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The case against mobile apps

date: 14 October 2012
reading time: 3 min

Last week’s Computer Weekly includes an article looking at the differences between mobile-friendly websites and native applications. The author’s point is that mobile applications do not fit the needs of the current IT market.

Last week’s Computer Weekly includes an article looking at the differences between mobile-friendly websites and native applications. The author’s point is that mobile applications do not fit the needs of the current IT market. I am not sure I fully agree with him. First of all: yes, it is more convenient to have only one website, customized for mobile users.  It’s simply a more concise way of providing your services to the customers. But being convenient for providers does not always equate to being convenient for users. It seems to me that the flaws mentioned by the author of the Computer Weekly article are oversimplified and any real comparison of the two possible options depends on the business’ needs. The thing that clearly distinguishes smartphones from personal computers is that the former are mobile. An internet connection is not always available and some features, like GPS or a camera, simply make using mobile applications more awesome and simpler.

Can you imagine opening your email client through your mobile browser? Each time you would have to download everything again, and you would get notified of new emails only after logging into the website. And what if you are currently offline? This example is but one of the many factors attracting users to mobile apps. The article also mentions reliance on app stores. But these stores provide users with well-designed apps that are considered to be trusted by the platform users. App stores also provide user reviews, which can save other users’ a great deal of time. Another important area is around providing the user with things they are used to. Websites should always look the same, on each mobile device. With native apps we can give users things they are used to, based on their platform. We can also adjust the views to the device’s specific features, what makes the app more readable, and user-friendly. And what about payment systems? In case of websites, the payment method often varies and this distribution makes it more inconvenient for the user to simply buy something. On the other hand, with native apps, the payment methods are standardized and each of the developers (almost) forces their publishers to use a single solution. This means buying content is as simple as tapping the screen twice after supplying the requisite data only once for all the installed apps.

My advice to businesses considering whether or not to develop a mobile application is to think about the needs of your business. Whether you choose to go mobile or not it is definitely worth simply looking at the additional possibilities provided by mobile devices. And think of your users first, not yourself or your development team.

What do you think?

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