- Our Approach
To Mobile App or Not to Mobile App
That is the question, and oftentimes it shouldn’t be. I recently read a couple of articles passed along by my co-worker, Jesse Gifford, listing reasons why mobile applications are overrated in the “web versus mobile” wars. They are great articles, but I was amazed to see that neither really covered how unnecessary a mobile app is most of the time. You can read them here:
I’m going to get this out in the open before I go any further. I openly admit supporting the “web over mobile” mindset wherever possible, so I may be slightly biased. The main reason for my stance is efficiency. I’d rather work smarter than harder, and redoing something several times to accomplish the same exact thing is not very smart.
As mobile browsers improve, they act more like their computer-based counterparts. There is a big push to make mobile devices more like miniature computers, but there also is a very large mobile app following that wants native mobile apps for everything under the sun. My question to those individuals: Why?
I often wonder why so many apps are built and subsequently recreated in multiple formats, when the same functionality can be accomplished using server-side code and still work on a mobile device. At that point, it all comes down to visual aesthetics – simply styling the site to work on the low resolutions required by mobile devices. If your goal is to provide your customers with a way to do something, does it really matter what method you use as long as it is practical, accessible and functionally sound? If you can accomplish this with one method, is it really rational to create a native mobile app just to say you have?
For example, why do companies need a native mobile app to allow users to sign up for a newsletter (or do anything that is essentially data collection) via form-based functionality? You can build a form using pure server-side web technologies that will work on essentially any mobile device. From the company’s standpoint it is much easier and more cost-efficient, because you don’t have to build and manage a Web version of your site as well as an Android version, an iPhone version, and whatever other mobile versions you may chose to support. Instead, you have a single Web version with a well designed layout that will display nicely at all resolutions, including computer monitor, tablet and mobile.
I understand that mobile apps are a hot fad right now, but so were Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids. Many companies are wasting resources on unnecessary mobile app development and mobile-only websites just to hop on the bandwagon. Mobile apps certainly have their place, but why overcomplicate something that can potentially be quite simple?
My advice is to determine your business requirements, spec out the application necessary to accomplish your needs for the Web first, then see if mobile devices can handle it. Much of the time they can, and building a mobile version to do the same thing is simply a waste of your time and resources.