Mobile Site v. App: A Project Manager’s Guide

Attention software developers and project managers: please use your brain when developing mobile applications.

I know writing apps for iPhone is all the rage, but why would you write an app if you didn’t need to? Do you realize that it takes speciality skills and specialty knowledge? Aren’t you aware that you write it once and run it on one platform? Oh… and you have to pay to put it in the store and deal with review processes and the like! Why would you subject yourself to that? Don’t you read what other developers are saying?

I’m talking to you, I’m talking to you, Weather Channel. And I’m sure if I spent 20 minutes perusing the apps in the iPhone App Store I could find another three dozen examples.

There’s this great thing called the Internet. It basically works the same on every platform, under the hood, and can be seamlessly customized for each device with a ton of code re-use. It’s beautiful! In fact, we’d all be writing web apps if we could get away with it.

So I’ve put together a little guide for you here when planning your mobile app. A few questions to help you decide:

  1. Is your app useful without pulling information off the web?
  2. Does your app contain capabilities that are required when you have no Internet connection?
  3. Does your app require special hardware to function well?
  4. Does your app work best only on a single platform?
  5. Does your app require special graphics or other capabilities to work well?
  6. Do you need your app to respond to device orientation changes?

If the answer to all of these is YES, then by all means write a native app. But if your answer is NO to the majority of them then for goodness sake focus on writing a mobile web site instead. In fact, spend some time thinking about the required product before hand. Lop off any features you don’t need first then ask yourself these questions.

And in this last point, I’m particularly talking to you, You write an app and don’t even have a mobile web site! What’s wrong with you people?

3 thoughts on “Mobile Site v. App: A Project Manager’s Guide

  1. You have some good points here, but you ignore one thing: Distribution.
    On the iPhone you just get much better distribution when you are in the App Store.

    An option on the iPhone is always that you wrap your web app around a native app. This way you can offer a mobile site AND a native iPhone app (or Android app).

    But one problem still remain with web apps: they just don’t feel native…

    • With all due respect, Alexander, I don’t think you are talking about distribution. You get distribution on the web as well as the App Store. Do you mean marketing? As the App Store is a place for people to find you. And the reality is the App Store isn’t a marketing platform at all.


  2. Alexander meant discovery and distribution — both key components to go-to market, and yes, sure a component of marketing. The app store is *definitely* a marketing platform/tool/channel.


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