There are over 1.2 billion mobile users worldwide and in the U.S. alone 25% of internet users do so exclusively through their mobile devices. That is a large market by anyone’s standards, superseding desktop use in 2014 and is only expected to get larger in the future.
So should you focus on a mobile experience for your business, or is this only a bandwagon that threatens to waste your time, money, and resources?
There are two ways you can optimize your business for mobile devices: you can either design your website for mobile browsers first or you can design your own app. Both have their positives and negatives, and both are solutions for different problems.
Because such a large portion of the market only uses the internet with their mobile devices it may be prudent to have your site built from the ground up with mobile in mind. For example, if your site is a storefront having a mobile-optimized UI reassures the user that your business is safe and reliable for monetary transactions – making them more likely to finalize the purchase, especially for impulse buy items.
An app on the other hand is useful for specialized uses and services, particularly ones that make use of unique mobile technologies such as QR codes, Geolocation, and Push Notifications. One example of this is the use of image recognition software so that receipts can be converted into a more convenient format, such as excel, for archival use.
But is it a waste of time?
With any decision in business the question must be asked: will I gain more than I put into it? Is it worth my resources to focus on a mobile app that may not be a guaranteed return on investment? A hypothetical scenario might help.
Let us assume you have a business that specializes in selling services to other businesses I.e. B2B, and let us further assume that you have an app that is targeted towards them. The app is easy to use and has a professional presentation but after an initial spike of downloads from the app store you find that the user base has plummeted. Why? The answer may lie in how often the app is used: if it is used only once a month by someone then it is more likely to be forgotten in the hundred of other apps that they have on their phone.
In the end it doesn’t really matter how useful your app is if it utilized to play to the strengths of mobile devices – short and regular use. People don’t find it comfortable to use mobile apps for a long period of time, hence why we still use the more ergonomic desktops to get proper work done.
“Mobile is the future” is the phrase often said by the analysts – but it isn’t the only future. Desktop use may now be less popular than mobile devices but that’s because they fill different niches: one shouldn’t cut off one hand to spite the other. If your product or service relies on long engagement time with the user then it may be more intelligent to allocate resources to the desktop side of the experience, and vice versa. However it would still be wise to start with a mobile first approach to your site, as adding features to facilitate the extra screen real estate is often easier than doing it the other way around.
Article written by Jonathan O’Sullivan – senior writer @howtomobileapp