With every passing day, businesses are becoming increasingly conscious about the mobile experience of their websites – with good reason. Approximately 67% consumers are more likely to buy from a mobile friendly website as compared to websites that only have a desktop version.
The decision, however, that businesses need to consider is whether to go for a responsive website, a completely separate mobile website or a native mobile application. All three have their merits and limitations. The decision you make depends on the kind of business you have and the devices that the majority of your customers are using. Still, it is important to understand each one of these options since they can have a lasting impact on your business and customer experience.
Let’s analyze each of them separately.
1. Responsive Web Design
Websites with a responsive web design, respond to the type of device they are being accessed from and adjust their dimensions and design features accordingly. Since the number of mobile internet users has sky rocketed over the past few years, responsive web design has nearly become a default requirement for any website. Almost 20% of all web traffic came from mobile devices in 2013, and this number is going to increase at a rapid rate over the coming years. Yet another reason for responsive web design is that Google gives preference to responsive websites in its mobile search results.
From a user’s point of view, responsive websites are preferable since they adjust automatically according to the device being accessed from and also because there is no change in the website URL. The latter is also beneficial for the SEO of your website since Google will not index your mobile website separately. They also give users a better browsing experience since they won’t need to zoom into pages to read them because of the adjustment in dimensions.
However, since a responsive website is effectively the same website with a shift in dimensions, it does sometimes affect the user experience for mobile users in terms of page load times. Furthermore, since navigating websites through mobile is different from desktop, you would want visitors to see the key pages on your mobile site. In fact, you might even want to completely remove certain pages for mobile visitors. With responsive websites, however, that is not possible. Also, if you already have an established and high traffic website, you might not want to tinker with its design immediately.
Should You Go For a Responsive Website
In most cases, yes. If you’re building a new website, or prepared to change your old design, then you should go for a responsive website since the number of mobile visitors is only going to increase. However, if you don’t feel ready to change your existing design or want to create a more targeted website for mobile visitors that draws more action, then a dedicated mobile website might be a better option.
2. Dedicated Mobile Website
There are a few differences between dedicated mobile websites and responsive websites. While responsive websites can adjust to both desktop and mobile devices, a dedicated mobile website is solely meant to serve mobile visitors. It can be accessed from desktop computers as well, but at the cost of design transfer. If you have a dedicated mobile website, along with the desktop version of your site, it will open automatically once a user visits it from a mobile device.
There are a few reasons why you would choose a mobile website over a responsive website. A mobile website is designed to address the specific needs of visitors. As compared to a responsive website, it is usually much lighter in size, loads quickly and has targeted information on it. For example, if you’re an ecommerce company, you’d want to minimize the clutter on your mobile website and route visitors to product pages and purchase options.
However, unlike responsive websites, dedicated mobile websites exist as separate entities with different URLs (mostly m.yourdomain.com). So, Google would need to index them separately for search results. Also, if you don’t manage re-directions properly, the SEO of your website can suffer.
Should You Go For a Dedicated Mobile Website?
If you have an e-commerce website, but you do not want to alter the existing design of your website or cannot afford to build a mobile app right now, then a mobile site would be preferable. But for conventional corporate websites and blogs, responsive websites are a better option.
3. Native Mobile Application
Building a native mobile application for your business is the most expensive option, but usually the most effective option. With a mobile application for your customers, you can address their exact needs in a much more effective manner without worrying about SEO and other external factors. However, unlike responsive and mobile websites, mobile apps are not directly indexed by search engines and need to be downloaded from different app stores.
Mobile applications also give you much more in-depth user data and information as compared to other platforms. Since mobile applications are targeted towards selected features and actions, there is higher probability of action from the user’s side. Apps are also faster than websites and usually do not require users to enter their billing and personal information repeatedly for every purchase. Unlike websites, native apps can also be accessed without an internet connection.
Mobile apps can open new revenue options for your business.
- Paid Apps – You can charge users to download your app.
- Limited Access – You let the users download the app for free, but limit certain features for paid customers only.
- In App Advertising – You let the users download the app for free, but display third party ads and earn through PPC networks.
However, as mentioned earlier, building a native mobile application costs more than a responsive or mobile website. On top of that, in most cases, you will need to create separate applications for major platforms like Apple iOS and Android. Therefore, the initial investment is usually higher as compared to building a responsive or mobile website, but the returns are consequently much higher.
Should You Go for a Native Mobile App?
If you sell products online, or want your users to take specific actions, and have the required budget, then certainly yes. Having a mobile app will not only move your brand in a much better position as compared to your competitors, it will also give you much more advanced information about your customer trends and preferences. However, before developing a mobile application for a particular type of device, go deep into your website analytics to see what devices your visitors are using to access your website.
All three of these options have their own advantages and disadvantages. In most cases, you should opt for both a responsive website and a mobile app if your budget allows you to do so. However, you need to closely analyze your customers, the types of devices they are using to access your website, and the specific actions that you want them to take. Keeping all these factors in mind, along with budget and maintenance cost, choose the one that currently serves your business objectives effectively.