The ubiquitous spread of mobile devices has changed the online landscape decisively and probably forever. According to statistics from Smart Insights, about 70% of users surf the Internet via mobile devices. Content that is optimized for mobile devices, such as mobile websites or apps, is no longer an additional option, but a must. If your online presence cannot handle mobile traffic, you may not be able to reach potential customers.
The comprehensive “Global Digital Future in Focus 2018” report from comScore, which examines the use of desktops, PCs and mobile devices, clearly shows that traffic via mobile devices is increasingly dominating international markets. Users of smartphones, tablets and other gadgets in Germany, but also in all other countries, spend on average twice as much time online as users of desktop PCs. This impressively underlines the importance of a presence for mobile devices. But what possibilities are there now to provide mobile content for customers? In this article, we present three approaches to mobile design and explain the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
A responsive website: The cure-all?
After Google again gave an update to the algorithms for its search engine, which included an adaptation of the website for mobile devices as one of the requirements for high rankings, a responsive design for websites is indispensable. Responsive design allows all content on the website to be adapted to any screen size. Here both the desktop user and the smartphone user call up the same URL and see the same content. However, this content is automatically optimized for a clear and correct display on each end device using special techniques. If the resolution of the respective screen changes, the display of the content also changes.
Conclusion: Responsive Design is suitable for all different types of websites, including blogs, online shops and corporate sites. A responsive design website is actually the way to go in most cases these days. Here the visitors of your site have the possibility to reach you from all devices with a web browser, no matter with which device.
A Mobile First Page: The First Mover Step
Based on the initial thesis that more and more content is displayed on mobile devices, the new approach of mobile first design has emerged in recent years.
This is based on a new approach: A website is developed in which the design and the user interface are optimized for mobile devices only.
Such Mobile-First websites have minimal design requirements and are therefore often referred to as Content-First or content-related. Therefore, many effects and small structures are deliberately avoided here. The web page is optimized particularly for faster loading times and the efficient use. Mobile-First Design thus positions itself between the classic website with Responsive Design and an app. In March 2018, Google officially launched the so-called "mobile-first indexing" for its search engines. According to initial information, mobile-first websites will occupy higher positions in search results here.
Solche Mobile-First Webseiten haben minimale Designanforderungen und werden deshalb auch oft als Content-First oder inhaltsbezogen bezeichnet. Es wird hier deshalb bewusst auf viele Effekthaschereien und kleinteilige Strukturen verzichtet. Die Webseite wird vor allem für schnellere Ladezeiten und die effiziente Nutzung optimiert. Mobile-First Design positioniert sich damit zwischen der klassischen Webseite mit Responsive Design und einer App. Im März 2018 startete Google offiziell das sogenannte „mobile-first indexing“ für seine Suchmaschinen. According to initial information, mobile-first websites will occupy higher positions in search results here.
This version of the web page requires a fundamental conceptional reorganization, since here in particular priorities for contents and other elements must be set.
Result: A mobile First Design is more a thinking and structure beginning, with the approach to a web page, than a real technical conversion. However, this only makes sense if you can assume that your users access your site primarily with smartphones.
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The App: Always close to the touch screen
The development of a mobile application basically requires direct programming for the respective operating system of the mobile devices, i.e. mostly Android and iOS, and is therefore more complex for the first time. Websites can be developed independently of the operating system.
The result is an app that must first be installed on the respective device before it can be used. The advantage of a mobile application is that it offers specific functions that are not possible with a website.
Apps provide access to the entire infrastructure of the respective software platform. This includes the hardware of the smartphones and tablets, as well as connected smartwatches, special video and audio adapters such as Chromecast, Apple TV, Google Home or HomePod and other intelligent assistants. Such applications work more efficiently than websites, open up new opportunities for both the user and the company to interact and track data, and can increase the attractiveness of the brand.
Conclusion: A native app is needed if you want to access the hardware of the devices more directly and want to get a fixed place on the smartphone screen of your customers.
When do I access which website - or should I take an app?
From a conceptual point of view, the question always arises as to whether the application must fall back on certain functions of the hardware of the devices. Here only the App offers itself as a suitable solution. Only in this way can you offer your customers options such as location-based information, access to cameras, alarms or push notifications.
Other aspects that clearly speak in favor of an app are the user-friendliness and speed of a native application. An app provides a much more convenient user interface and better ways to interact with the user. The fact that the app is able to store a lot of user data locally on the respective mobile device enables a much faster operation compared to a website.
However, you should also keep in mind that developing a mobile application is usually a costly business. In most cases you will need at least two different apps for the operating systems Android and iOS. Another disadvantage is the fact that an app has to be installed on the respective device. To do this, it must first be published in the respective store.
Hybrid apps with React Native can be a solution