Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are fast becoming the preferred mode for online surfing the world over. In fact as per a 2013 study by eMarketer, by 2017, 25 percent of all online retail transactions in the US will take place through mobile devices. Likewise, in the UK, a report by Capgemini and IMRG shows that 23 percent of all online retail sales in Q2, 2013, were through mobile devices.
Regardless of whether a business is large or small, whether it sells a product or service, or whether it sells online or through brick and mortar stores, an online user experience optimised for mobile devices has become an imperative.
This takes us to the all-important question – just how do you optimise the mobile experience?
Options for optimising content for mobile devices
The two most popular options for businesses looking to go mobile today are (a) native applications and (b) a responsive website.
Native applications: Native apps are designed for specific mobile operating systems. Therefore, accessing the same business website on iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices would need the development of as many native apps.
Responsive website: A responsive website works equally well on all systems, whether it is a desktop or a mobile device. From display-resolution to touch-friendly navigation and number dial-outs, a responsive website offers a visual experience as per the device it is viewed on.
Native apps versus responsive website, which is better?
Based on HTML5, responsive websites are a better choice for capitalising existing web capabilities for cross-platform viewing. While the HTML5 platform involves lower cost and time for development, it lacks the revenue potential and graphics capabilities of iOS and Android.
Given today's technology, a native app definitely offers a far richer user-interface experience on mobile devices. Since native apps are developed for the specific operating system, they are faster to operate and easier to install.
While it may appear logical to go the native app route, you also need to take into consideration the longer timeframe for developing a native app versus a responsive website. Developing native apps for each operating platform is also a far more expensive proposition than a responsive website.
In an ideal world, to maximise customer reach, companies would invest in all possible platforms. In reality, the decision has to be based on critical aspects such as cost, resource deployment, revenue generation and return on investment.
Before you decide to invest in native apps, a responsive website, or a combination of the two, you need to evaluate a few critical questions of your business –
- What are you selling online? For instance, for information-oriented businesses such as media publications, a mobile website is a good start point. However, for an e-commerce business the speed and reliability of a native app holds greater merit.
- How do you interact with your customer? If majority of your business in conducted through face-to-face or telephonic interactions, then a responsive website would suffice. However, if you offer customer login and account services information then a mobile app would offer a significantly better user experience compared to a responsive website.
- What devices are your customers using? For example, if majority of your online customers are using iOS devices or have the highest conversion rates on devices run on the iOS platform, then a native app for iOS mobile device users, along with a responsive website for other mobile device users is a good strategy.
- How soon is your business looking to benefit from an enhanced mobile device user experience? Delivering an enhanced mobile device experience through a responsive website will involve a shorter gestation period than trying to develop native apps for individual mobile platforms.
- How much is the business willing to invest? Developing native apps is relatively more expensive, especially when you consider the cost of developing mobile apps for multiple platforms.
- Ability to work in offline mode: A native app can operate in an offline mode (with no internet connectivity) as well as store data, which on connectivity is synchronised with the central server. However, this is far more complex to achieve in responsive websites.
While a responsive website may be the simplest way to reach your customers, it may not necessarily offer the aesthetics, design or user experience of a native app. Yet again, if you want to reach maximum customers with a relatively lower investment, a responsive website is a clear winner.
At RSK Business Solutions, we understand that 'one-size does not fit all' and that every business has unique requirements. Whether you are looking to develop a native mobile app, a responsive website or a combination of the two, our team of developers has the requisite skill and experience to help your business.