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I was recently asked by a client “If time and money weren’t an issue, what type of mobile development would you do? Responsive, mobile or app?”
“All three,” I replied.
“Ok... And if you could have just one?”
Most of my projects (and particularly the one in question) revolve around brand communications and loyalty programmes, here’s my running order:
In first place: mobile
Built exclusively for use on a mobile phone, a mobile website is likely to feature different content to its desktop counterpart, and will be designed for a premium browsing experience on smaller screens. So why’s it my preferred solution?
A mobile website is created with nothing other than an optimum mobile experience in mind.
I can start with a blank sheet of paper. There are no constraints about what desktop site content I need to include or how it will scale - I can focus purely on a mobile solution.
Smartphones are getting better, browser capability is improving and network connection speed is going to get a whole lot faster with the advent of 4G. It’s therefore possible to create app-like features and interactions on mobile websites without the headache and expense of building an app. Here are some of the best mobile sites I have experienced recently:
- BBC is user friendly, has lots of content and delivers a consistent brand experience
- TKMaxx has appealing ‘swipe’ features, is well scaled down and easy to use
- BMW Austria includes a neat ‘pull-down’ menu, ‘swipe’ features and clear content
In second place: responsive
I like responsive sites, and for several of our clients they have been absolutely the right solution.
Why aren’t they my default choice?
Simply because there is almost always be an element of forced compromise (unless you have very little content). If it’s to be responsive then I have to consider desktop and mobile together - I can’t focus 100% on mobile phone users. That said, there are some very good responsive sites out there, for example:
- https://lowdi.com– an awesome fluid site that re-scales extremely well across all common screen sizes
And finally: the app
Now I do like apps – and if you’re building a game or something highly interactive then an app may well be the best route for you. However, it’s number three for me because of a few simple reasons.
Because of all the device variables it’s always going to cost a lot more money and take a lot more time (than a responsive or mobile site) to design, build and test. Ongoing maintenance is also a potential headache. Your app’s going to need to work on updates to mobile operating systems so you will need to make regular updates to it.
Apps are often let down by other technologies. I like the idea of having a Tesco Clubcard on my phone rather than in my wallet. Unfortunately, the Tesco till system in their petrol stations can’t scan the phone...
And finally… if I start with a mobile site then I can learn what my customers are using their phone to access. Analytics will show me where, how and if an app will be useful. I can then make an informed decision about whether or not to invest in app development.
So there we go. For me - while apps can rate high on the cool scale, and responsive sites rightly have their place - the ideal workhorses are mobile websites as the best medium to deliver intuitive and tailored mobile experiences.
What’s your preferred mobile solution?