A global survey in 2020 showed that almost 70% of all website visits came from mobile devices.
That's why we take a mobile-first approach to websites - we don't just adapt our sites to work on phones, they are designed from the outset to be responsive.
That means you'll get an appropriate display whether you're surfing on your phone, your tablet or even (so people do this? Let us know!) your Smart TV's web browser.
These days it's right to think mobile - and more and more these days, we are asked "could we have a mobile app to do <insert online functionality of your choice> ?"
The answer, of course, is "Yes, you could" - but perhaps it was the wrong question. Maybe it ought to be "should we have a mobile app?"
What is a Mobile App?
Before answering that question, we probably need to briefly explain the difference between a website and a mobile application:
Websites and Web Applications
Websites are online services or resources that are accessed via a web browser on your internet-connected device. They (should) follow standards that means no matter what device you have, or which browser software you use, then as long as you are connected to the internet you should be able to use that website. The site runs on a remote server and, to put it simply, just uses your device as a display. It doesn't just have to be a static website - it can be a full-blown web application - for example software for recording and manipulating data, e-commerce, communication, collaboration. It's still an application - it's just running 'in the cloud' rather than on your device.
Mobile Applications, sometimes refererd to as 'Native Apps' or simply 'Apps', run 'natively' on your device - that is they are written in code which is specific to that type of device. They can connect to and use remote online resources (as long as you are connected to the internet) but the program is running 'locally' on the device rather than on a remote server.
Mobile Apps - the Pros
The biggest advantage of mobile apps is that they run on the device, and can run even if you have no internet connection (although any online data or resources they need will be unavilable). They can use the full capabilities (graphics, sounds, sensors) of your device, so if you've got a requirement to use the compass, or the accelerometer, or whatever sensors are installed then a native app will allow that. They can also handle the receipt, storage and display of 'pushed' messages and notifications.
Mobile Apps - the Cons
Apps are written, and optimised, for the platform they are targetted to run on (Android, IOS, Windows) - this means that you have to create (and maintain!) a separate version for each target platform. Unless you know for sure that all your clients will be using the same type of device, you'll need more than one app. We do use cross-platform development systems to make this job easier, but there is still a lot of customisation involved to make an app run on each platform. There is also a fairly strict and complex testing and approval process before you can push your app to the 'App Store' for you clients to download - and this has to be done on every release or update.
This all adds to the cost of developing and maintaining yout application.
If your app needs to communicate or collaborate with other devices or online resources, it will still need an internet connection, so the 'offline' aspect of apps becomes less attractive.
And remember - users will have to go and look for your app in the app store, they won't just find your app's content via a Google Search - this will require marketing and coordination, and perhaps even a separate website to promote the app!
Mobile-First Websites - the Pros
A mobile-first website (or web application) will run on anything with a browser - the same site will be loaded by phones, tablets, PCs, laptops, TVs. That means you only have to develop the site once, and you only have one site to maintain - saving time and money. Your website will be far less dependant upon the capabilities of the device it's running on, too, so everyone should get the same user experience when using it. Most of the functionality available to a mobile app will be available to a web application.
Combined with a Content Management System such as our CMS-42, much of the content of your website can be updated by you, without the complexities of rewriting and releasing an app.
Mobile-First Websites - the Cons
Mobile websites are far more dependent on a consistent internet connection than apps. Although modern browsers can support a limited amount of 'offline' functionality, there are limits to what can be achieved without a connection.
If your application requires input from your devices sensors, then a website or web-based application is probably not for you. Some device features can be accessed by a web based application (camera, microphone, GPS, device orientation) but other sensors are not so easily, or consistently, available - although support for these via web applications is getting better.
In some very specific cases, a mobile app could be the solution you need, but in the overwhelming number of scenarios, a mobile-first website or web application will meet your requirements just as well, if not better - and it will be the much more cost-effective option.
Talk to us today about your requirements for a website or web based application - or, if you still think it's what you need, ask us about mobile applications!