Small Businesses: Choose Responsive Design Over Mobile Apps?

If you are running a small business, it might make sense to forget about developing an app for mobile devices and, instead, simply develop your website to be responsive to the mobile web in the first place.

There has been and will continue to be a lot of loud noise over the app vs native debate, about whether the web is dead or even your basic standards-based design approaches. But as the noise continues, a reality is indisputable: folks are viewing the web more and more from mobile devices, like tablets and cell phones, less and less from desktop-based terminals.

The question that stands out to website owners is, “How will I present my business to those mobile users?” Another way to ask this question is How will I present my business to *most* web users?

Are you going to try to cram your business website into their phone or tablet? Or are you going to build a business website that gracefully displays on their phone or tablet? Remember, it is estimated that by 2015, most users will be visiting from a phone or tablet!

Tip #1: most websites, as they have been built in the past decade, are going to be crammed into the mobile device. They need to be rebuilt in order to gracefully display.

Tip #2: if you are using Flash, say goodbye the the “Apple” product market (iPhone, iPad, iTouch). Basically, those devices don’t dispaly Flash.

Real Story #1. There is a Chinese restaurant my wife and I like, but its entire menu is made with Flash. So when we whip out the iPad and go to place our orders, guess what? We get frustrated because the menu doesn’t display. So, yeah, maybe we can install some bypasses and get into some chicanery so that the iPad displays Flash, but what we really want to do is place and order for some Chinese food. Like, right now! (She’s pregnant). If my wife wasn’t having a specific craving, I’d have just gone to the Thai place’s website, which we can read from the iPad with no problem. Since she was, we busted out a laptop and viewed the menu from Chrome.

Real Story #2. I’m driving. I need some information, so I pull over into a parking lot and ask my phone, “Where is the nearest landscape supply company?” Yeah. most people don’t suddenly need two cubic yards of mulch, but I sometimes do. Anyway, I get a list of websites for area companies. Guess which one I call? My filters are: (1) they deliver and (2) prices are right. But I can’t get any of that information if I can’t find their phone number on their website because it is too difficult to navigate on my cell phone, right? So, instead of calling and shopping around for prices, I just drive to one I know of and place my order. Someone just lost a potential new customer because their website wasn’t optimized for mobile.

You need a mobile-ready website. But can’t the same be accomplished from an app? Sure! Although I am not going to the app store to search for your landscape supply company app or chinese restaurant menu, am I? I’m going to my smart phone’s search engine.

It does make sense for many businesses to develo an app, but for those with small staff and strictly limited tech budgets, focus instead on redesigning for the mobile market. Your website will still look & function well on a desktop computer *and* you won’t be shutting out the majority of the market – those who will be viewing your site from a mobile device.

About Christopher Field

Owner & Senior Consultant of the Web Communications Group, Christopher Field has spent over 15 years in technology and education. He has a strong background in Library & Information Sciences, Healthcare, and Writing.