APP or not to APP

EX­PERTS DE­BATE THE BEST MO­BILE FOR­MAT FOR YOUR BUSI­NESS

Ottawa Business Journal - Techopia - - Contents - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH HOW­ELL

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.

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