Back that app up!

We live in a digital age. Everyone has smartphones, tablets and fancy computers. I see elementary-aged kids carrying iPhones or parents handing tablets to their toddler to entertain them for a while. It seems all of society is in on the technology train, including businesses. For the record, when I was in elementary school, I rode my bike to the park or read Harry Potter for hours. I didn’t get a smart phone until a month before I went to college. Just saying.

Starbucks mobile application

Starbucks mobile application

Anyways, the point is that more often than not, the public is plugged into some sort of screen. Businesses can’t always reach their target audience through paper or even television. In order to overcome this challenge, companies are turning to websites, web advertising, social media, and phone applications to get their messages across. Web design versus mobile applications is a more recent challenge that businesses face, which is our topic of our discussion today.

Quick overview of the basics:

Responsive web design is the process of building a website that is viewer-friendly on all virtual platforms: smartphones, tablets, desktops, you name it.

Native mobile applications are completely separate from the website. They are created by the same company (example: Starbucks has both a website and a separate application for smartphones) but are developed and downloaded through an application platform like the Apple app store or Google Play.


Starbucks mobile-friendly website

The question is: which approach is more effective? I believe there are different advantages to each. Having a website that is easily accessible in all formats is a good way to reach different types of audiences. The majority of people use smartphones on-the-go for research, shopping and communication. Effective content marketing means you go to the audience. Don’t make them come to you. In this way, responsive design may be more successful. An application only reaches the people who have downloaded it. This could be 100 people or 10,000 people; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to choose the better number.

On the other hand, phone applications offer the option to have different content than a website. It allows the public to integrate everyday tasks (like paying for Starbucks) into their phones. Convenient, right? Apps can keep track of purchases, allow you to shop easily and offer games or information the is specific to the application but not the website.

In my PR professional opinion, the ideal situation would be to have both a responsive design website and application, but there is one pretty big downside – cost.

If your business’ bank account isn’t doing so hot, responsive web design may be the better option. Designing and developing a separate application can be quite expensive, and take lots of time to fine-tune. The same thing could be said for a responsive design website, however. Tweaking the site to format correctly on multiple platforms also takes a bit of time and money, not to mention upgrading and maintaining the different formats as technology progresses.

With the virtual world we live in, possibilities are endless, which is pretty sweet. What applications do you use? Do you prefer using an app to a company’s website? Which approach do you think is more effective?

Until next time, on PR Talk.

(Maybe I should stop using Starbucks examples…but their PR is just too good!!)


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