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Mobile web options

What kind of mobile presence?

Once you have decided you want a mobile presence, you will have to answer the following questions. Should you build a website that works on all types of phones and tablets or should you focus on one particular device? Should you build a website or application  (app)?

 

Mobile website versus mobile application

A mobile website is a website which is easily viewed on a mobile device.

A mobile application (app) is a dedicated software application built specifically for certain smartphones or tablets. They are distributed through 'app stores' that are usually managed by the owner of the mobile operating system.

Apps are task driven and websites are content-driven. As general recommendation - create a mobile app only if you want your users to get something done or complete a regular task and you expect that users will use it where there is no internet connection - otherwise, go for a mobile website.

How you manage your content will depend on the option you have decided to go for:

  • If your mobile website is built with responsive  design then you will probably have only one version of a website. Therefore you will have only one set of content to manage. This is an advantage but remember that this content should fit desktop and different mobile devices so you will have to prepare your content accordingly.
  • If you have a dedicated mobile website, the content is separate from your main website. Content on the mobile website should be short and concise. It should be information that is needed quickly (news, contact details and addresses, etc.).
  • If you plan on building a mobile app, then the content should be task-oriented and about getting something done.

 

 

Mobile website

There are different ways to build a mobile website. You can:

  • build a dedicated mobile website for each type of phone and screen size or
  • use responsive design to make one mobile website which fits all devices.

Mobile users often pay for bandwidth so offering them unnecessary content, costs them time and money and contributes to an unsatisfactory experience.

Dedicated mobile website

This is a simplified version of the main website that is optimised for smaller screen sizes and takes into account the high data download costs and lower bandwidth speeds of mobile devices.
The content may be adapted to suit the needs of the mobile user.

Advantages

  • Easily found through search engines.
  • Easy and fast to set up.
  • Lower development costs than mobile apps.

Disadvantages

  • Many versions required for different screen sizes and devices.
  • No integration with other phone features (GPS, camera, etc.).
  • Content cannot be accessed offline.

 Example

 

Responsive design

Responsive web design means that the layout changes according to the user’s screen resolution - one mobile website fits all.
Users across a range of devices and browsers have access to a single source of content that is easy to read and can be navigated with a minimum amount of resizing, panning and scrolling.

Responsive content fills responsive design. Like the design, it is flexible—expanding based on screen resolution and medium to match the user's context.

The main issue in responsive content is the same as responsive design: users on different devices in various contexts require different experiences.

Responsive content delivers different experiences to different users based on their context. Creating content as fluid as your design is not trivial.

Advantages

  • One website fits all.
  • Opportunity to clean some of your web site's content.
  • No device detection is needed.
  • Easily found through search engines.
  • Rationalisation of costs.

Disadvantages

  • Content must be suitable for all devices: namely desktop screens, smartphones, tablets etc. therefore it must be planned carefully and existing texts probably rewritten.
  • Every feature and menu on the site and page has to be considered in every little detail ahead.
  • No integration with other phone features (GPS, camera, etc.).
  • Content cannot be accessed offline.
  • Mobile browsers may only support some W3C standards.
  • Development might be complex.

Examples

 

 

Mobile application (app)

A mobile app can have added value when a user wants to perform a task regularly but be aware that development is more expensive and many apps are never used again once they have been downloaded.

There are two kinds of apps - native and hybrid apps.

Advantages

  • Useful for repeated tasks.
  • Content can be accessed offline.
  • Closer integration with other phone features (GPS, camera, etc.).
  • Interaction is possible with other mobile devices.
  • One touch is enough to start an app (compared to opening a browser and typing the website address).
  • Optimised layout.

Disadvantages

  • One in four mobile apps is never used again after downloading.
  • Require platform-specific development.Users need to install and update apps.
  • Not as easy to find or discover as websites.
  • Applications need to be validated by the app stores and this can take some time (especially for Apple apps).
  • Devices (OS / Browser) may change and old versions may be incompatible with new versions.
  • Some users who do not have a particular device may feel excluded.

 Examples

 

Native app

A native app is installed on the device and developed in native environment code. It can take advantage of technology in the mobile device; camera, GPS, offline and cloud storage etc.

Native apps are not cross-platform: each operating system (iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry) requires its own development.
The app creator must have an account with a store to submit the app for validation and publication.

Advantages

  • As it is designed specifically for the respective device, native app may provide the user with an optimised interface.
  • Fast response time.
  • Access to device functionalities.

Disadvantages

  • Development time is likely to be longest of all mobile options.
  • High development costs.
  • Maintenance and upgrades are necessary.
  • Not indexed by search engines.

 

Hybrid app

A hybrid application is a mobile website packaged in a native file. It means using standard web technology to create the main core of the app and making small changes to fit the different devices' mobile operating systems.

Advantages

  • Cross-platform compatibility.
  • Reduced development efforts.

Disadvantages

  • Viewing web pages is slightly slower compared to native applications.
  • Limited access to device features.
  • Not indexed in search engines.