Does My Business Need an App? Navigating Today's Technology

There's an App for that... We're a mobile device based society. Now, more than ever before, the average consumer is moving at warp speed toward web browsing on the go. Experts predict that mobile web browsing will take over the consumer market, passing laptop use, as early as 2014. For business owners, the main objective here should be to provide a user experience that is most beneficial to your bottom line. If your website is not easily viewed on all mobile devices, it's already cutting into your profits. With 80% of business searches starting online, you've probably asked yourself, "Does my business need an app?" That's a great question. We're going to help you answer that today. An App by any other name... There's a lot of techy talk going on out there. You're hearing terms like mobile responsiveness and web applications (Apps) used interchangeably, but let's face it, you're a business owner not a web developer, so there are probably some gray areas that need clearing up. The bottom line is, you need a mobile web presence. There are a couple of ways to achieve this.
  • A Mobile Responsive Website
  • A Mobile Application (App)
Let's clear the fog and define each one. A Mobile Responsive Website is not an app. It is a term that simply means your website will adjust in size based on the device it is being viewed on. This approach can easily accommodate the 62" monitor in the board room as well as your iPhone screen. Is this a good thing? For a basic blog or any website with limited user interaction, mobile responsiveness is both practical and inexpensive, so it can be an acceptable starting point. That's where the romance ends. If customers access your site to place orders, check prices, or retrieve other time sensitive or currently changing information you will definitely lose them. Think about accessing your airline's website and looking for flight terminal information on a tiny, resized version of the website you first viewed from your 17" laptop screen. Now add in the fact that you're running late and still need to check your luggage. Not so good, right? This is where mobile development enters the scene. Mobile Development  takes the term mobile responsive website to the next appropriate level. Responsive is good, but certainly not enough for highly interactive websites. Mobile development is the action of taking the information most accessed by users and turning it into tabs, sliders, and clickable text appropriate for easy access on smaller screens. Google, known for innovative strategies, decided against  responsive web design and opted for the development of Google Now, a mobile app with a layout so beautiful, you'll look for any excuse to use it. Mobile apps are currently divided into three categories that are often confused with each other. There are Native Apps, Web Apps and Hybrid Apps. Native Applications are built to run natively on a users device and are downloaded through an application store, such as Apple's App Store or Google Play. Since they work with the device's own features, native apps offer quick load times and a fluid user experience. Apps make sense for businesses that  need to connect with the user's device features, such as the camera, GPS or notifications, or for functions performed offline. Native apps are more costly than web apps or hybrids since they require separate development for each platform (iPhone, Android, Windows, etc). They also require regular updates, which can mean ongoing development fees. When thinking about the cost of native mobile applications, consider all factors and how an app actually contributes to your bottom line. For example: Load speed alone is a huge issue. According to KISSmetrics stats, If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost $2.5 million in lost sales annually. Web Apps - In reality, mobile web apps are not apps at all. They are actually mobile-optimized web pages that, in many ways, look, feel and operate like native applications. Generally built in HTML5, web apps can run on basically any platform without any special translations, conversions or re-programming. Once a web app is launched, users on all devices can access the same app and run it just as well as on any other platform. "But they can't be added to the app store." This is the one lament we hear when the web app debate comes up. But take a second look. The privilege of listing on app stores comes with a few drawbacks that not everyone wants to deal with. Content restrictions, fees, and an approval process can be taxing both in terms of time and money. Both native and hybrid apps have to deal with third party rules, while web apps do not. Websites already ranking with Google and active on social media platforms will be discovered through web search just as easily as mobile apps can be found in the app stores. Hybrid Apps - A shortcut or workaround is attempted for almost everything, and hybrid apps are exactly that, --the mobile developer's shortcut.  Intended to provide cross-browser capabilities without the bother of writing separate code for each device, hybrid apps are essentially a wrapper for a website that allows them to reside in the app store without having to spend significant time or effort on development. Although this seemed like a good idea, the fact that these hybrid developments don't run on the device's native code, but are fed through a framework, puts them at an automatic disadvantage with slow load times and frequent crashes. Plus, if you think ongoing development fees can be pricey for native apps, you're not in for a better experience with hybrids. Largely unsupported and without quality control, hybrids have limited functionality, are difficult to discover on the app stores (if approved at all) and are not considered to be secure. Can users tell the difference between a native app and a hybrid? You better believe it! Users are becoming mobile browsing connoisseurs  and are experts when it comes to recognizing the details. So, who has the advantage? Native apps, mobile web apps or hybrids? That depends. Are we looking at today or the future? Forward Thinking Hybrid apps are clearly inferior to both native and web apps. Slow load times and reliance on third party programs, such as PhoneGap are signs of a phase out, not of progress. Current technology makes native apps a superior experience for now, but if we're thinking with tomorrow's technology in mind, we know this is a temporary situation. A few advances here and there, and native apps may be on their way out. The way it stands, unless the app is Candy Crush or Evernote, it's difficult to get a consumer to download an app. Even a free app is a commitment. It takes up space. Unless there is special functionality only available with a native app to get them past the "app download phobia" native apps can fail miserably. On the other hand, a web app provides a rich experience while avoiding the download resistance. If you'd like to find out more about the option that's right for you, we're ready to provide you with further insights. We'll perform a website and market niche diagnosis to help you make the best decision for the mobile end of your business.

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