There have been many blogs, tweets – even proper well written articles - on the various merits of responsive web vs. dedicated mobile sites vs. apps. Many people around the world make a very good living from ruminating over this very question and then sharing these ruminations with a willing (and paying) audience.
To be fair – it is an important question – although the advancement and capabilities of HTML and CSS over the last 2-3 years has (in my mind at least) made the question “Should I make my site responsive?” pretty redundant – the answer is yes – for small (if any) extra development and design cost you will receive a site that behaves (mostly) and looks (at the very least) fine across all types of device.
More fundamental to mobile site success is the presentation of relevant content and the effect that viewing your site and services on different devices has on user experiences and journeys. Your approach to this will have a very direct impact on the all important conversion (and therefore ROI) of your online offering.
So we agree that as a minimum your site should be responsive – now it needs to meet the content needs of a user viewing it from a mobile. So consider using a Content Management System (or method) that removes content from the user view of your site as the device (and therefore browser window size) gets smaller.
An example could be, if a user is viewing your site on a mobile, remove the content area which shows latest publications from your home page which are seen when viewed on a ’desktop’. Maybe leave a link to your twitter account (which contains more easily accessible (that’s a subject for another blog) links to news, events and comment.
In effect you are keeping your mobile site simple – focused on only including content that drives and encourages visitors to move along the path to your core (or Macro) conversions.
A further example here and how making your content fit the device – is if your organisation sells sofas online – show simple product data and images on a mobile. This will begin to engage users and simple data is more suitable and easier to read on a smaller device – but allow the visitor to email themselves a link of the full product information.
This will enable them to view more product info (videos etc.) on a desktop or tablet when they get home or into the office. This content strategy will enhance the quality of the online experience and keep visitors engaged in both site and service/product.
Here the objective (or macro conversion) is the actually the same “Sell the sofa” but the path to achieving this (micro conversions) are different - on the mobile site it is emailing a link and on the desktop site it could be playing the product video which shows different visual angles for the sofa?
I’ll write more on conversions in a future blog along with views on the update of Google’s Universal Analytics (which can support the measuring of the success an impact of showing different content on different devices).
In regards to a separate mobile site – this can work very well for specific and focused businesses – those with a limited number of customer transaction/interaction (I know they are different things….) types.
A successful example is a client I have been working with for 2-3 years now – Principal Hayley Hotels. They have a very clear macro conversion objective – sell hotel rooms – by creating a separate mobile site (that is automatically shown when the server detects a mobile http request) the user is presented with a stripped down and focused user journey that is all designed and structured around quick, easy and secure room booking and payment.
So, what about apps? Well the younger demographic use them, a lot. Where do we start with the gaming and communication apps? A simple answer here – if you are aiming a younger demographic for your services – develop an app for specific business objectives – be that delivering gaming content, creating competitions etc.
Here I also think they are especially relevant for businesses that want to offer a more specific and personalised level of content or interaction with their clients or if there is a specific level or market of interest for an organisations data or services.
Think of a weather app for the BBC or indeed their iPlayer applications. The BBC provide a wide range of services but it recognised that a wider range of its demographic wanted to listen to digital radio on their mobiles and that a slightly smaller demographic wanted to have access to more detailed weather data.
These should also be considered for very specific or very regular user journeys – for example managing finances or checking train times. There are many and in some cases (National Rail and First Direct), very successful examples of organisations proving a very direct service to their users through the use of apps.
All three options have their clear benefits to organisations and their clients. If you clearly understand and work on your web strategy – and specifically how this aligns with, meets and supports your business objectives - then you can start to make decisions on which blend works best for you. If you need help in starting this journey – drop me a line.