A recent study by the company Localeze found that 61% of smartphone users surveyed reported conducting local search on their mobile device. An example of a local search result would be “printing companies in the Lincoln, NE area.” Local search is highly relevant because that seems to be a key activity for mobile users, and in our business, we need to make it as easy as possible for clients to find us. The content our studies have found to be critical in our industry include a phone number in a quick call format, business address and directions, store hours, after hours contact instructions such as an email link and, if applicable, access to a personalized storefront. Mobile sites are accessible by all smartphones equipped with browsing capability and don't need to be downloaded like a mobile app, are fairly easy to build and don't need approval from an app provider.
App is short for application, software written in the native language of a particular platform and specialized to complete specific tasks. The two predominant platforms for mobile apps are Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android). Mobile apps are accessible offline, and they work when the app is launched on a mobile device rather than having to open an internet browser or be connected to the internet.
While apps provide tremendous flexibility, they can be time consuming to create and maintain, are sometimes costly (considering the ROI in our industry) and are difficult to keep current with updates needed on two or more platforms. An app has to be downloaded and installed much like software in order for it to work. Whenever there is a new or updated version to a platform such as the iPhone or Droid, updates need to be made to the app that was created to work on each platform. Additionally, there is very limited utility for users, given that our clients who interact with us need to have electronic documents handy for editing and uploading, along with the ease of your full website. Your client’s best bet is to interact with you directly (phone or in person) or through your website.
In summary, if you haven't viewed your site on a mobile device, start there to see what the end user experience is like. A best practice is to keep in mind people are using a wide range of mobile devices from the latest and greatest to the older versions as well as the various tablets that have internet access. If you don’t have access to all the devices, go online to look for simulators. These websites can show you how your site will look on different mobile devices. Some devices are more sophisticated than others when it comes to resizing displays and making pages easier to read. If your site isn't mobile friendly, work with your web developer to correct any problematic areas.
Most web developers provide a mobile version of the websites they build. If your developer wants to charge you a small fortune to create a mobile version of your site, you may want to consider finding a new web developer. If you've been considering building a mobile app for your business, think about the long-term maintenance and keeping the software current in the two primary platforms—Apple and Droid. Your consideration may save you a lot of time and money, with little impact on your revenue or on your level of customer service.
Tawnya Starr is president of PrinterPresence by Firespring. She has dedicated her career to educating the graphic communications industry on Web marketing and how companies of any size can save time and money while attracting and retaining customers. In 2005, she received the Industry Award of Distinction from PrintImage International (NAQP). Contact her at Tawnya.Starr@firespring.com.