A mobile app for your business is a bad idea

By Tim Priebe on February 5, 2013

By Tim Priebe on February 5, 2013

Many business owners come to us interested in a mobile app. They may want an iPhone app, an Android app, or they may not know what they want. Sometimes they want to make use of mobile notifications, sometimes they just want in on the whole “mobile app thing.”

In general, an app for your business is a bad idea.

The difference between a mobile app and a mobile website

First, you should understand the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website. A mobile app is something you download and install on your phone. A mobile website is simply a website that works well on a mobile device’s small screen.

A mobile website is a great idea. Holly put a Mobile Website Infographic together a few months ago, and it shows a lot of reasons why a mobile website is a good idea. Whey, then, is a mobile app a bad idea?

1. You need approval.

Even if you pay money to have a mobile app developed, you still have to get it approved by a third party. Apple is notoriously strict on their application process. And if you want your app on the Android Market, it has to be approved as well.

You are the only person required to approve your mobile website before it launches.

2. You need a reason.

In other words, you need to find a reason that people would want to download and keep your app.

Most likely, your brand is not a national brand. People are not going to use your app just because you want them to. You have to give them some sort of functionality or information that they will need on the go time and time again.

People with one-time needs are much more likely to visit your mobile website than they are to download an app.

3. You have to wait to update.

Want to update your app with new information or new functionality? Guess what? Time to wait on approval again.

Mobile websites? They can be updated instantly.

4. You need to develop multiple copies.

So you have paid someone to develop a version for the iPhone. If you want it to work in the iPad, you have to pay to develop that as well. Android? More money. For each platform an app needs to work on, you have to create a new version.

Mobile websites work across all those platforms with no additional development cost.

Is it ever a good idea?

When, then, is having an app a good idea? It’s a good idea when…

  1. It’s not a copy of your website.
  2. One of the primary reasons people would download it requires functionality like a camera or GPS.
  3. It would be highly useful to people on the go.

But in general, if you think you want a mobile app for your business, you would probably be better off with a mobile website.

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  1. Avatar Michael Hutchinson on February 26, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    I enjoyed the article and have been through the same thought process. I think it is easy for business owners to get caught up with buzz words or what seems trendy rather than what actually works. Are you using responsive coding now? It has challenges.

    • Tim Priebe Tim Priebe on February 26, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Michael. We use something different than what our industry terms as “responsive coding,” but from all the articles I read, it has most of the same advantages, with some workflow advantages to boot.

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