If you’re a person who follows technology news, you may have noticed that “mobile” pretty much dominates the chatter these days. The iPhone, first introduced in 2007, spurred an ever-increasing craze for mobile gadgetry, which can be explained by both innovation in smartphone technology and a head-on collision with another tech obsession. The tech obsession known as social media—blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and location-based services, such as FourSquare—thrives on mobile platforms.
What are the implications of these technological advancements for small businesses? Does your business need a mobile website now? Or perhaps an iPhone app? An iPhone app and an Android app? What about an iPad app?
There is a difference between a mobile website and a mobile app.
A mobile website is just that—a website. It’s built just like any other website (i.e., in HTML) and is hosted on a web server somewhere, just as your “regular” website might be hosted at The Small Business Authority. The difference, however, is that a mobile website is optimized for a small screen.
For an example, compare ESPN’s regular website to its mobile version. If you’re on your PC right now and not your mobile phone, you’ll get the full effect of how dramatically different the two versions are. A mobile website will typically lay all of its navigation in a single, vertical column, and remove much of the pizzazz that you would normally see on a regular website. And when you visit a website that has a mobile version available, it will detect whether you’re on a mobile device, and then automatically route you to the appropriate version.
A mobile app, on the other hand, is a piece of software that is installed on your smartphone, just as, Microsoft Word is installed on your PC. Many of the most popular mobile apps are video games or social tools, like the Facebook app. There are also businesses that offer mobile apps as alternatives to their websites. For example, eBay Inc. has an iPhone app and a mobile website, both of which serve the same purpose.
Which one of these would best serve your needs: a mobile site, an app, or both?
The answer is, perhaps neither. Here’s why:
1. You sort of have a mobile website already. If your business already has a “regular” website, you pretty much have a mobile website already, too. On most next-generation smartphones—the iPhone, Android, Palm Pre, or a recent Windows Mobile or BlackBerry—the included web browser can render a website in nearly the same fashion and quality as the web browser on your PC can. The main difference between a smartphone and a computer screen, of course, is the screen size. And as time goes on, mobile browsers will only get better and faster.
2. Your business type may not warrant the effort. There are only so many apps that users are able and willing to have installed on their smartphones. Until recently, iPhone users could only have 180 apps installed at any given time. The most popular apps are games, social media tools, news, and utilities. Unless your business fits into one of these categories, you’ll want to really think about the return on investment before investing money in the creation of a mobile app.
As for a mobile site, unless your website is content heavy and involves a lot of pages, categories, and navigation (such as ESPN), you probably don’t need to acquire a mobile website. You’ll notice that just about every website that does offer a mobile version will be a pretty “big-time” company or website (think Wikipedia, Amazon.com Inc., etc.), and this is for the simple reason that “regular” websites with a lot of navigation and content can be difficult to experience on 4-inch screens.
3. Your “regular” website needs more tender loving care. The smartest thing to do, especially if you’re watching your budget, and unless you have a website that fits into one of the niche categories that would warrant a mobile site or app, is to put all of your web efforts into the primary website for your business. After all, in this day and age, your website will continue to be the “face” of your company.
If you want to expand your web presence, be sure your “regular” website is up to today’s standards. If you have an ecommerce site, you’d be better off investing in a dedicated SSL certificate, finding a better shopping cart, acquiring a more affordable merchant processing solution, and making sure your website attracts visitors and is easy to navigate.
Not sure about these things? Have one of our experts give your current website a free analysis. Give us a call today.