Small Business Technology: Responsive Website Design vs. Mobile Web App

Still unsure about last month’s article on Mobile Web Apps and Responsive Website Design? Read on to find out more.

A responsive website is a site built so that it automatically detects what the screen size of the device you’re using is as well as other limitations such as the browser type and any secondary applications that might be necessary for the site to function correctly. Then, the website automatically modifies the content to fit the constraints. The problem with responsive sites is that it’s simply impossible to create one site that works with all screen sizes, browsers and other secondary applications consistently. The factors are too numerous to go into but this is often the preferred option for many companies as it is a more cost friendly option.

A responsive website can be compared to a toolbox in the garage. In a toolbox, you probably have a set of tools to handle the majority of fix-it jobs you might need to tackle around the house. However, every once in a while you’re going to encounter a job that you don’t have the right tool for. In this case, you might not be able to complete the job.

A mobile web app is an application that is designed for mobile devices (tablets, phones, etc.). Unlike a website, a mobile application is designed specifically for the device. Designing applications for Apple devices can be quite different that designing for Android. Also, before the installation of an application is typically allowed on a device it must be go through a lengthy approval process. If modifications are made, the process must be repeated. This is not true with a responsive website.

The advantage to mobile applications is that it can take advantage of tools not available to web applications. An application such as this can usually access photos, documents and other items typically stored on a device as well as take advantage of functionality
specific to the device.

Let’s go back to the toolbox analogy. As you recall, the toolbox that makes up a responsive website has a general assortment of tools. However, a mobile website toolbox has only a specific set of tools and you know that you have everything you’ll need. This can be done because you know exactly what to expect.

So which approach is better? More often than not small businesses start out with a responsive website as that approach makes the most financial sense because it’s cheaper to develop. Further down the road a mobile application is built to offer a more detailed user experience.

Creating a website today is entirely different than just a few years ago. It’s much easier and cheaper to get started. You can be as involved or uninvolved as you wish. The important thing to remember is that you should make the site an expression of your
company and think about what it is that you want to project to your prospective customers.

If you search the internet you’ll find many services offering intuitive interfaces that allow you to make a rather attractive looking website without spending a lot of money on expensive programmers. Most basic website such as this can cost anywhere from $5–$15 per month and don’t have any long-term contracts.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. You’re not going to break anything. If you get into trouble, help is here! Your first stop would be the tech support team of your new website hosting company. The second… ask a NASE expert!
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