Mobile Strategy: When to fix your mobile website before building an app

By Tobin Harris, July 24, 2018

Managing Director at Pocketworks, app development specialists.

Advances In Mobile Tech Building Effective Apps Featured Posts Streamlining Customer Experiences 

This article takes a quick look at when it’s a good idea to invest more in your website before building an app. I’m mostly writing this for people who have a company website that directly generates revenue. So, if you allow people to order products, book taxis, buy digital downloads or join as a member – this is for you.

Is mobile a bigger sales opportunity?

If someone in your company keeps a close eye on your website statistics, they might notice that more customers visit your site on a mobile phone than on a laptop. If this is you, the mobile opportunity is now bigger than the desktop opportunity.

To seize this opportunity, you’ve probably already made your website work well on a mobile phone. E.g. you might have a responsive website. In layman terms, this is where a regular desktop website shape-shifts to look good on a mobile phone.

So, you’ve pandered to the needs of your mobile audience by making your website accessible to them. Great! A logical next thought is  “Wouldn’t it be great if we could improve our customer experience even more by developing a mobile app?”.

Why not make an app to woo your mobile customers?

A native mobile app is the gold standard for a mobile user. A slick app which makes it easy for customers to get stuff done is the best you can do.  Don’t believe me? Ask Facebook. Ask Twitter. Ask anyone. The reason is that people spend more time in apps. They’re more engaged. They do more. Apps are pretty awesome really.

But, apps aren’t cheap. And, like a website, an app will need evolving over time. It’s not just for Christmas. It’s probably going to require a good chunk of cash. Think £50K-£150K for something useful and slick. If you were going to try and build an Uber competitor you might easily spend £1M on your app tech, maybe £2M (this is based on conversations with people who’ve done that).

But your mobile website might also be awesome. Or it might be on the brink of being awesome. After all, people do transact on mobile webs sites – if the experience is good enough. So, you could ask the question, “Is there anything we can do to get more value from our mobile web site?”.

To answer this, I think there is a few things all companies should check…

Quick mobile website wins to avoid spending money on an app

Ask yourself these questions, and if the answer is “no” then make it a “yes” before investing in an app.

1. When you view your website on a mobile phone, whilst on WiFi, does the page load in under a second?

If not, you’re in trouble. 50%+ of people abandon ship when pages load in 2-4 seconds. This makes it too slow to get the job done they wanted to get done. Fix this. If you want advice on how, drop me an email, or have your web developer drop me an email.

2. When you view your website on a mobile phone, how many taps do you need to make to find a product and add it to you basket? (or order a cab, or whatever)

Amazon Prime Now does it in 3. This is a good number to aim for. Most will do it in 6 or 7. If that’s your site, imagine you want to order 3 products, how much longer is that going to take? Would you seek a faster route by using a different company? Or perhaps just put it off until you get home (and forget). Most will. Streamlining the booking flow isn’t always trivial, but worth looking at if you want to make your mobile would-be-customers happy.

3. When you view your website on a mobile phone, how many popups do you see?

I’m talking about “GDPR cookie” popups, “download the app” popups, “signup to our newsletter” popups, “chat with us” popups, “allow access to location” popups. These popups stand in the way of your mobile audience getting stuff done on your site. If you have more than one popup, I’d seriously consider getting rid of the surplus.

4. When you view your website on a mobile phone, how much of the home screen is dedicated to getting the job done?

For example, if you think mobile customers probably want to quickly buy something, then the first thing they see should support them in this task. If you have a catalogue of products, this means showing products immediately (maybe using some kind of intelligent personalisation to offer them relevant choices). If you’re showing a big hero banner promoting something that doesn’t support the buying task, get rid of it. You’re web developer should be able to “turn things off” for mobile users, so all they see is relevant to their buying task.

5. When you view your website on a mobile phone, how much space is allocated to menus and branding?

Mobile users don’t have much screen space on their tiny iPhones, so it’s best to dedicate the little screen space they do have to getting stuff done (e.g. buying from you). If you’re seeing 30% of your screen full of non-useful debris, consider asking your web developer to remove it/shrink it just for mobile users. This means they’ll have an easier time transacting, and therefore will spend more.

What about investing in an app and improving our mobile web site?

If you’ve handled the above issues, you should be seeing an improvement in your online bookings or purchases. Who knows, you might even see a 100% improvement. So often we’d advise that first.

Like we said, we think native mobile apps are the gold standard for creating a fast, hassle free user experience. It comes at a cost, but the return on investment can be huge if you get it right.

One simple way to figure it out is to look at your web stats and see if mobile users are converting (buying stuff). And are they buying as much as desktop web visitors? And if not, how big is the gap? If it’s a big gap, you might find that an app is the only way to nudge mobile buying to a point where it exceeds desktop buying.

What about Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive Web Apps are a new kind of mobile web site that strive to get closer to the gold standard set by native mobile apps. In theory, you can give your customers an app-like experience without having to get them to download anything. To name a few, Uber and Starbucks are testing this strategy.

Like building an app, building a PWA is quite an undertaking. It has strengths and weaknesses, and the jury is out as to whether they are the right choice for your business right now. More on that soon.

Need some specific advice?

No problems,  get in touch and we can arrange an audit of your mobile site and make some suggestions on how to improve it. Because we’re a mobile-first studio, most of our time is spent creating products that work well on the small screen. We’d be happy to help you maximise the potential of your mobile website.