A mobile web site or mobile friendly web site is not the same as a native android app or a native iPhone app or a native Windows mobile app. The mobile web site VS Native app is not exactly a debate as to which one is the best, but these are technologies that can (and should be) used as part of your overall Internet Marketing strategy.
Why you should care?
As a webmaster you can use both these technologies to increase the traffic and exposure of your web site. I would say that besides search engine traffic and social media, mobile traffic (either through search on mobile or through the various mobile markets) is among the best ways to promote your web site.
What is a mobile friendly web site?
Smartphones, either Android, iPhone, Blackberry or Windows Mobile, have significant differences compared to desktop Pcs or laptops. They have smaller screens with a lower resolution and their basic navigation method is touch. When a normal web site is viewed on mobile (through a mobile browser), the user experience is not so good since the user has to scroll up and down, left and right and probably magnify the screen in order to read an article or navigate through the site.
A mobile friendly web site is optimized for the mobile browser. The buttons are bigger, fonts are easily read and there is no vertical scroll bar. Click on the screenshots below to see how a non-mobile friendly web site looks on the mobile browser versus a mobile friendly web site.
Providing your users with a mobile friendly version of your web site is a must. Recent research shows that 30% of search traffic is from mobile and this is number is steadily rising. I’m sure that if you take a look at your analytics data you will see the same trend. It is also a fact that visitors are more likely to exit a web site if they don’t find quickly what they are looking for and a desktop web site viewed on a mobile browser is a bad experience.
A mobile optimized web site is good for SEO
I have said it in my SEO Tips article, Google run various campaigns about this and every SEO is insisting that you should not forget your mobile users. In fact if you really want to have a high quality web site, a mobile site is a necessity.
An additional source of revenue
In addition if you are running adsense on your desktop site you can also run adsense for mobile within your mobile friendly web site and gain from the additional revenue.
What is a native app?
If you own an android, iPhone or Windows mobile you may have noticed (or used) an icon on your mobile desktop that leads to the Google Play store, Apple store or Windows marketplace respectively. This is the place where you can download and install native apps on your phone. So a native mobile app is an application developed especially for the particular platform which can be made available in the respective mobile markets.
The hidden benefits of mobile markets to web site owners
Why should you care? How can you, as a webmaster, benefit from these?
For starters, there are millions of users per day who download and install apps from the mobile markets. Both Apple Store and Google Play have reported that they already passed the 1 billion application downloads. In addition, Android is set to have 1,300,000 new users per day!
What does this mean? There is a huge number of online users who are using their mobiles phones to look for information (apps, games, magazines, books etc.) in the respective mobile markets. You may have read about the success of Angry Birds and how the company made millions overnight from selling their game through these markets.
How can a webmaster benefit from mobile markets?
You can develop a native app for your web site and make it available in those markets. The app can represent your content, products or services in a format optimized for mobile phones or tablets. By doing so you are bringing your brand in the hands of more users which will result in:
- More visits to your mobile friendly web site and desktop site.
- More sales (if you are selling a product)
- More direct visits
- Brand awareness
- Additional revenue from advertising (if you choose to run ads on your native app)
- Additional revenue from selling the app (if you choose to sell the app)
- More subscribers
- More social followers
A real case study
Back in 2011 I have developed a native android app for one of my sites. The app is basically showing my latest content in a format optimized for android phones and tablets (see screenshot below). Whenever I publish a new post on the site my android users get a notification in their mobile phones. The application is nothing fancy but it’s a good way for android owners to follow my site updates.
Soon after that, I have also developed a Windows Mobile App and published the app on the Windows Marketplace.
After almost one year the applications have been downloaded more than 150,000 times (and growing steadily) and the majority of users still have the app on their phones or tablets. What was the benefit for my site?
- More direct visits
- More visits to the mobile friendly version
- More social followers
- Small monthly revenue from the ads running on the app.
How can you develop a mobile web site or a native app?
Depending on the platform you use for your site there are a number of free and paid tools you can use to develop a mobile friendly version. I use WordPress and a paid plugin (wptouch pro – has a free version as well) to easily and quickly create a version for smartphones and tablets.
Developing a native android app is a bit more complicated than just installing a plugin and it also depends on the kind of application you want to create. You can use odesk.com or any other freelancing service to hire a developer (or hire me – contact me for a quote) to do the work for you. I will cover this is in more depth in another post so stay tuned.
So what is the difference between a mobile web site and a native app?
Now that you know more details, it is easier to understand the differences between a mobile web site and native app. In summary:
A mobile web site is a version of the desktop web site that is optimized for viewing through a browser on a mobile device (or tablet). It cannot be published on the mobile markets and the only way for users to find your mobile web site is to type the address from their mobile browsers. You can monetize your mobile web site by running mobile ads.
A native app is an application developed for a particular platform (android, iPhone, Windows). The resulting application is a file that can be uploaded in the respective mobile market. Once published in the market it can be searched through the market and installed on the device. You can monetize your native app by either running ads on by setting a purchase price.