App or website: which one is best for you?
It’s a question we get asked all the time, but it’s not quite the right question. The question you should really ask yourself is, ‘what do I want from the end user?’
If it’s a quick, simple one-off flirtation, websites are perfect. The visitor is (usually) looking for the answer to a specific question – ‘who are they?’, ‘what do they do?’, ‘how much are their services?’ – they head to your site and get the answer. They leave.
For something more long-term and meaningful, apps represent a fantastic opportunity. They ask more of the end user, but the overall experience is much more involved and personal.
Put simply, websites are like speed-dating, apps are long-term relationships. But which are you looking for?
The upside of websites
Websites are static, or at least perceived as such. Although a good website will feature dynamic content, its location remains consistent; a place your customers go to find out more about a specific aspect of your business. Generally speaking, the model of usage is a three stage process: Google it, read about it, leave the website until it’s next needed.
Websites are, therefore, a great platform for short, one-off interactions: a digital speed date. They also make your content easily shareable on social media, being browser-based and easily integrated with social media via plugins and buttons. If you want to deliver a simple message to a large audience, a website’s ideal.
A website can be considered a hub; a front page for your business. It contains all the info you may need: content, services, prices, addresses, and downloadable resources such as e-books, or even apps. There are very few businesses who couldn’t benefit from a website, but for a visitor, the site is not a place of engagement, it’s more of a wham, bam, thank you ma’am.
The pros and cons of apps
Conversely, apps are all about long-term, repeated customer engagements – but they do have barriers involved in buy-in. Apps require the customer to make an initial investment before they’re useful: they have to be found, downloaded, installed, organised and learned. It may not sound like a lot, but it’s a big ask of users who are conditioned to have everything instantaneously.
An attractive app has to offer a return on their investment – something that’ll make it worth the user’s while to learn and return to. Tablets and smartphones have become popular gaming platforms because simple, casual games offer that incentive to revisit. A good app is usable on the spur of the moment – it should help with finding things, making decisions and getting things done when the user doesn’t have a clear, Google-ready question in mind.
If you’re wondering why you need an app when you already have a website – apps streamline processes, reducing them to a touch or two on screen. Buying something on a website often takes too many stages – the logging into a site to fill a basket, the fumbling for a credit card security number to make the payment, the entry of a verification password to complete the transaction, and the emailed confirmation. If your app bypasses that, it’s more attractive than a website, since it offers utility for repeated single visits.
Apps also get to know you in ways that websites simply can’t. Think about the functionality of a mobile phone – the GPS, the camera, the gyro – all of this can go into building a truly unique experience that will make people want to come back for more. The best relationships evolve as you find more about that person the longer you’re together. The best apps are the same.
Once the user has bought into what your app has to offer, your brand is always within arm’s reach of the consumer. When was the last time you were more than ten metres from your phone? We bet it’s been a while: and every use of your app builds a two-way relationship that brings you and your customers closer still. Just Eat’s app is a prime example. It doesn’t only save your payment details – it allows you to save searches based on location, preference, or user-generated reviews. It guides you to app-exclusive offers to further encourage engagement on this platform. Simple functionality in many ways, but functionality that works brilliantly in app form.
Speed dating or a long-term deal?
A well-executed app will stay on your customers’ devices forever, used again and again until they can’t think how they got by without it. A smart, responsive website will provide exactly what the customer needs, when they need it, and with the minimum of fuss. Either one, the other or both could be perfect for your business.
It’s up to you to examine your customer strategy and make the call.