In our offices, we’ve got folks on the iPhone, Blackberry and Android. We’re always peeking at them during site development to make sure our sites aren’t completely useless to one of the fastest growing user markets.
One thing we continually notice is that often times, a mobile app is much more usable on our devices than a full website. Let’s face it – the screens are tiny, our fingers are giant and clumsy and when sites aren’t optimized for these devices, browsing them can get frustrating in a hurry.
Here’s an example of a mobile app on the iPhone for a news aggregation site called Fark (where I enjoy getting my humorous sports news headlines) and the same full website as viewed on a mobile browser. The advantage to using the app is that I can see the text without zooming, click easily and quickly access relevant content, or the main reason I visit Fark’s Sports headlines.
If I visit the full website on my phone, I get a junky experience. The site is unreadable without zooming: I have to move the screen to read anything when I am zoomed in, and I have to wait for extra graphics, banners and ads to load on the screen.
Fark Full Website:
To me as a user, the advantage of the app is clear. But as a developer, it introduces the issue of possibly having to develop a website, as well as an app and maybe even a mobile version of the same site. Now it seems like I’d have to support three separate platforms for the same site. However, if sites like Fark would offer a mobile-friendly version, I’d be happy, and for the most part, both versions of the site would be fed by the same information infrastructure.
A great example of this is the mobile commerce site we developed for KEEN Footwear. By simply detecting whether someone is viewing the site on a mobile device, we are able to provide a simplified HTML experience within the browser that essentially delivers the same advantages of a mobile app! Clean, simple, readable.
KEEN Mobile Site:
As a developer and provider, developing a mobile version of a site is the clear winner. Regardless of the device, users get a pleasing, streamlined experience, without the provider having to support apps for an array of devices and platforms.