Maximize Your Mobile Game Plan

By Juan Fernandez

Does your business have a real mobile strategy, or are you responding with quick fixes? Are the mobile solutions in place based on how your site is used (or how it should be used)? Are you doing enough to keep clients and customers engaged?

It is possible that enterprises may be compromising peak performance simply by making inefficient business decisions when it comes to their mobile strategies.

Whether the aim is to create mobile-optimized websites or platform-specific apps, the first two steps to smarter, more effective mobile decisions demand that a business knows the needs of its company and users.

With a little forethought, enterprises should be able to take some of the confusion out of the mobile options and come up with the right game plan.

Everyone Needs a Mobile-Optimized Website

Websites are still of critical importance to Web businesses, serving as the virtual calling card for customers, but consumers' cross-platform demands makes a mobile-optimized website essential for all companies. Responsive or dedicated - the choice is yours. What option will work best for your audience's needs?

Responsive websites adapt content depending on the screen size of the device. They make a good gateway choice because they use a single code base across all formats, making them less expensive to develop. On the downside, it will be more difficult to optimize the website to every device, which could result in user frustration.

Dedicated websites create an entirely separate architecture for each family of devices. This option works best if a business wants greater specialization for each kind of device, or if users are grouped around a particular device type (e.g. tablets). Customization allows customers to see content exactly as it is intended. Looking into current visitor analytics reveals essential data toward deciding if dedicated mobile sites are a worthwhile endeavor for a small business.

Mobile-enabled websites are easy to use, cross all platforms, and have a huge advantage when it comes to easily and quickly updating content. On the downside, they cannot be accessed offline, and the user experience may not be consistent across devices and platforms. To rectify those concerns, there are two other options.

Should There Be An App For That?

Mobile apps are ubiquitous for a reason. They are scaled to make the most of the mobile format, can interface with native devices and are accessible virtually anywhere. A big advantage of apps is that they can be accessed offline, which, depending on your business, can make the app route considerably more attractive than just having mobile-enabled websites that rely on Wi-Fi or a mobile network connection. Once again, businesses have two options in the application game - to go hybrid or native.

Hybrid apps use Web technology, are usually developed using standard programming languages and are generally less expensive than their native cousins. However, by using only a single code base for every mobile system, user experience can be compromised. Why use a hybrid at all? The cost effectiveness makes them a good solution for disposable apps that are used for a single event or time period. Think of them as a target app.

Native apps are written specifically for each individual platform, offering the most compelling mobile user experience available. A big advantage is that each platform is completely optimized, though this does come at a cost. Mastering multiple code bases translates into more time in development and a slower release cycle. For many, the option to go native is still well worth it, particularly when the experience is critical and performance can't be compromised.

The Solution Is Simple! Kinda...

Mobile-enabled website, mobile app or combination? There are advantages and disadvantages to each, mostly along the cost versus user experience continuum. Knowing what to choose means knowing your options (and budget), knowing your business and knowing your users. If you've checked those boxes, the mobile strategy that fits your needs should start coming into focus.

Juan Fernandez is a product manager (with a particular focus on mobile) at Liferay, an open source portal and collaboration software for the enterprise.