APP or not to APP
EXPERTS DEBATE THE BEST MOBILE FORMAT FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Deciding how to present your company’s information in mobile form is a tough decision – even for the biggest firms. In 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg elected to focus his company’s resources on building a mobile version of Facebook, and de-emphasize activity on a separate app.
He believed that apps would soon become obsolete as operating system choice expanded, but he turned out to be wrong as complaints mounted about the iOS version of Facebook.
“It's probably one of the biggest mistakes we've ever made,” Mr. Zuckerberg told CNN. Ottawa’s companies are still divided over which is better, however. Read below for three perspectives on what is best for you: app or mobile. The responses are edited for length and clarity.
Rob Woodbridge, founder of Untether.TV
Most businesses do not need to build an app. There’s a time and place for an application, and there’s a function for an application, and it’s not to replicate your website. An app dilutes marketing to push people to an app store to get the same thing as your website.
Google, the predominant mobile search engine right now, penalizes companies for not having a mobileready website. You need white space, very clear navigation, and no technical problems that will hinder the experience. If you have not spent time on this, Google will reduce your rank. Desktop is less and less relevant. If you come up in the first page in a Google search in a desktop, you won’t come up first page in a mobile search if you have not customized or accommodated for a mobile version of your website.
Commerce is a perfect example of a good use for an app. As an example, we’ll use a bank. You want to transfer money, you want to send money, you want to check your balances. People will lean towards an app. It’s simpler, the input mechanism is easier and you don’t have to rely or be concerned about security.
John Craig, co-founder of Purple Forge
Mobile apps are becoming more the way that people are accessing information on the Internet, rather than by mobile web browsing. I think Apple has turned the mobile world into a series of cable channels.
The advantage of a mobile app is it runs faster than websites at “web speed,” which means as fast as the bandwidth is in your area. Apps run at “app speed,” taking advantage of local graphics and offline databases.
There’s also the ability to do push-button notifications. During the Calgary flood in 2013, Purple Forge had 97,000 points for the city’s app. The mayor, as part of the emergency response, sent news through the mobile app. It buzzed in people’s pockets and people were able to see the latest information.
For merchants, we’re building out the first run of commerce applications that are going to capture people walking by the store. After they opt in, they might get a ping in their pocket in the near future with the deals being offered inside that store.
Kyle McInnis, co -founder of Pretzil
There’s a pretty significant gap in the market, especially when it comes to small and medium businesses, about the cost and the ability of the application to return on that investment.
Your average mobile application is going to make less than $10,000. Typically it will cost you, depending on the complexity of the application, $50,000 as your starting point. I wouldn’t even consider it below that point. It’s pretty obvious how those numbers break down.
If you simply want to convey information, then you definitely want to build a mobile website. You can do it with little to no technical ability using a program called Bootstrap. The guys at Twitter wanted a way to easily build websites such that they were responsive in a tablet, and the style sheet would rearrange best to fit the screen.
You can look online for free or low-cost themes for $10 or even $100. I don’t have any technical background whatsoever, and I was able to put a site together in an afternoon.