Peter Hopper, Sr Dir, Integrated Client Services, Palio
Couldn’t sleep last night, so I ended up reading an article on my iPad that asked the question: mobile Web site or mobile app? I know. I had options, but it popped up in my RSS feed.
The article (published in RAIN, the Radio and Internet Newsletter) was a brief review of a column written by Jakob Nielsen, a Web usability expert, for AlertBox. Nielsen is predicting a strategic shift, based on his research on how end-users use their mobile devices. He claims that, hands down, the mobile app currently beats the mobile Web site from a user-performance perspective. But, in time, that will change.
The driving factor is the user-experience environment. It’s not news that the desktop and laptop real estate, computing power and user-interactivity (keystroking, mouse and track pad precision and functionality, etc) currently overwhelm the smart phone and tablet. And that is the point: the mobile device requires the smarter optimization gained by creating an app, while Web site optimization for the mobile device is currently limited. This smarter optimization makes the mobile app a better user experience. “An app can target the specific limitations and abilities of each individual device much better than a Web site can while running inside a browser,” states Nielsen.
But we are approaching a crossroads. The app benefit may indeed be short-lived. One factor: the expense of developing mobile apps will likely increase. Currently, the primary mobile app platforms are Android, iOS and Windows Phone. But these platforms are sub-dividing, iOS for iPhone and iPad, Android for smartphones and the Kindle Fire, for example: separate apps required for unique user experiences per mobile environment. Development technology, again, will likely step up to help alleviate some of this cost burden. But there are other factors, as well, including e-commerce and richer content that favor the mobile Web site, down the road.
What’s at risk? Letting your audience down.
Turning the corner, new Web technologies like HTML5 will drive better mobile site capabilities and user experiences. Add the benefit of a richer integration with the Web via a mobile site than within a mobile app.
When will this predicted strategic shift take place? Great question. No clear answer on the immediate horizon according to Nielsen. We know HTML5 and other Web technologies are advancing rapidly. However, the take-away from this discussion is recognizing the balance and the compromise when building your digital recommendations for your clients in the mobile environment, helping them understand that there is indeed a shift on the horizon, the unique implications of what and why you consider development options, and helping them evaluate the best road to take.
I hope this didn’t put you to sleep, but I did rest better last night after becoming a little more enlightened.
Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.