Following the prodigious rise of the Apple iPhone, website administrators have been left to ponder a somewhat difficult question: should they invest their time, money and expertise in the development of a mobile phone friendly website or an iPhone app?
Unfortunately, this question cannot be shrugged off by simply answering “both”. Although providing users with a mobile phone friendly website and an iPhone app is undoubtedly the most desirable solution, it is also the most costly. At a time when many businesses are struggling to make ends meet, investing in new or improved technologies must be exercised with considerable restraint.
On this basis, the question of whether a business ought to invest in a mobile phone friendly website or an iPhone app is primarily one of timing. Thus, the question can be revised to ask which an e-commerce site requires first: a mobile phone friendly website or an iPhone app?
This question is complicated by the fact that websites and apps work in an interdependent environment that is rapidly changing. An iPhone app can be developed as a utility of an e-commerce site or as a standalone product or service. An iPhone app on its own, however, is obviously only available to a limited pool of smartphone users. In contrast, a mobile phone friendly website, which can perform in much the same way as an iPhone app, is available to virtually anyone with an internet connection.
Ultimately, the issue hinges on what is best for a business. In almost all cases, an e-commerce site will benefit more from developing a mobile phone friendly website first because doing so introduces a product or service to more potential customers. Assuming those customers arrive on a website via their mobile phones, it is logical from a business perspective to retain their interest from the point of landing to the point of purchase.
In order to achieve this, it is necessary to ensure that a website works well on all mobile devices – sending customers away to download and install an app is only likely to increase the risk of lost sales. Therefore, an e-commerce venture stands a greater chance of succeeding if it provides customers with both a mobile phone friendly website and an iPhone app; in terms of priority, however, it is far more sensible to develop the former before the latter.