When I’m out and about, and I’m looking for a restaurant for lunch, or I want to know how late a certain store is open, I look that business up in my phone’s web browser. I expect the businesses I interact with to have a web site, and I always have a little more respect for the businesses that have mobile versions of their web sites.
That said, there are some companies that haven’t caught up yet, and there are some companies for whom catching up isn’t really a big concern. The local diner with the greatest waffles in the city? Mobile probably isn’t a huge priority, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be, so long as they have a site with their location, hours and menu available. The drug store chain with franchises no more than 3 miles away from each other all over the city? They, on the other hand, absolutely should have a mobile site, at least to make their locations and hours more accessible to people on the go.
So how do you decide? And how do you decide whether you want a mobile web site or a full-blown app?
It all comes down to two key factors. Your customers will determine whether or not you need a mobile web site, and your function will determine whether you’re better off with a mobile site or an app.
Customers: Who are your targeted consumers? Who is your audience? Are they local senior citizens? Are they tech-savvy parents? Or maybe they’re active college students. Some target audiences are more web-savvy than others, and some are more phone-savvy than others, and some want nothing do with all this tech. Some targeted groups are simply less likely to demand a mobile web site than others.
Function: What does your business do? What do people come to your site to do? If you run a restaurant or a store, a mobile site listing your location, hours, contact information and a full menu is probably sufficient. If you run a massive franchise of stores, or if you run a content-based company like a news site or a large blog, an app with a built-in location finder or a constantly updating list of recent content may be more appropriate.
To summarize: A mobile web site isn’t absolutely necessary for everyone, but a web site that’s viewable on a mobile phone absolutely is. Whether you need a mobile site or not depends on which consumers you’re trying to reach. The kind of business you run and the scope of that business will help you determine if you a mobile site will be sufficient or if you should commit to an app.