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April 30, 2012 in Cloud App & Development

Mobile site or mobile app, what’s right for your?

Last month, we talked about why the time has come to mobilize your site and nurture what is most likely your fastest growing audience — your mobile users. If you’ve started thinking about going mobile, chances are you’ve asked yourself whether you should mobile site, a mobile app, or even both.  The answer depends entirely on the needs of your business.
One thing to note — for web publishers, the best mobile strategy is rarely a “one or the other” choice between mobile sites and mobile apps.  Mobile sites are cheaper and less complex.  Many web publishers have elected to build mobile sites as their first foray into mobile, and the question becomes:  do I need to invest further in mobile and build a mobile app?  Below are a few questions to consider as you decide whether a mobile app is right for your business.

Who are your users?
Find out how users are currently accessing your content using the Platforms report on the Performance reports tab in your AdSense account. Understanding the devices your users are accessing your site from will help you tailor your content to provide them with the best mobile experience.  For example, if most of your visitors are coming from feature phones, then a smartphone app wouldn’t do them any good.

How do you want users to access your content?
Connectivity matters. A mobile site requires users to have data access, while apps can allow the user to cache your content to consume at a later moment. Tourist information and maps are great examples of content that is extremely useful when downloaded and cached on a mobile device for later consumption.

How do you want users to interact with your content?
Mobile devices allow you to design a unique user experience with your content.  Mobile apps allow you to tap into native phone features that don’t exist on a desktop browser such as GPS, accelerometers, embedded cameras, etc.  While more of these device features are becoming available via HTML5 libraries on newer devices, mobile apps still offer the most robust suite of options for accessing mobile specific features.

How quickly do you want to make changes to your content?
Updates to mobile sites are instantaneous. Depending on the change you want to make, some app stores may require you to resubmit your app, which will then require the users to take action in updating the app package on their mobile devices.

What development and budget constraints exist?
Understanding your in-house capabilities and resources is crucial in making development choices. Without in-house capabilities to develop mobile assets, you’ll have to consider development and upkeep costs. In addition, you’ll only need to develop one mobile site, while apps require cross platform assets and skills to maintain. As with any other worthwhile investment, this should not be a set-it-and-forget-it project. Be sure to iterate often to keep the user experience fresh.

Finally, consider who will be responsible for further development and whether you’ll need to hire another head to maintain this new asset. Answering all of these questions above will help you to make the right decision for your business and your users.

Posted by Tuyen Nguyen – Mobile Publisher Advocate

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