App or Mobile Site?

Is a Mobile Site or an App Right for Your Business?

It seems like every day I encounter small business owners and developers who are having trouble deciding which would be better, a mobile site or an app.

Earlier this year, the general consensus was that apps were the way to go, with very few people recommending mobile sites instead. Apps were still shiny and new, and iPhone commercials led the way. Most people reasoned that since you could see a website on an iPhone, there was no need to do anything differently.

Apps are still a great way to interact with existing customers, especially if it’s for something like stock trades or getting updates from a favorite blog. In an informal poll of my colleagues, social media apps for Twitter and Facebook seem more popular than their mobile sites.

The obvious downside is that apps are expensive, often starting at $10,000 USD for just a single operating system, like iOS for iPhone/iPod Touch, then another development fee for iPad, and a third for Android. That doesn’t even touch Windows Phones, BlackBerry, Nokia or Palm.

Mobile sites, on the other hand, are independent of any operating system and should work equally well on all of them. That means it costs less to have them developed.

There’s another even more important consideration over price to an average small to medium sized business owner, though. Mobile sites show up in search engines, apps don’t.

Think of it like this. Let’s say you’re locked out of your car, and you need a locksmith. Are you going to go to the Apple Apps Store or Android Marketplace to find a locksmith? It’s doubtful. It’s more likely you’ll go to a search engine, like Google, Bing or Yahoo. The mobile sites will show up on the search, and the apps won’t.

So, the easy way to find out if your small business mobile strategy should begin with an app or a mobile site is to ask: “Will my customer look for the service I provide in the Apps store or on Google?”

Then make your decision based on the answer you get.

Would you like a complementary assessment of how mobile-friendly your site is? Ask me on the contact form.

2 comments
mobileholly
mobileholly moderator

Which would you prefer for your business, an app or a mobile site where it doesn't make a difference what kind of phone the person visiting your site is using?

mobileholly
mobileholly moderator

 @small business phone I think it depends on your intention. If you are an apps developer, there are a lot of opportunities to develop for companies or to publish an app yourself for revenue. However, if you want to reach people in search, a mobile site is the way to go in my opinion.