the icon function is limited to applications, but users can simply ‘save to home page’ – and favourite mobile websites can be ‘iconised’, just like applications. This little piece of functionality is still in the discovery phase and is increasingly growing in popularity. Competitive advantage anyone?

So for those of you who have been up in the air on the mobile site versus app debate, I hope this helps. For any further advice, pros or cons drop me a line; or if you have anything to add to the debate I’d love to hear from you…