To app or not to app; that is the question.

I have recently had had a number of conversations about building mobile apps. It seems that everyone thinks they need an app without really understanding why!  

In most cases building an app is generally perceived as trendy, rather than useful.

Smartphones have definitely changed the way we browse and social media has turned us into consuming machines. We read little more than snippets of content while flicking through reams feeds and pages.

There is definitely something to be said for continuity of experience.

The vast majority of people still don’t shop on their smartphone, but mobile commerce is growing and there is definitely something to be said for continuity of experience.

A native application can have better usability for complex interactions, but a responsive website is compatible across all devices and browsers.

Knowing the functional requirements and objectives of your project will help weigh up the pros and cons of having an offline application or mobile site.

Before making a decision on a suitable solution there a number of requirements to consider:

  • Immediacy: in what circumstances would the user require the information instantly versus downloading an app?
  • Compatibility: what is the user benefit v ROI on developing multiple native apps vs one singular website?
  • Findability: how and where are your users looking for information? Would an app or responsive site be most appropriate?
  • Ease of management: do you have resources to manage both platforms? A single source of truth vs multiple content hubs.
  • Cost: can we demonstrate true ROI by building an app?
  • Complexity of content: is it better for the user to use an app due to complex data, functions or calculations?
  • Relationship: does the experience facilitate a 1:1 relationship with the content and subject matter that would make an app more appealing and useful?
Now I am not saying apps don’t have their place

Now I am not saying apps don’t have their place, there are a number of reasons you should build an app:

  • Communicate with customers instantly (push notifications).
  • Payment (using a phones inbuilt technology).
  • Value add (loyalty schemes).
  • Improving a customers in-store experience.

That being said, why are we investing our time, money and effort into building something that is not vital for our customers?

Deciding on the right solution for your business will not only come down to time, resources and budget but whether it adds value to your customers?

Investing in either an app or website (or both) should be considered carefully and far beyond being “trendy”.