5 reasons to choose apps over mobile sites

June 22, 2010

In the rush to get your content out to mobile users, one big choice is whether to develop an app – often just for the iPhone, as app development for BlackBerrys [how on earth do you pluralize that?] is complicated – or a mobile-friendly website. In a discussion I had last week with Philippe Girard of Montreal-based consultancy OS Communications, he came out strongly in favour of apps, a position I agree with. Philippe shared with me an article he’d written on the topic for the French market, which I translated for my audience – so if anything doesn’t make sense, please blame the translator and ask questions in the comments. I’d love to hear your experience and opinion as well, either as a mobile user or a developer.

Mobile applications are very popular these days – as they should be, as they offer real advantages both for users and for businesses as compared to websites adapted for mobile.

1. Unparalleled user experience
Native applications are created with the help of development tools designed for the mobile platform. Application designers plan the interface (navigation buttons, text size, layout of menus, sharing content by social media or email, voice detection, etc.) based on defined ergonomic standards before adapting the graphics to the device’s screen as opposed to trying to fit the visuals of a full website into the screen.

Loading time of content and images is a lot quicker with a native application, and the content can be viewed when the user is offline – a clear advantage over the web. Users who have a high-quality experience are much more likely to use the application frequently, and to recommend it to their network.

2. Simplified accessibility
People have a limited capacity to memorize domain names, which is why application stores like Apple’s App Store exist. These virtual stores offer an environment where consumers can find a wide variety of applications that will interest them, all in one place. Consumers can, all through a single account, purchase, download and install the applications of their choice – a process that is much easier and quicker than finding the right mobile URL for each website.

In addition, applications for sale in stores, especially Apple’s, conform to strict quality standards, something that is not necessarily the case on mobile websites.

3. Icons: fabulous memory aids
In a world where simplicity of use prevails, icons are highly recommended. Visually attractive, they are a much more inviting point of reference than the long list of “favourites” in your web browser. Native applications in the App Store include their own individual icon. These icons are powerful memory aids, as they live on the screen of your phone. Can you say this about mobile web applications?

4. Push notifications
In order to keep consumers coming back, native applications are equipped with the ability to send push notifications, a system that sends or displays alerts when new messages or notifications are available, even when the application is inactive. This feature is not offered with mobile web applications.

5. Everyone talks about it
Launching a native application isn’t just trendy – it’s a PR event in itself. What a great way to showcase your business and its products or brands to current and potential clients. It’s a side benefit to take advantage of that isn’t the same for the launch of a mobile site.

And finally, another advantage will soon be added to the list. It will soon be possible to manage ad space in an application using Apple’s new iAd system in order to collect supplementary revenue from it. Another way to make yourself noticed.

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