Businesses have long realized the importance of having a corporate website to propagate their business and garner impressive revenues. Changing technological landscape has prompted businesses to also look at strategizing by adding smartphones to advertise their product offerings in form of websites optimized for mobiles.
However, there's a catch. Shrinking margins and shifting user preferences make it a challenge for the IT decision maker to simply sign up for a mobile version of the website. Getting a site optimized for mobile means obvious development costs which may or may not get realized over time. A feasible work around would be to decide which path will the business go down the road to get the attention of mobile users, from either developing a native mobile application or optimizing the PC site for smartphones and tablets.
Today we will try to pit both methods head to head and see how they fare:
First we will see how these individual approaches behave in their own ecosystem
- Accessibility – RWD sites are accessed through browsing. A mobile app is first downloaded on the local firmware and then accessed
- UI – While RWD gives navigation based regular interface, mobile apps can go beyond simple navigation to make the user interface more intuitive
- Internet connection – While RWD needs data over the Web to function, mobile app doesn't need Internet connectivity to work
- Feature set – RWD sites have lesser features as compared to native mobile apps that make efficient use of phones resources and firmware (e.g. location services, camera etc.)
RWD vs mobile app - Neck-to-neck
Businesses need to consider how the two stack up on their list of performance parameters to make an informed decision on which of the two they will finally go with.
- Costs – Developments cost in developing a complex app is bound to be more than optimizing an existing site for mobile screen/resources. However if the site to be optimized runs into complex scripting and bigger volume of web pages, then getting a separate app will be the best bet
- Need for personalization – If deep personalization and brand differentiation is a critical business need, then developing a mobile app is the way to go. Also tying up to user experience becomes easier as the app is installed and resides on the smartphone creating a unique personal experience
- Monetization – If continuous smaller purchases is the core functionality of your business (such as shopping portals), investing in a native mobile app will make more sense. While many feel a normal website would be best suited for online transactions, tying up online purchases to personalized user experience can be best achieved by a mobile app
- SEO implication – RWD is the winner here. Rather than building two different websites on two different domains and then creating and running separate SEO campaigns can prove to be a costly affair. Instead, businesses can use fluid deign websites to pursue the same keywords, and other off-page SEO strategies as they do for desktop web. This will help drive organic traffic better to a mobile optimized website
- In-app Time – If the time spent by smartphone users were an indicator of the efficacy of the method, then mobile app clearly wins the day. As per a Flurry Analytics data for US, users spent an average of 94 minutes on mobile apps in Dec 2011, as compared to 72 minutes on mobile or desktop web, thus denoting that level of engagement in a mobile app was higher.
- Performance – The Flurry survey also brought about some interesting facts about how users access/use content for different purposes. While mobile browsers (and RWD) won hands down for shopping, custom search an entertainment, it was mobile app that led the way for navigation, social networking and sharing content.
- Maintenance – Mobile apps entail considerable maintenance and update cost. After an update, the app has to go through the same lengthy approval process on app stores of the relevant mobile app platforms. On the other hand RWD might be able to accommodate frequent updates better as one round of change takes care of all devices – from desktops to mobiles and tablets.
Hope this article helps you to get over developers' dilemma and make a compelling case to stakeholders of using the apt method for smartphone user interaction
This useful content is contributed by Sienna Amelia, directed at technology people. She has been involved in researching iPhone apps development and the mobile companies market's latest happenings all around the world. She can always share mobile technology-related subjects to make readers learn and share knowledge. Follow author via Google+.