Mobile Site vs Mobile App?

I saw a good article recently that was looking to address that quandary faced by marketers looking to engage with their audience in the mobile channel: What do you build first?

Do you build the mobile website before or after building a mobile application, be it for Android, iPhone, Blackberry or whatever platform you want to reach? Or would you be better off starting with an app?

Technology.Inc provide a helpful resource for marketers struggling to answer that question – a checklist of six items that should help steer the decision making process:

1. Utility: To reach the broadest audience, you need a mobile website. If you go with an app, you’ll have to continue to develop apps for the most popular platforms.

2. Need: Local businesses (think restaurants, retail shops) do better with mobile websites because customers generally just need basic information like a phone number or address. When the product is a service, like finance or transportation, apps are better. Apps are also better when usage is heavy.

3. Traffic: Apps are better for situations when you want to push a lot of information to customers, or when repeated interaction is likely. Also, if your website is already seeing a lot of traffic from mobile devices, you should launch a mobile site promptly.

4. Content: Text-based content often does well on a mobile site, while media-rich content is generally better within an app.

5. Availability: If you rely on and see a lot of search engine referrals for discovery about your business, you should consider building a mobile website. Mobile searches will reveal your site, but would not point to your app.

6. Cost: If cost is an important factor, consider a mobile website, which costs 50%-80% of the cost of building your main website. The article also quoted Aaron Maxwell of Mobile Web Up, a mobile design firm for businesses, saying that a well-done mobile app can cost as much as $35,000-$50,000 on each platform. (There are low-cost alternatives, however).

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