The initial excitement surrounding ‘having an app’ has now passed. For many companies, it is now about taking a more strategic approach. Responsive websites are becoming commonplace, as companies seek to streamline their digital operations. To some, this might be a sign that apps have had their day, but those people would be missing the point.

Apps have been instrumental in changing habits and helping people complete simple tasks on the move. This may take the form of an app that helps the user find the best route to take, without having to wait for a web page to load its elements. It may be an engineer being able to access the information relevant to the task they doing, even if they are in the middle of a field without connectivity. It may be a homeowner remotely checking their energy usage or automatically turning on their heating when they are half an hour from home. It may be syncing up with a wearable device that helps monitor health conditions.

Apps serve a particular function whilst delivering a better experience for the user to meet their needs. As a result of this, habits are rapidly changing, to the extent where apps are starting to challenge TV viewing times (2.42 hours per day versus four hours for TV). Indeed, many smartphone or tablet users will be using apps at the same time as watching TV leading to the rise of second screen consumption.

Websites, however, are about providing the most amount of information, to the most amount of people and being easily searchable (if you have your SEO right of course). Often, the decision between a website or an app (or both) will come down to the business objectives the company wants to achieve.

Beacons, wearables and other connected devices mean that apps will not only continue to thrive, but become more central, as the remote controls to our lives. Apps are becoming more intelligent and complex, in terms of what they do and the problems they solve, something that the web can’t always provide.

Web advantages

It’s best to think of a website as the shop front for a company. It’s where you’ll look for information and decide whether you want to enter further. If someone is looking for information about a specific topic, they are likely to search for it using Google or another search engine. It’s from here that they’d be directed to a website. As a result, there is a lower barrier of access to this information via the web, as opposed to the effort a user would have to go to, to download an app.

On the whole, responsive websites have taken over from mobile sites, as they work across multiple devices. When comparing responsive, over a specifically mobile optimised site, content management becomes much easier and more efficient, as it can use the same CMS and the same code. Following recent changes to the way Google ranks content in its search engine, changing to responsive is also key to improving SEO – something that companies should be taking note of.

Generally, users will browse the mobile web to quickly find something they are looking for, and then continue activity from a desktop if they need to go more in-depth.

Apps are growing

According to Flurry, 86% of time spent on mobile is in apps compared to just 14% on the web. The user experience of an app still wins out against a mobile website.

Games, social networking, music, shopping, video, transportation, news, lifestyle, travel, productivity and health apps; just to name a few categories. Gaming is where users spend the majority of their time, with 32% of app usage time. 28% of time is spent in social network apps whilst both utilities and entertainment account for 8% each.

Companies are increasingly realising that they have to be optimised for mobile. In many cases, this means the first port of call is designing web with mobile in mind and is the most important thing to get right first. If there are then specific tasks or challenges to overcome, it may well be apps that take on those tasks.

Apps, the perfect channel

Any time a mobile or Wi-Fi connection can’t be guaranteed, or information needs to be stored offline, apps come into their own. Increasingly we see companies utilising apps for improving productivity of employees, or helping customers to get access to the tools and information they need. Any time a company or developer wants to create a unique experience, with a focused purpose, an app is the perfect channel.

When someone is in the gym, it will be through an app they are listening to music. People on the London Underground will be playing games or reading news through apps. People driving or walking will be using an app to give the navigation. People doing exercise will be using apps to track their progress. Apps are continually helping to change the way we live and work by fulfilling specific purposes. The web is our portal for information and the first step that companies need to take to have a presence in our increasingly mobile world.

Apps are continually changing the way companies can use mobile to connect to their audience. Increasingly, we are seeing apps such as Google Drive or Facebook being split into standalone offerings, that have very specific use cases for users. This is partly down to the fact that users are task orientated when using an app. They don’t need one app that does everything, but many apps that do the things they need, when they need them. Beacons are going to be key to helping users be in the right apps at the right time, in the right location, with relevant content.

Smartphones are getting smarter. They learn from our behaviour and are able to start delivering exactly what we need, when we need it. In comparison, the web can start to look slightly antiquated when faced with the powerful activity that apps drive.

By Robert Haslam, PR manager

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