Over the past few years, web users have changed from predominantly using desktop computers to browse the web to using mobile devices such as phone and tablets. Reports suggest that as much as 50% to 60% of web traffic is from mobile devices, so it’s no longer acceptable to leave the mobile web experience as an afterthought, it needs to be evaluated as a priority at the beginning of any web project.
When it comes to mobile web browsing there are three main options:
- Application – This is a custom coded application which can be downloaded onto devices and it performs given actions (as developed).
- Mobile web site – This is a separate web site (different from main desktop version) which is served up for users on a mobile device.
- Responsive design – This effectively changes the output of the web site based on the size of screen the user has. It is the same website/content and simply displays them in a different manner.
Arguably there is no “best case” or “one size fits all” when it comes to these three options. Depending on the requirements one might be better than the other for a given implementation. So we have given an overview of each option and some of the pros and cons.
- Is great for custom business logic and complex tasks and it has a real programming language behind it.
- Can build brand loyalty and is a good look for customers/users.
- Much more control over output/behaviour compared to web sites.
- Requires the user download an update every time something changes and users might not update in a timely manner. You also have to wait for approvals to actually release the application on the relevant app store.
- Requires specialised programming which is different from the standard .NET/Java, CSS and HTML that most web developers are familiar with.
- Each device (Apple/Android/Windows) will require different code/version. Although, there are solutions available for a code-once approach that “generates” multiple versions.
- This is generally the most expensive option as it exists independently from the web site and it often requires specialised developers.
A mobile application is a good choice when you have specific business functions that require custom development that are likely to be performed on a mobile device. A simple example of where it works well is loyalty apps because it keeps the user logged in always – rather than their login getting cleared from the mobile web browser.
- Less time spent fiddling around with responsive elements and making them look good on all devices.
- You only show what is relevant to mobile site rather than the entire site’s content.
- It is possible to tailor content/experience to mobile users easier.
- Less front end logic/resources (CSS/JS/Images) – also smaller in size (loads faster).
- Leads to two separate code bases (potentially duplicate content/resources as well) for a desktop and mobile version.
- Is the mid-price option because you have some extra development, but will use the same development resources as the main web site.
- Can often get overlooked as the business focuses on desktop site – as this is the medium they use at work.
A mobile web site which is separate from the main desktop site, works well when you want to deliver a different experience for mobile users (without coding an application). An online shop for example might want to only expose certain items for purchase via mobile and only have the shopping cart (without the rest of the web site’s pages).
- Is arguably the cheapest option – assuming the design is coded well from the beginning with responsive in mind.
- Has the cleanest user experience with one point of contact for users.
- Only option with single code base, which is a benefit when rebranding comes along.
- In theory will require the least amount of man hours.
- A lot of time can be spent at the front-end level ensuring that each element looks good on every device.
- A lot of logic in the frontend and the resources are large (CSS/JS/Images).
- Requires more specialised front-end expertise rather than general web developers.
A responsive web site is currently the most commonly implemented option as it is the cheapest and generally easiest to implement (if done right from the beginning). The HTML/CSS/JS can make or break this option, and garbage in/garbage out applies to this.
When it comes to a mobile web experience you need to plan right from the beginning to ensure you have a quality solution that provides the information/services the users require and does so in a nice manner. Diversus have experience in delivering quality desktop, mobile and hybrid solutions that not only look good but provide great services for the users. If you have an existing web site, it is also possible to apply a mobile presence retroactively, don’t provide a bad web experience for 50 – 60% of the market, contact Diversus to see how we can help you today.