Is There a Better Alternative to Mobile Phone App Development?

In the mid-1990s, companies were racing to the Internet in droves. While it would still be a few years before Internet access became ubiquitous, having a website quickly became a mark of prestige and created a perception of technological savvy for many businesses. In the race to get online, many entrepreneurs and major corporations made decisions that seem almost unbelievable today.

In 1994, a college student named Matthew Grossman registered around a hundred domain names he thought might prove valuable in the future. Though he later struck it rich by selling for over a million dollars, he gave away and in exchange for a free vacuum, a case of soda and a t-shirt. Newspapers and magazines were quick to build websites, though many put up paywalls that today seem draconian, and likely inhibited their early growth. Fortune 500 companies hired young designers to build websites that look hilariously amateurish today.

After witnessing the growth of the Internet for the better part of two decades, it’s easy to look back and laugh, but as with many things, hindsight is 20-20. These days, the closest thing we have to that early explosion of online growth is the advent of the mobile Internet. Now, a new race is on—the race to get on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. While mobile phone app development has skyrocketed in the past few years, some companies have found a better solution in the form of mobile websites.

There are many solutions available to companies looking to expand their presence on mobile devices. Mobile phone app development has become a hot market for both developers and companies wishing to stay ahead of the technological curve. While much of this popularity is due to the great increase in users of mobile devices, but at least part of its appeal must be ascribed to the novelty of the technology itself. Like websites in the early days of the Internet, mobile apps have, for many companies, become seen as a necessity. Unlike websites, however, mobile apps are not the only solution to the stated problem. For a majority of companies, developing a mobile app just doesn’t make sense, either practically or financially.

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Don’t let a developer tell you that mobile phone app development is the best way to establish a mobile presence without researching the alternatives. While mobile apps certainly have their place, it’s important to consider the benefits and drawbacks of each option. The best alternative for many companies is to develop a mobile website instead. The differences are fundamental, and the advantages for many businesses are clear.

1. Mobile websites cost less to develop than apps.

This one is simple. Developing a mobile website involves less coding and lower overhead, leading to a much better ROI for most companies.

2. Mobile websites are cross-platform.

This is probably the greatest benefit to most companies and users alike. Today, mobile platforms are fragmented, and they’re likely to remain so into the foreseeable future. With Google’s Android OS, Nokia’s Symbian OS, RIM’s Blackberry OS, Apple’s iOS, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone all battling for market share, mobile phone app development remains an expensive and time-consuming proposition for any company wishing to reach a majority of mobile devices. When you figure in the rapidly shifting tablet market, the ability to cross platforms becomes invaluable.

3. Mobile websites are more appealing to users in many cases.

While the idea of having a mobile app for your company may sound great initially, it pays to ask yourself what it is your target audience is looking for in a mobile experience. With thousands upon thousands of apps competing for their attention and precious device memory and menu space, a successful mobile app needs a reason to exist. Apps like Foursquare and Tweetdeck make great sense because not only are they designed to be used frequently, they offer an experience simply not possible from a mobile website. Of course, Foursquare is a company built around an app, and Tweetdeck is simply an improved interface for social networks. Ask yourself what a mobile app for your company would provide that a mobile website could not, and you’ll find that in the vast majority of cases, the answer is “nothing.” If your goal is to reach an audience in the most effective and efficient way possible, mobile websites just make sense.

When it comes to building your mobile presence, you should concern yourself with providing your audience with a great experience as efficiently as possible. For some companies, this means developing mobile apps. For the vast majority, however, a mobile website will not only prove itself more efficient, it will prove itself more functional and suited to the needs and desires of your target audience.

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