In a recent episode of the “ StartUp” podcast, members of the Gimlet Media team discussed whether they should develop a native app for their network.
It was a timely conversation, considering that mobile app usage numbers continue to soar and almost every company is developing trendy technology.
But there's much more to this conversation than deciding to jump on the bandwagon.
An app, in some cases, might not provide any benefit to your audience or even help you meet your business goals. For example, an independent consultant would probably do best with a responsive website. A big-box retailer, however, likely would lose competitive ground without an app.
Whatever the size of your business, when you face a technological crossroad, you have to ensure that you're targeting the platforms that best serve your product and your audience.
Do not waste time and money.
Do your research to avoid wasting time, money and energy building out the wrong platform.
Reaching your customers with a native app can be a terrific approach. However, if you hire a firm to build an app and later realize that your customers prefer to engage on your website, you’ll have wasted thousands of dollars.
Additionally, it's illogical to build a responsive site if your customers only use your product on mobile devices. For instance, the most popular mobile games have bare-bones websites that direct you to the App Store or Google Play. Instagram is another good example -- you're prohibited from signing up on the website.
Conversely, we recently had a client launch a responsive site but request an app a few months later. The client discovered that the majority of users were connecting via mobile devices.
Evaluate your needs, and choose wisely.
Above all, nothing looks less professional than a partially built website or app. Before hiring a development team, determine which piece of technology is most relevant to your audience, and build from that point.
Google Analytics can help you segment your audience and observe which platforms your users prefer. Allow the data to dictate what you build and where you devote your resources. This infographic details a series of questions that will assist you in determining which type of technology you build. It takes into account your company’s goals and budget, content, SEO needs, interface complexity and accessibility.
You'll see that a responsive site makes sense if you have a tight budget, rely heavily on SEO, need universal accessibility and plan to make frequent updates.
Apps, on the other hand, are preferred if you have a complex user interface, if you send and receive a great deal of data and if you want to take advantage of smartphone functionality. Apps also are good if personalization is important and if you’re trying to monetize content.
Even if you have multiple priorities or a diverse user base, it might not be essential that you have both an app and a responsive site, but your unique needs should dictate your decision. We recently had a client who wanted to enable his users to remotely reserve boat slips in marinas. In his case, a responsive website was unnecessary because his users were originating from mobile.
Your target audience’s needs should always drive platform development decisions. Be willing to adjust in response to their needs and usage patterns. Research their habits and desires to ensure you’re making informed decisions, and above all, only spend your precious time and energy on necessary endeavors.