The importance of adapting your website to mobile is indisputable in 2020. Google adapted “mobile first principle” last year. However, if you have not made the transition yet or not sure if it has worked well, one important question arises: what is the best way of doing it?
Basically, there are three ways: programming your page to adapt to different screen sizes and devices (responsive design), designing a mobile website (including so-called web app) or creating your own app launched through app stores (a native app). You can have a combination of these types in one application (a hybrid app), however, this is less common.
Here I would like to share some advice on these three possibilities.
You should choose responsive design if you:
- Have a website that does not require a lot of interaction (e.g. a news website or a blog);
- Want to save time and effort by maintaining one website only;
- Think that your users would scroll from top to bottom if the page contains a lot of information and are fine with longer loading times.
A mobile website is the best choice if you:
- Have a website that is not visited by the same users very frequently or where users do not spend a lot of time (e.g. a specialized online shop or an online information service);
- Want to offer better user experience by optimizing content and simplifying navigation;
- Need your page to be accessible with any mobile device through a browser;
- Do not mind maintaining two websites: the desktop and the mobile versions.
And finally, you should consider developing a native app if you:
- Have a website where users tend to spend a lot of time (a social network or an entertainment platform);
- Want to use extra capabilities of mobile hardware: e.g. the camera or the GPS of a device;
- Think that you can offer users enough extra value to motivate them to download your app;
- Do not mind the dependence on app stores;
- Can afford higher costs in developing applications for different device types.
Currently, developing a mobile website is slowly losing its popularity. The majority of CMS and website builders come with responsive layout option as a standard. However, you will still need to make adjustment to your website to optimize it for mobile users, especially if you think (or better: have data proving) that your website is mostly visited on mobile. As for the apps, although the app market is constantly growing, the competition is growing, too. Also, if a user thinks that an app does not offer extra value to them or if they are not a heavy user of this app, they will definitely prefer not to clutter their mobile storage with it.
Let us look at some examples.
Amazon.com and Deutsche Bahn have developed a mobile page (for occasional users) and a native app (for heavy users).
The majority of websites on the internet (e.g. HubSpot) have implemented responsive design that enables readers to access the blog from any device.
McDonalds has both responsive design and a native app (used as a restaurant finder and for distributing coupons). Some fast fashion labels (e.g. Orsay) adapted the same strategy.
As you see, in most cases an app is combined with a responsive design or a mobile website. They may perform similar or different functions. The main thing to consider is how to offer the best experience for the users and how to meet their needs in interacting with your website.