Mobile App Development Blog

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Building a Mobile App.

Ian Blair

Mobile Site or App: How to Maximise Your Customers’ Mobile Experience

On Tuesday, April 21st 2015, Google rolled out its ‘mobile-friendly’ algorithm update. With an increasing number of people conducting searches on mobile devices, Google has determined that in order to maximise user-experience on mobile, they need to prioritise mobile-friendly websites, ensuring that searchers are getting an optimal experience through search matches. The announcement has sent many into a panic with some even dubbing the update ‘mobile-geddon’, fearing their Google referral traffic would fall away entirely if their website was not optimised for mobile users. And it’s true, as noted in Google’s official announcement:

If your site’s pages aren’t mobile-friendly, there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search.

If your site’s not optimised for mobile searchers, you’re likely to lose some of that Google traffic. So what do you do? Here are three options to consider:

1. Make your website mobile-friendly

As part of their official announcement, Google offered two tests where users can check the mobile-friendliness of their websites. How much does it cost? They are free. In the first, you can test individual pages of your site to check their mobile compliance. It’s worth noting that Google’s update is a ‘page-level’ change, not ‘site-level’ – so if ten of the pages on your site are not mobile-friendly, but the rest of them are, only those ten pages will be affected by this algorithm update (the update does not impact on desktop or tablet search rankings, only mobile searches).

Mobile Friendly Checker

The second test Google provides checks the mobile-friendliness of your entire site using Google Webmaster Tools. Based on the information provided in this report, you can update and optimise your pages accordingly, then either wait for Google to re-check your site and re-index your pages, or you can submit your site to Google to get them to re-check your content immediately. Even if you opt not to go down this route, it’s worth checking these reports out to see how much your site is likely to be affected by the change.

You could also consider building a mobile version of your existing website, though given the massive increase in mobile usage; it makes more sense in the long term to build a site that one mobile and desktop-friendly.

2. Forget the website and build an app

This is one of the more common, modern-day business dilemmas – an app or a mobile site? The business case for either will depend entirely on your organisation’s goals and what you’re hoping to achieve through your online presence, but the basics of the argument are this:

  • If you’re looking to provide content that can be easily viewed, shared and found via Google, then you really want a mobile-friendly site
  • If you’re looking to engage your users through interactivity, provide them with something they can use and, ideally, help make their dealings with you simpler, then an app might better serve your needs

Apps are everywhere these days – the saying ‘there’s an app for that’ came about precisely because there is an app for virtually everything you can think of. Right now, you can download apps that enable you to turn on the lights, TV and heating in your home as you drive home from work and you can do your shopping from the comfort of your own kitchen. Apps are the future and they’re how we’re going to interact with the world around us and communicate with customers. You can even build an app for your church. But the question is, would your products and services specifically benefit from an app?

To answer this, you need to understand how your customers are finding you online, what answers they’re seeking from your web presence. If you’re getting a lot of Google traffic it probably makes more sense to maintain that via a responsive website. If you’re looking to showcase products, that’s also easier done on a page. If you have an idea for an app that builds interaction – something that enhances brand value through fun or task-based processes like those available from airlines or banks – an app could be a valuable option.

The key thing to remember with an app is it needs to be compelling, so it needs to be both extremely user-friendly and it needs to be shareable by inspiring others to talk about it and its benefits. For an app, you need a great idea and you need to be willing to experiment and refine it until it delivers what your audience wants, or it won’t be worth it.

That said users are spending an increasing amount of time in apps, a trend that’s likely to continue so it’s worth considering how you might be able to align with this shift.

3. Make your Facebook page the focus as your mobile landing page

This is an interesting perspective, one which has been pushed by Facebook executives (and was reinforced by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his most recent Q and A session). As described by Zuckerberg, most mobile activity is on apps, not via browsers, and most people aren’t likely to download apps from small businesses. And many small business websites are not mobile-friendly and as a result, an increasing number of people are looking to Facebook pages to get information they’d normally get from a website.

What we are seeing is that people’s Pages on Facebook are actually becoming a more and more important presence, where customers will actually go look them up to see hours that a restaurant or store is open, to see what their friends think about it – typical types of things that you might have previously gone to the website to see.

This is a theory worth considering. As social search becomes more prevalent – particularly as Facebook looks to improve its internal search capabilities and Google partners with Twitter to deliver real-time tweets in search results – it’s likely that more people will be finding your business via social media, as opposed to Google search. This is particularly relevant in the case of Facebook, which is in charge of the most widely used apps in the world. As Facebook looks to increase the amount of time people stay on their platforms, it also increases the likelihood that users will come to your site via The Social Network. Maybe, rather than focussing on the mobile friendliness of your site, you should focus on improving your Facebook page and the user experience there. While it may not provide an entire mobile solution, as such, it’s an interesting consideration, particularly in light of Google’s algorithmic shift.

Really, there’s no right answer on how to maximise your customer’s mobile experience, the solutions are based on individual offerings and the needs of your audience. What is important is considering the options available; thinking about what might be the most beneficial approach for your brand. The methods of outreach and communication are increasing every day, there are new possibilities, new opportunities that should be taken into account. Not all of them will work for you, but some of them will – and locating those that best fit could have significant benefits for you and your brand.

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Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.