Mobile Apps and Responsive Web Design
Our previous article, Time to go mobile, focused on the need to ‘get your current website mobile’ showing the statistics of mobile device users ( smart phones, tablets ) versus regular PC users. Personally I will always prefer a keyboard to do real work but it’s clear that more and more people are using their mobile devices to get the information they need and what is your website if not a portal for that exact information.
In this article I’d like to discuss the different approaches for ‘going mobile’. Most people believe that going mobile means creating an iphone app. These days with HTML5 and Responsive Web Design (RWD) a web page can be made to behave and look like a smart phone application thus bypassing apples itunes completely.
Going mobile really means the ability for users to view the information or perform the intended functionality, that my current website offers, on a mobile device. The technical options here include:
- Natively coded applications for smart phones (IOS, Android, Windows etc)
- Web based application utilizing HTML5 and a phones web browser.
This is the fundamental breakdown when deciding which way you should go when ‘going mobile’ and we will outline the differences below.
Native applications (Iphone apps, Google play apps etc) are applications coded to work on a specific device. Just like a program on your desktop computer the software is written, compiled, tested and deployed to your phone. Each device needs its own set of code to run its platform.
The web based approach is a little less restrictive and utilises already installed web browsers on your phone to display information from the internet. One application is coded and designed to run on all devices with a current web browser (which is 99% of mobile devices these days)
The advantages to a native application include:
- Speed of the application can be much faster
- Does not require an active internet connection to display information
- Utilisation of smart phones features (eg geo-positioning, phone orientation etc)
- Deployment can have a monetary value (eg purchase from Itunes) and on selling through in app purchases.
Potential stumbling blocks of native app development include:
- Changes require recompilation and redeployment through digital store and pushing updates to users
- Longevity of smart phones operating system and supported functions.
- Different programming code for different devices (eg Android vs Iphone vs Windows)
The advantages of Web based development include:
- One set of code to run on multiple devices
- Central point of storage and control of your information
- Changes to the application are usually simpler and quicker to implement
The disadvantages of web based responsive design include:
- Limited interaction with phone functionality
- Require an active connection to run (eg if you have no signal or WiFi you won’t access the information)
Deciding on a native smart phone app or a web based solution requires consideration of these points along with other factors to give you the best ‘bang for your buck’. In some cases a targeted native application will be more suitable for something like a calculator which requires functionality only available on the phone. In other cases, and this is currently the trend, a responsive website will meet your needs to present current information and maybe have a simple contact form within the parameters of a mobile device. Finally a combination of these might suite what you need in presenting some information and having basic functionality on the website while also providing an app which cooks you breakfast.
Ultimately time and money are the determining factors and it is our experience that 90% of what most companies need can be achieved using HTML5 and either a custom developed mobile web page or a responsive web design project. From converting your current site with 10 information pages to creating an e-commerce store to work on a mobile device we can help.
Responsive web design is all the rage this year and with more and more people looking at your company on a mobile device it’s surely time to take a deeper look what you need to do to provide a better mobile experience for your customers.