During the early phases of most projects you come across working in the software development industry, there comes a point where you need to decide on a technology. Sometimes clients come with really well-defined reasons why one or the other would be best. Perhaps the decision has been made on the basis of existing data from the organisation, sometimes it can be funding related, other times out of standard desire to have one or the other.
However, there is a much larger discussion that needs to be had about how successful one of two technologies would be at fulfilling the project requirements.
Do you go down the mobile or web route? The answer to that question relies on an understanding of a range of factors. Use cases, KPIs, SLAs, goals and budget can all impact the answer we help our clients come to.
There are some instances, though, where the web can beat out a mobile app, and it's important to understand these early on. That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today. The “whys” and the “whens” for using web technologies over mobile.
Why can’t I just use social media?
The first thing to address, and one that’s often thrown around online, is the case for social media. In our fast-paced digital age, social media has undoubtedly become a powerful tool for connecting with people, sharing ideas, and promoting businesses. It's convenient, accessible, and instant – everything a business might need to establish an online presence, right?
Not always. While social media platforms offer fantastic opportunities for engagement, they can't serve as a substitute for a dedicated website. Here's why a purely social media presence isn’t great for business.
1. Control and Credibility:
When you rely solely on social media, you're essentially renting space on someone else's property. Your content, your brand and your reputation are subject to the rules and algorithms set by the platform. A website, on the other hand, gives you complete control. It's your digital storefront, a space where you decide how your brand is presented. Visitors perceive websites as more credible sources of information, making a professional website crucial for building trust with potential customers.
2. Comprehensive Information:
Imagine trying to fit your company's story, products, services, testimonials, and FAQs into the limited character count of a social media post. It's impossible. A website acts as an information hub where you can provide comprehensive details about your offerings. From detailed product descriptions to in-depth articles showcasing your expertise, a website lets you convey your message without constraints. Customers often visit websites to find in-depth information before making a purchase decision.
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Discoverability:
Websites are the cornerstone of effective SEO strategies. While social media content can appear in search results, it doesn't hold the same weight as a well-optimised website. Search engines like Google prioritise websites, especially those with regularly updated, high-quality content. By investing in SEO for your website, you enhance your chances of being discovered by potential customers actively searching for products or services related to your business.
When is web best?
There are a number of use cases where apps or purely social media aren’t the right option for businesses.
1. Information heavy businesses:
Industries that primarily provide information, such as news outlets, educational institutions, and personal blogs, can reach a broader audience through a well-optimised website. Websites are easily accessible via search engines, making them ideal for disseminating information quickly and efficiently. While an accompanying mobile app is a really nice option here, it works best as an auxiliary option for users.
2. E-Commerce and Online Retail:
E-commerce businesses heavily rely on websites to showcase their products, manage inventory and facilitate transactions. With responsive web design, these businesses can ensure a seamless shopping experience for users across various devices, including smartphones and tablets. Websites also offer the flexibility to implement secure payment gateways, making them essential for online retail.
3. Service-Based Businesses:
Industries providing services, such as legal firms, consulting agencies, healthcare providers, and freelancers, often find websites more practical. A website can serve as a comprehensive portfolio, displaying services offered, expertise, client testimonials and contact information. Customers seeking services are more likely to explore a website for detailed information before making contact. These are often businesses where the financial outlay for an app simply doesn’t make sense against the user cases, primarily because of the requirement for acute access to the service. Clients often call upon businesses in these industries for a select reason, and the digital function of this engagement can be limited in comparison to that which would take place over phone calls or meetings. Additionally, it increases your ability to be listed on industry or requirement-specific databases such as Clutch.
4. Content and Media Companies:
Content-centric industries, such as publishing houses, entertainment companies and streaming services can effectively deliver their content through well-designed websites. Websites allow easy content categorization, search engine optimization and integration with social media, enhancing the reach of articles, videos, music and other media forms.
5. Restaurants and Cafes:
While food delivery apps are popular, having a website is essential for restaurants and cafes. A website can display the menu, operating hours, location details and contact information. It provides a platform for customers to explore the offerings, make reservations and learn about special events or promotions. It is, again, often not the best use of financial resources to implement custom applications unless in the instance of chains or franchises. No one expects their local restaurants to come equipped with apps, part of the joy is the experience of being there.
6. Travel and Hospitality:
Travel agencies, hotels, resorts and tour operators benefit from websites where they can showcase destinations, accommodation options, tour packages and customer reviews. A website allows travellers to research and plan their trips conveniently, leading to increased bookings and customer satisfaction. Apps can again, as discussed previously, be really nice ways to engage repeat customers. Or for occasions where engagement with a single brand is an all-encompassing part of the travel experience, as is the case with apps like Booking.com, which allows you to keep track of itineraries, and hosts a wide variety of additional information that users find comforting to have readily available in app form for check-ins or at borders.
Knowing your audience
Audiences play such a huge role in the case for or against a web presence over mobile apps. Let’s talk stats for a second.
The top line of the age argument is the younger the target demographic, the more likely they are to use apps. Digital confidence is one reason, but it’s also about familiarity. Gen Z have spent their entire adult lives using apps, and for the most part, so have millennials. But as you go through the generations, familiarity lessens, and so does engagement.
In 2022, the average 18-24-year-old spent 112.6 hours a month using apps, while on the other end of the spectrum, users aged 65+ spent just 51.4 hours a month. That’s a big slide down across ages.
Instances, where you expect a high level of engagement from older users, would suggest a web presence might be a better option. Websites are an extension of your brand, and therefore a product in their own right. When viewed through this lens it’s a bit easier to segment aspirations into a technology. After all, if you were selling aeroplane parts, you wouldn’t be stocking them at supermarkets, and while you might get one or two people thinking it's interesting and enquiring with a no doubt confused store assistant, you’re probably not going to make many sales.
It’s true, also, that a web presence may be better depending on your target region. Apps require memory to download, taking up space that might not be available on lower-tier phones. If your target region is somewhere where large memory phone sales aren’t strong, it is, in some cases, appropriate to look at how a website might offer more.
Perhaps, too, your product is used by more than one person at a time. For example, when booking a holiday, viewing homes or buying a new car. These can often be shared experiences, where people sit together, review options side by side, compare and debate. It’s part of the experience of using a website for these purposes to share and collaborate on the decision-making process.
The long and the short of it
Not only does web still have an incredibly valid place in 2023, but in some cases, it is the better option. But, there are a range of factors that go into the decision-making process with your product team. A good product team will consult with you on goals, visions and the longevity of its application before assessing the right technology to implement.
Speaking of which, don’t know which one is right for you? Give us a call or drop us an email, and we’ll work with you to find out.