When to Build an App and When to Build a Responsive Website

Every day we use our mobile devices. Whether it’s an iPhone or an Android device, it really doesn’t matter, the goal remains the same; for us to connect with each other and access information online so we can learn and move forward as a society.

But as a business owner, should you be publishing your content on an app or a website designed to scale to the size of your screen?

We often get this question at OSE because we design and develop apps and we design and develop websites. The good news is that we’ve seen customers on both sides of the equation generate fantastic results. However, in each successful case, there have been some very specific drivers behind why the client chose to go with an app over a website or visa-versa, which in turn resulted in that success.

In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the main considerations you should weigh up before starting your next digital project. If you’re not sure which platform to choose, we’ll assist you to make the right choice for your project circumstance, and hopefully begin generating a positive return on your investment!

1. Review which platform your target audience is on

The most obvious question you should ask yourself before deciding between an app and a responsive website as the platform of choice for your content, is which medium your competitors are using to communicate to your target audience?

It may be that there aren’t many particularly good examples in your industry, but chances are there will be some which offer a similar service in a closely related niche you can take a look at. By taking the time to review which apps or sites are getting the most attention in your niche and why this is getting the job done, you’ll go a long way to making the right choice for your project.

2. Consider the value of search in the "App vs Responsive Website" equation

Google logoEven though app stores such as Google Play and the iOS Store have awesome search facilities, purely because of the way they’re structured you're unlikely to receive as much search visibility as a website would from a classic Google search. Sure this kind of thinking may sound a little out-dated, but the reality is that although app use is growing every day, Google searches on desktop and mobile devices for websites is a big deal, and one that can make or break your business.

If you’re lucky enough to have connected with an SEO or marketing agency that has expertise in app-store marketing, you can overcome this hurdle, but if your content isn’t reaching the right audience (or anyone at all), it won’t matter how cool your app is, you’re not going to achieve the sorts of results you’re looking for. So if you're not thinking about how you're going to use search to market your produce, app or website, make sure you do when selecting your platform.

3. Some services are just better as an app

Commbank iPhone appWhen it comes to checking your bank balance, paying a bill, or playing a game online, these services are just more suited to an app than a website on your mobile device.

Even though you’ll be accessing the same content on both platforms, the usability that can be achieved on an app just works better in some cases in an app than a browser.

Now if you take the example of undertaking your Internet banking on a desktop device, the experience is actually really good if not better if you’re trying to achieve something more complicated. But when it comes to simple day-to-day checking of your bank balance or making a quick payment, an app is a much better solution.

So, wait a second, does that mean I should build an app and a website? In some cases it does, and should be part of your decision-making process. Of course budget will dictate whether this is possible, but forgetting the cost of things for a minute, some services do require both a website and an app, so be prepared to at least architect your service using a backend solution to support both platforms moving forward.

4. Device-specific functionality is really critical

If you’re planning on delivering a digital solution that uses geo-capable services, takes advantage of real-time messaging, or requires functions that are only available on your mobile phone, you really need to weigh these features up as to whether (a) you definitely require them, and (b) whether you can build a website without them?

It's surprising how many great projects come unstuck because of a lack of feature-set planning, and if you’re thinking this is just a website vs app conversation, it’s actually much more complex than that! If you’re considering building a HTML5 app to save a few bucks as oppose to using a Native language such as Swift or Java, you can end up having to re-build your entire project if that language doesn't support your application goals. Ouch!

Our advice to you is that if you’re not sure where your project may lead, or what functionality you might want to add later on, consult a digital agency such as OSE to try and future-proof your project as much as possible and avoid any nasty surprises.

5. Know that your audience will expect a top-notch job

Whether you choose to build an app or a responsive website, the standard at which you do so needs to be really high.

Gone are the days when it was simply OK to have a company website or list your app online, you need to have an app that is not only functional but beautiful too.

If your agency is good at what they do, they’ll make sure they undertake a proper technical analysis of your project requirements and implement a thorough design process to ensure that the final outcome of your product meets your audiences’ expectations and is capable of scaling to meet your usage requirements. After all, what’s the point of creating an app or website if you don’t make back your investment and can grow over time?

This may mean some trial and error along the way is required, but the more information you can provide your digital agency to begin with, the better off you'll likely be. The project outcomes which we see produce the best results are always the ones where the client is committed and involved, has taken the time to do their own research, and is ready to learn and listen.

Partnering with a digital agency is exactly that; a partnership. Yes, you are paying your agency to build something for you, but you need to work with them to get the best possible result. After all, we’re not mind readers, but we do want to provide you with the best possible service so you can succeed.

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