So, you’ve made the business decision to “go mobile” – offering your customers a website that is easy to use on small screens and optimized for smartphones. And fortunately, with the surge of consumers turning to mobile browsing, an entire industry has spurred to help businesses transform their websites to mobile friendly and accessible on small screens.
The available options to go mobile break down into three categories: 1. free conversions; 2. custom mobile development; and 3. hybrid conversions.
To help you make the right decision, the following is a breakdown of each category, including the pros and cons of each:
1. Free Conversions: Available over the Internet are a variety of automatic web conversion tools, which convert your regular website to mobile optimized. Essentially, you plug in the URL of your website and out comes a mobile version.
Pros: The big advantage here is cost. These tools are free – and fast. You can offer your customers a mobile website in a matter of minutes. Best of all, your newly created mobile website automatically syncs with your desktop website – any updates made to your regular website immediately reflect on the mobile version.
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Cons: While it’s hard to compete with free pricing, beware of the final product and the experience you’ll deliver your customers. Free conversion services use pre-fabricated, generic templates, which force your business to lose some of its branding. Also, free conversion services are typically loss leaders for companies really looking to sign you up for a paid service which offers the features your customers will actually appreciate. And until you sign up for the paid service, your mobile website will scroll banner advertising on its homepage. Finally, this approach is a do-it-yourself option, which is geared toward tech-savvy individuals. Should you have any questions, there’s limited support.
2. Custom mobile development: This mobile solution is straightforward: hire a web development company to build you a custom mobile website that meets your exact needs. Done. You’re mobile.
Pros: The clear advantage with a custom mobile website is quality. This approach pairs you with a designer that can build a mobile website that reflects your brand and offers a highly effective mobile experience. It’s hard to beat building a website from the ground up.
Cons: Cha-ching! The word “custom” alone is expensive. This approach can cost some serious bucks. And for a small business, spending thousands of dollars on a mobile website can be a nonstarter. This approach can also take some time – sometimes weeks, or even months, depending on the complexity and the features you’re looking for. Also, the big buzz word for mobile web developers is “responsive design.” Responsive design creates one website – for your desktop, tablet and mobile phone – that can adapt to any viewing environment. Essentially, your website will stretch, shrink and squeeze to fit on any screen. While this is a perfectly acceptable option to create a web experience across a wide range of devices, it does not deliver the optimal user experience for a small mobile screen. Often, responsive design also requires you to redevelop your desktop website and start over.
3. Hybrid Conversions: This is a new class of mobile solution providers that attempts to combine the convenience of free mobile conversions with the quality of a custom approach — and do it for a relatively affordable cost.
Pros: Hybrid services convert your regular website to mobile friendly, and in the process, maintain your brand – keeping your style, logo, colors and design. And just like free conversions, hybrid services create a mobile website that automatically stays in sync with your desktop website. This class of service also offers an option to create a native app and provides e-commerce capabilities, including the ability for mobile users to enter information on their mobile devices. The cost of the hybrid mobile services can vary, but it usually hovers around $500. Typically this price includes phone consultation and phone/email support.
Cons: Clearly, development time can be an issue, as hybrid web conversions can take up to 10 days to complete. Hybrid conversion services – just like their competitors – also charge a monthly hosting fee. However, with monthly hosting fees from $14-$20 per month, the hybrid option is slightly more expensive. The hosting fee covers monthly maintenance, support and updates to the mobile website. Finally, compared to the custom design shop, which could be found locally, this method is done over the phone or email without in-person interaction with developers.
The question is not whether a business should go mobile, but rather, how. Hopefully this analysis helps shed light on the options available and what the best solution is for your business.