Which mobile Web Design should you choose ?
All over the World and especially in South Africa the number of internet-enabled handheld is continually increasing. The most significant devices are tablets and smartphones. While traditional websites usually are represented reasonably well on tablet PCs. However the display on smartphones is much smaller and requires the frequent use of the zoom function. Buttons and controls are too small and therefore certainly not user-friendly.
There are several ways to bring your content to the mobile user.
A Mobile Website is operated in parallel with the “normal” desktop version. The mobile website is accessed through the browser and runs mostly under its own URL, eg a sub domain like mobil.domain.co.za.
This approach is often pursued from online stores or magazines, as the site can be built separately from the desktop version and can be adjusted to the required mobile workflow. Because the content of mobile version and desktop version are usually different there is additional expenditure and workload.
Responsive Web design
Responsive Web sites were accessed with the browser and adapt to the actual devices. Images are scaled according to the resolution of the device, a three-column layout on desktop monitors appear on the phone in two columns in landscape mode and single column when the device is held upright – the annoying zoom to increase the font size is not needed.Since all devices, whether mobile or stationary, receive the same HTML code, there is no additional maintenance effort. The content lays under one unique URL – thus no problems with the search engines and duplicate content.
A Web application is accessed through the browser and is basically a website that looks and works like a Native App. Good examples are the Web Apps from Facebook or FlickR. This approach usually is selected when program functions play a more important role than just showing iinformation. The advantage of Web apps over native apps is that only one application has to be developed which runs on all platforms. However the access to device features such as position sensor or camera is limited. Web apps are not available through the App Store, access is gained for example via a program switch which directs the traffic of mobile devicesc to the web app.
Native Apps are small programs that are installed on the devices. Native apps can access hardware features of the device. For example, data from the GPS module or the position sensor can be used. This opens up possibilities for the native app that can’t performed by the other three approaches. Each app has to be specifically developed for the different platforms. So three apps have to be developed for Iphone, Android and Win8. This means high maintenance.
Which approach one is the right one for you and your business depends on several factors. A decisive factor is always the size of the budget. The most cost-effective solution is to create a responsive website. The development of a web app that is accessed through the browser is more cost-effective than providing native apps for the various platforms. The advantage native apps have over web apps is the access to all the phone features and the availability in the App Stores.
If the budget does not matter, you can go several ways simultaneously, for example, offer both Responsive Web, web app and native apps.
If you want to check your Website what it looks like on a Tablet or Phone go to http://mobiletest.me/