What to choose: application, adaptive website, or mobile version?

The share of mobile users is growing at a steady pace: at the end of 2015, their number on the Web for the first time exceeded the number of desktop users. Do you still have doubts about whether you need a mobile website?

The purpose of the article is to acquaint you with the basic terminology in the development of adaptive websites and mobile applications and help you understand which of the methods are right for you.

So, here are the main ways to make your services more accessible to a mobile audience.

Adaptive design

In general, the essence of the concept is as follows: we mean the ability of the site to adapt to the screens of different devices and display equally well on wide monitors, tablets, or mobile phones.

Adaptability achieves using the following tools:

  • Rubber layout, i.e., the size of the page elements are not specified in pixels, but in relative units, for example, in percent. Therefore, when we narrow the browser page, the “rubber” site also decreases in size but remains entirely on the screen.
  • Media Queries are special commands in the website code responsible for displaying the page on mobile devices. Specifically, this command means that all the code inside it will work only if the site views a device with a screen width of fewer than 640 pixels, i.e., from a mobile phone. This tool allows you to flexibly change the website’s look depending on which device it is viewed. The media query enables you to specify the appearance of the site for specific screen sizes. For example, if it is a gallery of goods, then the user with a wide monitor can show the goods in 3 columns, and the user who came from a mobile phone will be more convenient to see the same interests, but already built in one column.

So, using adaptive design, we get a website that is equally comfortable to use from any device. Of course, this is an ideal option because if the site has complex functionality, it is difficult to fit within a small mobile screen.

Even though the mobile device user may display a truncated version of the main website, the browser will load the page completely: all texts, images, scripts, so the download time can be pretty ample, which is a disadvantage of adaptive sites.

Separate mobile website

You can not make your site rubber-adaptive but create a separate version designed for mobile devices. You have seen dozens of examples of using this method. On the main website, it looks like this is a link “Go to the mobile version of the site”.

This link opens a separate site with a different URL, such as m.site.com. Also, the leading website usually configures to redirect all mobile users to the mobile site automatically.

The peculiarity of such a site is that it is maximally adapted for the convenience of working on mobile devices: the weight of the pages comprises, all unnecessary elements are removed. It will be much more convenient for your mobile users to get the necessary information about you and place an order.

Note that you do not have to study programming for several months to make a mobile site. Now many services allow you to create a mobile version of the site in half an hour. If, for example, you want to make your business card site convenient for mobile users, then most likely, such a designer of the mobile version of the site is all you need. Also, the service of the mobile version of the website provides by many hosters. For detailed information, you can contact the support of your hosting.

The downside to a mobile website may be that you have to maintain two websites and make all the crucial changes twice. However, you can make both sites connect from the same database, and carrie out all the main transformations in the mobile, so when developing a mobile version or buying a designer, it is better to clarify this point.

Mobile application

A mobile application is not a website but a program installed on a user’s mobile device. It explains the main pros and cons of this approach.

The program is installed directly on your user’s phone/tablet, so he will be able to log in to the application even without Internet access and use the usual interface and all the device’s functions.

At the same time, this is a minus because not every user will want to install the application to make any minute action. Or immediately after receiving the necessary information, the client can delete it.

Developing a mobile application is quite a time-consuming and costly process. Websites run on many platforms, and mobile applications will have to be created separately (iOS, Android, Windows Phone).

Of course, special tools simplify the creation of applications and allow you to transfer it to all major platforms, and updating the program will have to turn to specialists.

In which case do you need a mobile application? Most likely, when you can offer the user valuable something to him and will interest him for a long time. For example, suppose you are a psychologist. In that case, you can create an application called “Your pocket psychologist”, which will contain articles, tests, answers to questions, and in which the user will spend some time productively.

The question is what result you want to get from the program. In the case of a psychologist – it is more likely to increase customer loyalty and translate potential buyers into real ones; if they like the application, they are likely to have more confidence in the psychologist and come to him for a consultation.

If the project involves live communication between users, a good option would be both a mobile version and a mobile application, but it will be costly and challenging.

If the project is informational, such as a blog or portal, then the usual adaptive layout is more suitable.

To make an informed decision about whether your site needs mobility and which option to choose, you need to at least study web analytics data and find out what percentage of your users typically visit the site via mobile devices.

In 95% of cases, there is enough adaptability or a mobile version of the site. When creating a new website, you should choose adaptability. When adopting an existing one, a faster and easier option is to develop an alternative mobile option.


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