Can you believe the term ‘there’s an app for that..’ is 7 years old this year? With a decline in the number of apps being downloaded and the cost of native development soaring, the big question is “do you really need an app for that?”

Deciding whether or not your business needs an app can be tricky - your competitors may be launching apps, your budget may not stretch far enough and you probably don’t know where to start. Also, with a declining shelf life, there are questions surrounding whether really need an app at all.

'Our competitors all have apps so we need one too..' 

Lots of clients I discuss apps with either want one because their competitors have one or because it seems ‘fashionable’ to have a branded mobile app.

do-you-need-an-app-for-that

It’s essential to take a step back and think about your business objectives as well as your offering before deciding on an app. Some businesses have one core offering whereas others may have two or more - whether an app is right for you ultimately depends on the nature of your business.

To put it simply, a restaurant’s core online offering is to promote reservations, drive sales as well as physical footfall. Typically, users browsing on a mobile will be on-the-go so their objectives will be relatively specific with minimal time spent on the site. When it comes to content of interest, this differs dependent on the device used to browse. Generally, a desktop user will have more time to spend on the site and may browse menus, look for directions, find out about the history of the brand, leave a review or even read the blogs.

NOTE: When it comes to site design and functionality, this should be tailored and prioritised for mobile user’s needs and not simply reflected as a responsive like-for-like version of the desktop site.

With this in mind an app would be beneficial as the user doesn’t necessarily need to consume all site content, however a mobile site would equally satisfy the user's needs, and make good use of budget. The main differences between apps and mobile sites being - time to develop, flexibility and the presence of a little branded app logo on the end users device!

Benefits of opting for a responsive site over an app:

Availability: Responsive sites are instantly available via the device browser, whereas apps have to be downloaded from the relevant marketplace and in many cases logged into. This download process is commonly viewed as a barrier to initial engagement with the brand.

In addition to their instant accessibility, responsive sites also can’t be deleted as apps can be. The average ‘shelf-life’ of an app is around 30 days, so unless you have a unique app idea or a highly engaging tool you may find your hard work is deleted from user’s devices or left stagnant after a short period of time.

Device compatibility: Developing a site responsively means that your content is viewable across all devices at once, in comparison to native apps which have to be designed and developed for each specific operating system (IOS, Android, Windows etc.)

Functionality: Contrary to belief it’s not just apps that allow for additional functionality on mobile devices. Responsive sites are capable of integrating features such as click-to-call and GPS servicing.

Updates: Responsive sites are far easier to update than apps - changes can be made in the CMS and pushed live instantly not to mention at the same time as the desktop site. App updates, on the other hand, require more time and are often subject to a lengthy marketplace submission process before being available for download.

Build: App development requires native variations for each operating system (IOS, Android, Windows etc) whereas responsive sites are built to display across all devices seamlessly.

You may be asking why this is the case?

Well, each operating system(and it’s devices) has it’s own language, custom features, user interactions and interface which means that users interact and engage differently with each. Due to this, both the design and functionality of native apps need to be tailored to allow for an intuitive engaging experience for the end user.

In comparison to responsive sites, apps require considerable investment even after launch. In order to remain relevant and compatible with operating systems companies need to budget for servicing and after-launch support, which can be costly. Take the time to consider what your brand’s core offering is and then work with a digital strategist to determine which option will work best to attain your business goals.