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Be Where Your Clients Are: Mobile Optimization vs. Mobile Apps


Your site mobile traffic is finally large enough to make you sit up and take notice. Maybe it topped 10% of your traffic or, like some of my clients, your traffic is creeping up on 20-25% of traffic coming from mobile. So now what?

The first thing I would do is check out how of the traffic is coming from smart phones and how much of the traffic is coming from tablets. The tablet experience isn’t quite the same as a “regular” visit to the site, but it’s awfully close. We’ve seen that for some sites, the conversion rates for iPad visitors matches the average conversion rate pretty closely while smart phone conversions are tiny slivers. If all of your mobile visits are coming in through iPad (android tablets will just come through as “Android”, so they’re harder to identify) then I would only make major changes if iPad users weren’t converting the way you would expect them to.

If your visitors aren’t on tablets? Now you have a decision to make: mobile website or mobile app? This is an easier decision than it might sound. Apps are hip, everyone has them like skinny jean, but like skinny jeans, mobile apps aren’t the right fit for everyone. Mobile apps work best if you have a large budget, users will reuse the app many times, and you are providing an experience unique from your website. If your app is just your website wrapped up in some code? You’re better off spending your budget on making your website more mobile friendly.

Mobile apps are budget-heavy. Unless you plan to focus only on Apple devices or Android devices, you’ll have to pay for two versions of the app to be coded. Then you’ll have to have someone around to fix all of the bugs that are going to pop up (and no matter how long you test an app, the bugs will pop up), and you’ll have to update the apps as new versions of iOS and Android roll out or your app will be obsolete pretty quickly.

If you already have a base of users who visit your site from their mobile devices, do them a favor and make the site mobile-optimized. Streamline the navigation, tone down the images, simplify your design, and see if your conversion rates start rising. You can also make any forms easier to use or only make mobile users provide baseline information so they aren’t sitting there trying to fill out your 8 page form while at a crosswalk. This is a good solution if your users are likely to only need to visit the site once or you aren't looking to do anything that your website already does.

Optimizing your website for mobile traffic isn’t exactly free either. but it’s a lot simpler than creating an app from scratch. Another benefit is that whatever web developer you work with should be able to do mobile optimization so you can stick with a team you already feel comfortable with.

Whichever direction you go, app or website, be where your customers and clients are. And every day, more people go mobile.