App or Mobile Site: What’s the Diff?

Sometimes, there isn’t an App for that. One of the most confusing technologies when it comes to mobile users and websites is the App versus Mobile view. 

There is a difference … actually many differences. 

The quick and dirty is that Apps (think of iTunes and Amazon Kindle Marketplace) must be developed for a particular device such as an iPhone or Android device (that would be two different Apps, if you are keeping track). 

Apps cost money to make and require users to either purchase or download your App. If you are confident that your organization’s App will be a hit and that it will continue to serve your user (through a product or service, for example), an App is definitely worth looking into doing.  

Mobile views are a compressed version of your existing website and usually adapt immediately to accommodate whatever device is being used to view the website. So, Mobile views are readily available to your users on whatever device they are using. A good Web developer will include a special code in your site that will recognize the type of device that is accessing the webpage and display as such. (Very smart!) 

But even so, your site will still need to be optimized for a Mobile View. Some websites will simply shrink to the size of the users screen.  Other sites are pre-compressed to offer web visitors the main highlights of the website such as news, conference information, pending legislation, etc.  Remember, you do get what you pay for and if you aren’t careful your message can be missed or buried with unnecessary information.

As with most technology, the best solution depends on your audience and the amount of mobile users that visit your site. As NAA’s Web Manager, I pull our site statistics directly from Google Analytics, which has its very own section for a Mobile User breakdown. If 80% of your users use an Apple product, this could help you decide to possibly develop an Apple-friendly App and to not use Flash on your website (more on that another time). Maybe you only have 100 Mobile Users per month out of 300,000 visitors; in that case, it’s probably better to start with a Mobile view.

In 2011, NAA surveyed its membership about a Mobile site. Most of the questions revolved around how our members use the Internet on their phones (or if they don’t) and what they would look for in a Mobile site from NAA. The results were inconclusive. 

NAA is currently working on developing a Mobile site.

For a good resource on this topic, click here. This blog breaks down this debate in easy-to-digest terms.