App vs Website

Posted on 24 Nov 2016
Reader Question:

Doctor Digital, do I need an app or is my mobile website enough?

Doctor Digital Says:

App vs Website, it’s a tricky question, and the lines are blurred more than they used to be. To find out how to best develop an app, you can check out the blog here. A handful of years ago, everyone was racing to get an app. Mobile phone technology had become smart, and suddenly the world was freed from their static desktop computers and laptops. Apps opened up a world of functionality we never knew we had or needed, and they did very different things to computers as we knew them then.

Roll forward to now, when smartphones and tablets are supercharged devices that do everything, everywhere! Websites have made (or for many are still making) a transition to full mobile functionality, without the need for an app to replicate the responsiveness. And the price has come down significantly. Apps used to cost upwards of $10k for a basic version, which often priced them out of the budget for small businesses. Now the price is way more affordable, with DIY programs available and plenty of low cost options, so small business is back in the game if an app is what they need.

The app is by no means dead. In fact, by having websites return to what they do best, the app has been able to have a rebirth with clear purpose other than simply being a website on the move. So what do you need for your business? The real question is what do your customers need from you, and does an app or a website best deliver that functionality. Make no mistake, every business with a website needs a responsive mobile site. There a number of blogs and factsheets on this topic, suffice to say that making things easy for your customers with information at their fingertips while they are on the go is good for you and good for them. So if you don’t currently have a website that has optimum performance on a mobile device and is up with the contemporary UX (user experience) conventions, then that should be your budgeting priority.

The growth of mobile device usage is set to continue to rise. We currently spend 174 minutes on mobile devices every day. Mobile sales are estimated to have reached $74 billion in 2015 in the US — up 32 percent from 2014. Thirty percent of all online purchases by Millennials are done on mobile devices. However, apps aren’t just for commerce businesses. Push notifications can be used by any niche to put your brand name directly in front of the smartphone owner.

But do you need an app? As indicated, certain ideas are more effective when delivered through a mobile app rather than a website. If you need to give your customers location based information like say Uber, then this is best delivered via a website. Anything you need to record in real time is well suited to an app – this includes things like fitness tracking which is best done on an app linked to GPS and able to record movements. Apps can be used for any type of activity but these ones are currently topping out the preferred list: booking systems, file uploads, vouchers, newsletters, digital magazines, support, providing information, logging exercise or nutrition, games, reading books, showing videos, weather and banking.

The possibilities for app use is limited only really by your imagination and budget an independent pet food supplier could have an app that encourages users to upload comical photographs of their pets for a chance to win a prize. A product for new mothers could build a community of local mums and arrange meet-ups. A realtor could create an app that compares local house prices now to five years ago. The possibilities really are endless. All it takes is a little imagination to devise a system that consumers will enjoy engaging with. And that brings us back to the original question – how will an app best suit your customers to find you, engage you and spend money with you? If an app enhances all those things, you should definitely consider getting one made.