There has been a tremendous growth in the Mobile industry especially with the evolution and prominence of Smartphones – the first of which to gain quite a bit of exposure was the iPhone. The emergence of the iPhone also heightened a keen interest in the app marketplace. Apple’s advertising campaign and marketing phrase “Yeah, there’s an app for that” was especially one that captured the consumer’s attention, about utilizing an app to practically do anything you wanted.
This expanded consumer attention led to what can only be described as a land-grab type mentality by developers to build apps for the iPhone and other smartphone platforms as they were released. Most of these apps were targeted towards consumers in the B2C space – everything from the Bubble level finder to the mobile games that helped one while away time. Retailers also jumped on the bandwagaon creating custom apps that allowed consumers to shop, check prices, availability, take advantage of weekly specials and coupons and other functions.
Of late though, the amount of activity and relevance attributed to creating mobile apps has started to shift. Part of this is due to the proliferance of various types of Smartphones and the level of effort required to replicate the same app on multiple platforms (and mobile operating systems). Additionally, the devices have multiple form factors, interactive abilities and interface mechanisms (touch-screen vs. keyboard). With limited resources to spare, organizations find it quite intense to build, deploy and manage these custom apps, further customized to work across the multitude of device variables.
To this effect, organizations may be better served to outline and deploy a mobile browser-based experience rather than a custom app experience. Most Smartphones come equipped with standard browser capabilities. The browser experience is one that is familiar to most users of mobile devices. Further, the mobile browser platform offers far less variance relative to the native device platform – allowing a standardization model when developing functionally-rich and stable web applications. Furthermore, the browser offers a platform-indepent, non-proprietary platform to build upon. This is huge since if Google were to change the underlying framework within the Andriod mobile OS platform, there is likely very little impact to how your web application/site may render on the mobile platform, relative to a custom app which might need to be upgraded or modified accordingly.
With all this said, there are aspects of an app that simply cannot be rendered and functionality achieved on the mobile browser platform. It is therefore important to understand the needs of the business, the usage patterns & adoption rates of users, existing infrastructure considerations and outline an appropriate strategy (app vs. browser) that effectively meets those needs.
Interested in knowing more about design considerations for mobile sites? Take a look at the Ayantek Research Presentation: ”Mobile Best Practices“ that outlines 15 general guidelines for mobile site design.