I don’t like buying cars. It’s the sales process, not the product. And I’m not that aware of all the performance stats, gadgets, and safety features. For example I have no idea how the tire pressure monitor works – there are no wires. I don’t even know where it is on a tire. I generally have a good idea of what I want, like a fuel-efficient five seat SUV. However, I have no idea which of the 30 five seat SUVs on the market is the best.
Clients I talk to are just as confused about their mobile website choices. I’ll explain the different choices and provide guidance on which are suited for different needs.
The Compact / Value: A mobile copy of your website
If you want the fastest, least expensive way to get a mobile presence, there are many services that copy your website content via an automated process, sometimes even real-time. Solutions like this have existed for a long time. Initially they were very limited to showing only static text and images but more recently they’ve evolved to provide a relatively good user experiences and features like ecommerce. To test drive one of these, visit the Google dealership @ howtogomo.com or an independent like bmobilized.com
The Sedan / Reliability: A mobile website skin
If you need something with more power and options, you can simply create a mobile front-end for your existing website back-end. This is a great choice if your website is already on an open-source content management platform like WordPress or Drupal, or paid CMS platforms like SharePoint or Expression. Some even come with a mobile theme built in. This minimizes your investment to simply creating another “skin” but keeps your database and infrastructure relatively untouched. This also allows you to keep most if not all of your current website functionality. It’s like converting your existing sedan to be both a great family car as well as a work vehicle to deliver pizza.
The SUV / Versatility: Responsive Website
This is a shape-shifter. It’s a single website specially designed to recognize and adapt to various devices and screen resolutions, optimizing for a large screen, tablet or smart phone. Responsive websites are a great approach but complicate development of sophisticated features since everything has to stretch and compress depending on the device. It’s like folding back seats – integrated to use whenever you need them.
Sports Car / Superior Experience: Native Mobile App
You could of course go for the experience. Nothing is better than a slick, shiny, hot app. Apple coined the phrase “There is an app for that” to communicate a new generation of mobile applications integrated with your smart phone and tablet. Just be aware that app users expect an awesome experience, not simply an adaptation of your current website. Just like sports cars, apps have a different target audience and are used differently than websites. Native apps are also more expensive to develop, just like true sports cars.
Crossover / Two cars in one: Browser Mobile App
Last but not least is a mighty but often misunderstood crossover. This technology beast combines the features of a sedan (mobile skin) embedded in a sports car (native app) for decreased development cost and more flexibility. This may seem like the ideal solution but is difficult to engineer, which is why it’s often misunderstood. It often has what the user wants or what the company wants but rarely does it have both.
Which one is best for your needs? You have to find an un-biased mobile expert who can determine your needs and make a recommendation that aligns with your business strategy and brand strategy. You cannot make this decision without understanding each product and exactly what you need. I’m looking for a fuel-efficient five seat SUV. What are you looking for?