February 05, 2010
I saw the blog post recently about Chris Brogan’s mobile app but until I was browsing the AppStore and saw it in the Top Business Apps, I couldn’t believe anyone would use it. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Chris Brogan. I read his blog daily, subscribe to his newsletter, follow him on Twitter, have attended his conferences for the past two years, and like listening to him on the Media Hacks podcast. But really, I don’t need an app to follow Chris Brogan while mobile. Google Reader and various Twitter iPhone apps are just fine.
Same could be said of my dear friends (or so I think of them in my head) the Manic Mommies (@emkprgal and @kristinsb). I religiously listen to their podcast, read the blog, follow them on Twitter, follow their personal and fan page on Facebook, and have even joined their Gal Pals private social-networking group, but have no use for the iPhone app (sorry ladies, still luv ya!). My point being — why the does everyone feel the need to have an iPhone app?
I’m not the only one asking that question. Todd Defren over at PR Squared has been asking the same question. I know MotherApp and others have made it easy to create your own mobile app but unless you are Chris Brogan, are you really going to get found in the App Store? Mobile search has improved and creating bookmarks is even easier than downloading an app on the iPhone. So unless you have an uncontrollable urge to tell your friends you have an iPhone app, (or Android, Palm, and every other platform out there), you might want to think about a mobile website. Here are some considerations.
How does your audience interact with you?
If you have a blog, do more of your readers subscribe via email or RSS? Or do they visit your website directly? Keep in mind that a large percentage of email is read on mobile phones that do not support HTML. Be sure your blog feed renders a clean text version for email subscribers. If people are visiting your site directly or you share a lot of links to your blog posts via Twitter, creating a mobile version of your blog is a good idea. WordPress has a mobile plug in or you could use a service like MoFuse for blogs. If your blog doesn’t redirect to the mobile site for mobile browsers, you might want to consider sharing two links, one for mobile and one for full web (or use an intelligent URL shortener like Shortn.me.)
For companies and brands, evaluate if you have the brand pull or marketing budget needed to be a success in the App Store. Then, think about if you can afford to develop and support for the myriad of platforms such as Android, PalmPre and BlackBerry. If not, consider a mobile website. MoFuse Premium is a great solution or there are plenty of mobile site developers.
What content does your audience need when mobile?
If you decide you need a mobile presence, think about what content your audience requires. Are you a restaurant and they want quick links to menu, map, and reservations? Are you a local retail store and need to provide hours, location, and daily sales? Are you a tech company that wants to mobilize blogs, news, location, and key contact information? Chances are, they don’t want everything that is on your website and even more, their phone won’t support it. Forget about the whole one-web argument. You browse CNN’s full website and then their mobile site and tell me which one you find easier to read and navigate. If your audience tends toward feature phones (less and less since smartphones will be the majority in the U.S. by 2011 according to IDC), you need to keep it very simple. If you are attracting the iPhone crowd, a bit more graphics, location awareness, and video are possible. The KISS principle applies in either case.
How will they find you?
I’ve seen many major publishers spend big dollars on mobile websites and do very little to promote them. Think back to the early days of the Internet when companies were spending millions on TV commercials promoting their website URL. Make sure your customers and visitors know about your mobile site. This includes links from your website, in-store signage, business cards, inclusion on promotional materials and branding campaigns, and much more.
Should you ever have a mobile app?
Yes, of course. I love the mobile apps from Evernote, Tungle, Tweetdeck, OpenTable, Yelp, and so many more. Some things you can just do better in an app. That includes location (to some extent), augmented reality, storage, database queries, and much more. But if you decide to do an app, be sure to promote it. And that may include some in-app advertising to drive downloads.
Got a mobile website, blog or app? Send me a link, I’d love to check them out and tell me why you decided to mobilize the way you did.