Mobile

Re: Seeking mobile app developer.   As someone who sells custom software solutions for a living, a subject line like this always catches my attention.  Skipping all the other unopened emails, I double click on this inquiry first to see if it’s a real, live lead.  As I read through the body of the email, I look for some indication as to whether the prospect knows what he/she is getting into with a mobile application and whether a mobile website might be a better option.

Re: Seeking mobile app developer.   As someone who sells custom software solutions for a living, a subject line like this always catches my attention.  Skipping all the other unopened emails, I double click on this inquiry first to see if it’s a real, live lead.  As I read through the body of the email, I look for some indication as to whether the prospect knows what he/she is getting into with a mobile application and whether a mobile website might be a better option.

Are mobile websites and mobile apps really interchangeable?  Isn’t a mobile site just a mobile optimized version of a website designed for easier viewing on a smart phone?  What if I need something that’s more interactive than a mobile website?  These are all good questions that often arise when I ask someone who thinks they need a mobile app, whether they have considered a mobile website instead.

There is no doubt that MOBILE APPS ARE COOL!  They are fast, flexible, don’t need an internet connection, and can take advantage of all those great smart phone features like the camera, GPS and gyroscope/accelerometer.  On the downside, mobile apps are harder to access, expensive to build and costlier to maintain than mobile websites.

A classic example of the trade-off between a mobile app and mobile website is the options offered by the airlines.  The United Airlines mobile site has pretty much everything I need, particularly if I only fly United a couple times a year.  It’s also only a bookmark away on my mobile browser.

United Airlines Mobile Site

The United Airlines mobile app has nicer colors and cooler interface than the site, but it offers pretty much the same features – Book Flight, Check In, Flight Status, My Account etc…  Once I download, the application, it’s also only a single click away, but I do have to take that extra step at the app store, which I may not be inclined to do unless I’m a frequent flyer.

United Airlines Mobile Site

My perspective as a user is only half the story.  If, like many of our customers, United could only afford to build and maintain EITHER the mobile site OR the mobile application, they would seriously consider the fact that the mobile application has to be written for and maintained on at least 3 phone platforms –iOS, Android and Windows Mobile.  Whereas the mobile site only needs to be designed once for a mobile browser and can even accommodate multiple screen formats if built with responsive design – a topic for another day.

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