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As more and more mobile smart phones are offered, the buzz around mobile phone applications gets ever louder. So, watch should rush out and have a mobile app developed - right? Not.
The low-down on mobile apps and mobile websites.
Let us get the definitions out of the way. Mobile apps are basically small applications that you just download and operate on your feature phone or cell phone. An app will run locally on the handset and may or might not access services on the internet to update and refresh the content that's displayed. As opposed, a mobile website is basically a slimmed down form of a normal website that's optimised for the smaller display area that's usual for feature phones and mobile phones. Mobile websites are likely to be accessed via a browser application on your own handset.
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Which one do i need to choose for my business?
Well, to begin with, mobile apps are cool and due to the Apple iPhone and Android os app stores, they are easier than ever to access and download. You will need to develop a different form of your app for each and every major mobile operating system though - about 4 or 5 of those at the moment.
On the other hand, a properly designed mobile website will be displayed on pretty much any mobile that has web access. You can't do as much using them as you could having an app though, given that they rely on web technologies and don't have access to all the fancy built-in-features make fish an app running natively on your handset will have - things like the camera, GPS module, address book. Often there is a catch.
Your best option will depend on your business. We're not able to give you the answer, but we are able to hopefully give you some advice before you go spending any one of that critical marketing budget. Disregard the hype, forget about the cool factor, and think about the following important points before making your decision - Need. Audience. Budget.
Must i really need a mobile app or mobile website?
Before beginning out, it's worth documenting your list of factors behind creating a mobile app or mobile website to your business. Think about what you would like to achieve and what you would like your product to do.
Are you trying to create a potential new revenue stream? Looking for new ways to market business? Are you targeting other manufacturers or consumers? How do customers access your existing products and services? Will your products display interactive content or might it be used as a static information portal? The frequency of which will you be updating content? What type of content will you be displaying? Is your product fun or unique? Could it always require internet connection?
We could go on and on but ultimately it isn't a question of regardless of whether you need a mobile app or mobile website. Rather, it's about what is best for your small business and we can only give some guidelines.
Unless you already have a website or have been in the middle of building one, ask your internet developers to build it so that it will be optmised for mobile. It could require an extra outlay and definitely will be less costly than starting from scratch.
If your existing web site is relatively static but wish to enhance your online presence and obtain the benefits of mobile advertising, think about mobile website. Site visitors coming from mobile ad clicks will have a good first impression of one's business when they are offered easily readable information formatted nicely for mobile phone.
If your product is for fun, is highly interactive, is supposed as a standalone marketing tool or revenue generator, is made to be used offline, or requires users to regularly access large video or media files it likely makes more sense to go around the mobile app route.
Who will be the audience for my mobile app or mobile website?
Whenever we talk about audience, were referring to two very separate ideas - the target market for your business and the overall set of people that can actually access mobile phone applications and mobile optimised websites.
First off, think about your existing usage and how they currently talk with your business through your website, RSS feeds, Facebook pages, and LinkedIn profile. Since mobile phones will only become more plus more prevalent, a mobile app or website will provide you with a good platform to develop on existing customer relationships and extend easy reach to a population which is becoming increasingly mobile.
Should your main aim is to increase your profile and presence inside the mobile space, it's wise to start off by taking good thing about existing technologies. If people are using Facebook on their mobile and click a link on your Fanpage for more information, its a good bet that unless your page loads using some seconds and displays well, they're going to give up and go elsewhere pretty fast. Important thing - best to be sure any pages you link to from your social media sites load quickly, display relevant information, and look good on mobile.
The main benefit of a mobile website is it's large audience reach. A web site that is properly optimised for mobile should display well for the majority of feature phones and mobile phones that are web-enabled. However, whenever you move into the realm of apps, things become a whole lot different. Since apps are mainly confined to smart phones, your target market is narrowed towards the phones or platform(s) the job is designed to run on and the percentage of people actively using each platform.
Our main advice to you personally here is before going down the app route, consider the size of your own potential business audience and discover how many of them are using the 5 major mobile phone operating systems: iOS (iPhone), Android, Blackberry OS, Symbian (Nokia), and Windows. Using this method, you will get a good sense of how many versions of an app you should potentially develop.
The amount should I budget for a mobile app or mobile website?
Answer: The length of time is a piece of string? There actually is no easy answer to this. It will come down to exactly what you would like to achieve and what you would like your site or app to be able to do and ultimately who you get to do it. It might be unfair to even give guide prices what we can say is that any prices you are quoted should be grounded in reality.
If your site is determined by WordPress or some similar content management system, there may be free or low-cost plugins open to display the pages optimised for mobile. Should your main website was built using recent technologies like xhtml and css, optimising it for mobile should not be that difficult or costly, assuming it has mostly static content. When it has more dynamic pleased with lots of bells and whistles, don't be tempted to just replicate each page. Limit your web site to the pages that can transfer well to smaller mobile screens.
For the mobile app side, the expenses can range from hundreds to countless amounts, depending on the complexity in the app and the amount of platforms it will be intended for. There are sites on the internet where you can create basic apps at no cost but these will typically be limited by a predefined set of templates that allow minimal modifications. Some may also charge for hosting content that is something to watch out for.