In one of our more recent blog articles
Florian Lehwald pointed out that the so-called mobile era has arrived and everyone enjoys the advantages of the mobile web. Since he is my boss, I would never query his opinion, but would like to add another thought to it. The fact that mobile web usage of consumers increases more and more leads to the problem that companies have to make their usual websites ready for mobile devices.
Sure, you can completely ignore that trend because smartphones and tablets are able to display almost every website, even if it is optimized for super-sized computer screens. If that is your solution: ‘Good luck with that’. Anyone who tried to surf a website on a display that has only about four inches knows what I mean. Endless scrolling, enlarging and downsizing will quickly scare your visitors away.
Therefore, as a company that depends on the functionality and use of joy of its website, you have to decide: Mobile-optimized website or mobile application?
App follows mobile website
In my opinion, it is not a question of mobile website OR mobile application. Rather, it is a question of introducing a mobile website AND an additional app. Although statistics from Flurry Analytics
, comScore and NetMarketShare show that the U.S. consumers spend most of their mobile usage time using an app (80% - 2 hours and 7 minutes) rather than using their mobile browsers (20% - 31 Minutes), I think you should not develop an app before customizing your website for mobile devices. So, why is that?
First of all, the usage of a mobile website has many advantages in contrast to building an own app. One of these advantages is that a mobile website does not require an installation by the user and can be found during a usual web search. An installation can be a huge barrier for your visitors because it costs time and effort.
Second advantage: developing an app is expensive. A study by the German news site iBusiness
shows that a simple app comes at an average cost of 16,500 Euro, which applies for the German app development market. As a matter of fact, the average cost of a complex app is seen at 79,000 Euro. Turning your already existing website into a mobile website is definitely less expensive and can rapidly be executed with plugins for your already existing content management system. And if you didn’t know it, there is a variety of creation tools that can be handled easily. Everyone who can integrate Google Analytics into his or her website can also create a mobile site with one of the following tools.
In order to not exceed the limits of this blogpost, I want to give you just two examples of popular creation tools that you will also find in an article from mashable.com
. The first tool, named MobilePress
, is a free plugin for the prominent CMS WordPress. So if your website is based on WordPress, which without a question is the most widely-used CMS (as a W3Techs.com ranking
shows), it is pretty easy to render a mobile friendly version with this tool. You just have to install the plug-in by uploading the "mobilepress" folder into your "/wp-content/plugins/" directory and then activate the plugin through the "Plugins" menu in WordPress. Et voilà, you have just created your own mobile website.
The second tool I want to recommend you is Onbile
, which is not linked to any content management system. The developers promise that you only need five minutes to create a mobile optimized site of your homepage. Onbile offers an intuitive user interface that helps you individualize your mobile site in the aspects of design, colors and other features. The tool also creates a custom-generated script which can be pasted into your index page. If a user hits your site with a mobile device, he or she will be redirected to the mobile site. Other than MobilePress, Onbile isn’t free for companies and requires a monthly payment, which is quite affordable for any company, even for startups.
One last evident argument for creating a mobile website first is that a mobile website can be visited by every user of a mobile device, whether it is an Android-based or an iOS-based smartphone. There is no need to develop different versions for different hardware, because you can visit the site using your installed browser.
An individual app can provide useful additional services
Beside all of these positive points regarding a mobile website, an individual application can certainly be a great tool to complete your mobile web presence. It can provide various useful functions, such as push notifications, shorter loading times or more interactive user interfaces. In addition to this, an app sometimes can also be available without being connected to the internet and can make use of other features of the tablet or smartphone, like the camera or location services, if these are necessary for your business case.
Altogether in my opinion, it should be the right way to first transfer your website into a mobile website and then create an individual application, if you truly need it. Otherwise your company will not reach your consumers in the mobile-engaged future.