The most confusing struggle that any Developer face is that whether he should go for a website which has Responsive Design and make it work across devices or he should build a mobile app focusing on main functionality and platform.
Well it is definitely a difficult choice and a tradeoff between many advantages and disadvantages in both the approaches, also there is a dependency on your business goals.
So let us first look at the market responses – 67 percent of users claim they are more likely to purchase from a mobile-friendly website instead of websites which target only desktop browsers. This clearly states the future trends and how actively and precisely one has to plan there business strategy around the mobile world.
Most recommend that if you can afford it, go with the option of building both of them i.e. a responsive website and a mobile app. This will take care of the complete spectrum of business users. One of them will provide a mobile centric experience for your long time customers, while the other can help in discovering and inviting the users who are new.
Let us take an example of Myntra – They have a Highly Responsive website and a Mobile App to capture every segment of customers and provide them options to shop in whichever way they want. However most companies are not able to afford this, having both responsive website and mobile app due to the costs and efforts involved.
Hence it is required to understand this is detail and then decide on the approach of your business strategy.
Responsive Design helps, but not fully –
Responsive design is always the affordable one among both the options, however you need to keep in mind the cost of redesigning the website to be mobile supported and also the upgrades and running costs. As the dependency on search engines is an increasingly important part of most of the growing businesses and if your business needs that constant visibility in the search engines, then the responsive design is really efficient in moving your business forward, by increasing the no. of visits on your website.
The mobile app in this scenario, because it resides in a mobile device and it cannot be utilized by search engines, will not be much useful in business growth.
One more big aspect of responsive design is the time taken by a developer in creating a responsive design is comparably really less than the time taken in mobile app development. It also does not require any approval from different app stores which have their own guidelines to follow before you can launch your mobile app.
Mobile app designing also requires to develop separate apps for each platform – iOS, Android, and Windows, which is again time consuming and costly. The responsive website will be accessible from any device and browser without any changes required.
You must be thinking by now that Responsive design is ‘the’ way to go for. Well there are few pitfalls, firstly the responsive design although is an optimized experience, it is not able to utilize the smart features of your phone like GPS or Camera that a mobile app can incorporate so beautifully and creates new possibilities of user engagement. The mobile app, with its speed and full utilization of mobile device capabilities, provides an experience to the user which a responsive design will never be able to.
Analytics drive the Mobile App Strategy
A mobile app offers more than a responsive design and provides a unique experience to your customers, this should be a triggering motive for you to design an app.
To move ahead with this approach, first try to collect some data and analyze to check from which mobile devices you have got maximum hits in past few months. You can use Google Analytics, Omniture or any analytic tools which can provide you with such information. This is critical in deciding the platform for which you will be designing the app.
Keep in mind, when designing an app for a particular platform, you should try to utilize and match the features provided by that platform. It is very essential for the users to give them maximum freedom in the usage on app, because the app has access to data on the device, it is capable of providing a more personalized experience.
The mobile app will bring out a highly personalized adaptation of your business through Push Notifications, content suggestions, recommendations etc.
To summarize the approach my recommendation is that you plan out your business strategy keeping in mind the experience you want to provide your customer, along with the cost and efforts involved in the different approaches.