7 March 2012

What are your options for mobile development?

There are a number of ways that brands are approaching mobile development, and it very much depends on target audience, budget and engagement strategy.

Here, we take a look at the current state of play and share what’s possible in the mobile space.

Option 1: apps

Will an app deliver the best mobile experience for your customers? If you think so, then you need to weigh up the benefits of native vs web apps.

Native apps: iPhone vs Android vs …

The first issue is the fragmentation of devices hitting the market. Nielsen reports that, of Australian smartphone users, 37% use iPhone, 30% use Nokia, 8% use BlackBerry, 7% use Samsung, and 6% use HTC.

So do you design a native app that’s geared for performance on an iPhone or Android phone, but risk missing out on the rest of the market?

A native app, which is designed for use on a particular device (e.g. the iPhone), will give your customers the best user experience. Built native, it will work beautifully on their phone – but it is the most costly and time-consuming development option.

Games, social networking, lifestyle and entertainment, technology and gadgets, and travel and local category apps tend to take this ‘native’ path.

Web apps

Web apps take the mobile browsing experience to a new level, and the technology behind them is getting better every day.

Web apps are like native apps, except that instead of downloading them to the phone, they’re browser-based. Think of it like a custom-built mobile site that your consumers get redirected to when they enter your brand’s web address.

Previously, web apps couldn’t make use of a phone’s in-built technologies (like the camera). That’s all changing, fast.

The open source PhoneGap is an HTML5 app platform that uses standards-based web technologies to bridge the gap between web applications and mobile devices. You can author native apps with web technologies – so you can get multiple platform versions of an app out much faster.

Option 2: Mobile websites

The easiest and cheapest ways to go mobile involve using your existing web content and simply repurposing for mobile. You’ve basically got two choices:

  • Adaptive site design – this involves taking existing web content and repurposing it so that the content is optimised for viewing on smaller mobile screens. Adaptive design involves creating 2 or 3 CSS tailored to various screen sizes (so, you have to define what screen sizes you’ll be tailoring it for).
  • Responsive site design – this optimises existing content for every screen size, so that it will work on all your consumers’ phones. Naturally, there’s a bit more work involved in the set-up than for adaptive site design, but you’re guaranteed a better browsing experience across all platforms.

Carlton Lamb Responsive Site Design

Bienalto client Carlton Lamb used responsive site design to repurpose existing web content for optimised mobile viewing.

App vs mobile sites – at a glance

Mobile App Comparisons

Where to from here?

The mobile market is still in a state of flux. There’s certainly no right or wrong, black and white answers. Yet it’s no longer an optional extra.

Brands need to tackle mobile together with all the other elements in their digital arsenal. When you go live with one, you go live with all.

Then, of course, the way you tackle it very much depends on your needs and budget – and how your consumers are likely to engage with your brand in the mobile space.

Contact Dipan Shah, to learn more.