November 13, 2013
The value of a mobile website vs. a mobile app
I believe there can be great value in using various platforms and tools, but to be effective they must be used properly to meet the needs, or wants, of your intended audience.
At Fishhook, we talk a lot about strategy. If we build a new website for a church, we spend time organizing and presenting content to communicate effectively with the church’s many audiences. More recently, when talking about mobile websites, responsive design, and native mobile apps, we need to have the same conversations and strategies in place to get the most out of these tools as well.
One of the debates raging online compares the benefits and functionality of a mobile website vs. a mobile app. There are many opinions, but I think one of the most critical responses needs to be one of assessment about your own unique environment. Who are you trying to speak with? How does this audience consume information? What else is competing for their attention in the same space?
I believe there can be great value in using various platforms and tools, but to be effective they must be used properly to meet the needs, or wants, of your intended audience. Here are some things to consider when thinking about a mobile solution for your own church.
The Mobile Web - Responsive Design
Responsive design has quickly risen to the top as the answer to the question of mobile web, by building a website to “respond” appropriately — and beneficially — to the device on which it’s being viewed. A Mashable.com article adds that, "Responsive design is not just about fitting on a mobile screen, it's also about making sure that functionality works in contexts and scenarios ideal for mobile.”
Here are several benefits or items to consider when planning for mobile visitors to your website:
You'll have one site to rule them all. Every responsive website should work well regardless of device, platform or browser. A well-built responsive website should anticipate the user's experience and present the content in the most effective and appropriate means for that device.
There's no double entry. A responsive site is your only site. You’re not building a separate, stripped-down version of your site to display on a mobile device.
You can preserve your content. While a responsive design site may format the page differently, or emphasize content differently depending on the environment, it should continue to present ALL of your content to the user. You shouldn’t have to pick and choose less or a limited amount of information to present to mobile viewers.
Easy access to information - specifically for guests/first-time visitors - will continue to be a top priority. The lowest barrier for someone who’s just getting to know you is a strategic, well-organized website that quickly and cleanly provides the information they’re looking for.
The Mobile App - Going Native
While there is certainly a valid need for a mobile friendly website, the presence and potential of mobile apps should definitely not be ignored. As we’ve mentioned before, our new friends/partners (frientners? I just made that up!) at BlueBridge found that the average user spends about 100 minutes per day inside apps and only 55 minutes per day on the desktop, laptop and mobile web combined. Mobile apps are a significant way to communicate and connect with your audiences.
Here are a few things to think about when considering an app for your church:
Want immediate access with your audiences? Your content, once the app is downloaded, is immediately available with one click of the home screen icon.
Want to tailor your message? The content within an app should inform a newcomer, but should especially engage with an active member of the church. Make it useful!
Want a personalized experience for users? With options for selecting specific categories or ministries, you can display information — and even “push" details to members about key events — for just those areas they’ve chosen.
Want to do more with online engagement? Through social media sharing, let your users spread the word for you! After the user logs into their various channels the first time, they can easily promote their favorite events or share an interesting article, expanding your church's online reach!
Want to make it truly mobile for busy, on-the-go folks? A powerful app can be built to integrate directly with the functions of the phone or tablet: click a phone number to call or store events/reminders in a personal calendar.
Ultimately, one mobile solution isn’t inherently better than the other, and many organizations will decide that there are legitimate reasons for both a mobile website and a native app. Let us know how you’re thinking about this decision for your church or organization. We’d love to talk more about any of your communications needs, and help you build a strategy to meet them!
If you would like to see a demo of the BlueBridge church app, go to our partnership page!