Do we really need a mobile application?
Many organizations in all kinds of businesses are thinking whether they should create presence in mobile world or how they should do it. Currently, when established companies start to develop a mobile app, most typical cases are either bringing current content to new context (like news applications) or spreading the information about a brand, organization, […]
Many organizations in all kinds of businesses are thinking whether they should create presence in mobile world or how they should do it. Currently, when established companies start to develop a mobile app, most typical cases are either bringing current content to new context (like news applications) or spreading the information about a brand, organization, band, or product (like many fan or lifestyle applications).
One question that we’ve heard a lot is: “We want to provide mobile services to our customers and end users, but why should we have only an iPhone (or Android) app? If we create a mobile theme for our web site, isn’t that enough?” That can be true, but usually there is much more possibilities with native applications. I try to answer that question by describing four levels for mobile apps.
Levels of a mobile application
Level 0: “Smart phones have web browsers.” It’s quite common to think that the easiest (and the cheapest) way to provide mobile services is to create web site that is designed for small touch screens. The easiness in this approach is that you don’t need different apps for different platforms. But honestly, do you actually like browsing the web with your mobile phone? I don’t. Of course you can optimize your web site to mobile screen, but still, it is just a web site. HTML standards are not developing very fast while large corporations are fighting which features should be standardized and which not. Usually, if you try to create a satisfactory user experience for your mobile web service, you still have to consider multiple browsers and platforms.
Level 1: “Web inside an app.” One simple and fast way to create a mobile app is to create an application (for iPhone, Android, or other platform) and wrap your web site inside it. Platforms like iOS and Android have components that make it easy to embed a web browser inside an app. Compared to simple web site, this approach enables you to add some great (native) user interface components or utilize some advanced features described in level 3.
Level 3: “New possibilities.” Real mobile applications should give user something more than regular web applications. The mobile means that the user has your application with her all the time. Mobile devices provide a lot of data that your app can leverage, for example the location of user, position of the device, camera data etc. In addition, your service can send messages to user with push notifications, or sell content with Apple in-app-purchase. And platforms add new services with every OS version update.
Of course, these levels are generalizations, and real applications usually are some kind of mixes from different levels. One common combination is to create an iPhone and an Android app for a service and, in addition, to create web site to serve other mobile users.