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Go mobile?

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We’ve all have had the experience of visiting a website that was not optimized for small screens on a smartphone and found ourselves trying to zoom in on tiny menu items that are way to small for our fingertips.

More than ever before websites are being accessed through smartphones and tablets. In the first quarter of 2013, 24% of all global webtraffic came from mobile devices. Since this percentage has consistently doubled over the past few years, there’s every reason to believe that within one or two years mobile web traffic will outnumber traditional desktop/laptop traffic.

So with this in mind, the question is not if, but how can you offer your visitors an online presence optimized for mobile devices? There’s several options and combinations between them at your disposal but to keep things simple it basically comes down to four possibilities:

– a native app
– a mobile website
– a responsive website
– an adaptive website

I will describe each of them and also offer an overview of the most important pro’s and con’s.

Native app

Apps are distributed through app stores from where users can download and install them. Once installed on tablet or phone, the user has quick access to the content, even when in offline status.

Magazines or publications are typical things to offer in the form of an app. Video content, interactive infographics, extensive image galleries, all posibillities for a great user experince are there.

Next to that apps also have access to features of smartphones or tablets that websites don’t have, such as GPS and camera functions. For instance, the Funda real estate app, uses GPS to locate houses that are for sale nearby your location.

A big disadvantage is that if you want to offer your app on all mobile platforms – such as iOS, Android Windows Phone, BlackBerry – your app has to be build for each of them specifically.

Pro’s
– quick access to content
– also works when mobile device is not connected to internet
– offers a rich user experience
– an app can be personalized by user for regular use

 Con’s
– high development costs
– a different app for every platform
– with every update users need to download and install new version

Mobile site

A mobile site is in fact a stand alone site with it’s own url. The server will detect that the request comes from a mobile phone and the visitor will automatically be redirected to another website that is optimized for mobile devices.

The great benefit of having two different websites is that you can decide to serve your visitors different content then on your regular site. For instance, someone that visits the website of your restaurant from a smartphone would probably be more interested in the phonenumber and directions to you restaurant then in large, slow loading pictures of your interior.

Naturally having several versions of your website on the web also means maintaining several versions.

 Pro’s
– minimal loading time
– custom content served for mobile devices
– design optimized for mobile devices

 Con’s
– building a new website from scratch
– content maintenance for several sites
– search engine confusion

Responsive website

Responsive webdesign has rapidly gaining popularity the last year. So what is it? Basically a responsive website detects the size of the browserwindow and scales and reorders images, text and page elements so that they fit the screen perfectly. If you are reading this article on a laptop or deksktop computer, try changing the width of your browser window and just see what happens. So, a responsive website fits all screensizes, while only having to maintain one set of content.

That’s sounds great doesn’t it? Well yes, but there’s a disadvantage as well. Responsive websites serve the same content on all devices. That means that images or video’s are loaded on desktop computers with fast broadband interconnections also will have to load on smartphones with slow internet connections. However, there are some techniques to optimise for speed within responsive webdesign.

 Pro’s
– one design fits all devices
– easy to maintain content
– relatively low development costs

 Con’s
– loading time can be long on mobile devices with slow internet connection

Adaptive website

Basically an adaptive website is a combination of a mobile website and a responsive website. Just like a responsive website the lay-out of your site responds to the size of your browser window, but it also detects, like a mobile site, from what kind of device you are visiting the website, what kind of internet connection you have, what the resolution of your screen is, and based on that information decides on what content and functionality to offer you.

The downside to this technique is that it has a longer and more complicated development process compared to a responsive website.

 Pro’s
– design is optimized for predefined screensizes
– fast loading time for mobile devices with slow internet connection

 Con’s
– complicated to develop in comparison with responsive website

So, what should I do?

What the best solution is for your totally depends on the nature of your business and your online goals. An app offers the best user experience, but offers the least flexibility in terms of updates and requires substantial budgets.

A mobile site is perfect for offering mobile visitors tailored and fast loading content, but it also means maintaining an extra website. Responsive and adaptive websites automatically fit your website to the screen size, while adaptive web design let’s you also tailor device specific content and functionality, but has a complex development process.

In most cases responsive webdesign is probably the best answer, as it offers you a website that fits all screen sizes and only having to build and maintain one.

If you’d like to discuss what would work best for you, just drop me a line.

 

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