Episode 12: Making sense of mobile

05 Nov 2014

In today's episode, we talk about the options available to your organization to take advantage of mobile devices. We discuss five different options and why each might be appropriate. We also talk about this week's buzzword, dashboard, and how you might use one to help guide your business decisions.

Here's a well-done article on all of the categories below from the perspective of a web design agency.

Desktop web site ONLY

This isn't really a way to take advantage of mobile, but it is a possible strategy (and one that may fit certain use cases).

Separate desktop and mobile web site

This is still a possibility, but was historically the way to take advantage of mobile without disturbing your existing web site. This is becoming less and less popular in favor of the next option, but there are still some use cases where a specific mobile site might be the right approach.

Responsive/adaptive web site

One web site to rule them all. A responsive or adaptive web site resizes itself to fit the available screen space, hiding and showing content as needed to provide a good user experience regardless of device. This also means that when the next iPhone with a different screen shape comes out, you don't have to tweak your site to support it.

�Hybrid� app a la PhoneGap/Cordova

Build a native app (that ships through the app store) using web technologies. Basically, you build a small web site that gets packaged into a mobile app bundle and launched when your user taps the icon. Lots of organizations see this as an attractive alternative to native apps if they're coming from a web background, but just because it's using HTML, CSS, and Javascript doesn't mean you can forget that it's running on a phone.

Native app

This is probably the most expensive option, but also allows for the best possible user experience. Most (if not all) games are written as native apps to make use of all the native capabilities of devices (accelerometer, gyroscope, etc.) and squeeze every ounce of performance out of the device.

These options are not mutually exclusive

Sometimes, it makes sense to have a responsive web site (because people still use Google a lot for search) and include a note on it that encourages people to download your native/hybrid mobile app.

You (probably) don't need a mobile app if...

  1. You require network connectivity in order for the app to be useful.
  2. Everything you�d put in the app is already on your web site.
  3. Your app would provide access to mostly static content.
  4. You�re thinking about paying a monthly fee for an app builder.
  5. You can�t think of a reason you would download your app
  6. You can�t think of a reason to keep the app on your phone
  7. An app would be more complex than the size and complexity your users expect from apps.
  8. The task requires more screen real estate than is available on mobile devices.
  9. It's not something people will do when they're away from their desks/laptops.
  10. The potential users are not mobile or don't have smartphones.