Five Reasons Native Apps are Beating the Mobile Web, and 10 Reasons Why They Shouldn’t

cute woman texting

Right now there is a conundrum facing many companies that are trying to reach customers on mobile devices. Do I develop a native application for the device –which really means developing several native applications in order to connect with users of iPhones, Andriods, and Blackberries? Or, do I develop a mobile Web site accessible through various mobile browsers? Perhaps you should do both. Yet if you have limited resources, like most of us, you’ll need to make some choices. What is the best investment?  That all depends on your business goals, who you need to reach, and ultimately who you believe will control the world mobile devices.

Why native apps are winning now:
  1. Easier to monetize (this is the most important reason):
    • People are more willing to pay for something tangible, such as a new app, than they are to access a Web site.
    • Apple iTunes, Google Andriod Market, Amazon Andriod App Store have created a market for buying and selling apps.
    • Apps can garner additional revenue from advertising placements within the app.
    • In app purchases offer new ways to generate revenue by allowing users to buy added features, upgrades, virtual products from within the app.
  2. Better UX: With a few exceptions, the user-experience for native apps is better than most mobile webs;  Many mobile sites are mostly crap.
  3. Better integration with device capabilities: If you are creating features that are tightly integrated with the device (i.e., GPS, accelerometer, compass, camera, address book, calendar), then an app may be a better choice. Though, I should note that Safari already has integrated support for their accelerometer and gyroscope.
  4. Better performance: Native apps run faster -usually. This is especially true for highly complex and interactive applications.
  5. Some apps need to be native: Apps which are extremely complex and highly interactive, e.g. games like Super Monkey Ball, are best developed for native platforms (see #4 above).
For certain types of applications, developing a native app makes more sense right now.  In particular, this is true for graphics heavy games, or apps that need to be tightly integrated in the capabilities of the device. However, for most others, there are pretty compelling reasons to hope for a future where mobile web sites are the norm. 

Why I believe the mobile Web should win:

    Andriod and Firefox logos

  1. Access to 100% of smartphone users: With a mobile Web site, you have the potential to reach 100% of smartphone users, on every platform.  Your iPhone app will only reach about 7% of the total mobile market.
  2. Standards-driven platform: It’s easier and more efficient to build for a single, standards-based platform (such as HTML5); sure, you’ll still need some code to translate the experience across multiple devices, but writing that code will be easier than developing multiple native apps. For more on mobile Web standards see WC3 and WURFL.
  3. Easier to maintain, support and upgrade: A mobile web site will be easier to maintain, support and upgrade compared with separate apps for several platforms; again, you can use one set of rules to adapt code so it works  across all devices. Plus, you can release updates as often as you want.
  4. Improved results for mobile advertising:  For any online ad campaign to work, you need to have a great “post-click” experience. It’s no different for mobile. Where will your mobile ad take you? A well-designed mobile landing page will likely be your best bet.
  5. Performance will keep getting better: Mobile browser performance is already improving with HTML5, accelerated CSS, and better JavaScript.
  6. Better UX is within our grasp: Some mobile web sites already offer an excellent user experience. As companies direct more resources, innovation, and focus on mobile customers, mobile UX will improve greatly. Here are a few great examples of mobile Web sites:,,, Amazon. For additional mobile design inspiration, check out these well-design pages courtesy of Designmodo.
  7. No gatekeeper: Anyone can get to your mobile site; unlike creating app, you are not at the mercy of someone else (e.g., Apple, Google) who controls entry into the app store.
  8. No revenue-sharing is required: App stores demand some pretty significant revenue-sharing agreements, before they’ll agree to accept your app. Not so with a mobile Web site –you keep control over your entire revenue stream.
  9. Better for search and SEO: Unlike an app, mobile Web pages can be crawled and indexed by search engines. This is important so users can discover your content through searches on relevant keywords. In addition, other sites can link to your mobile Web site content, which will improve your search rankings (as long as your mobile site and main Web site are hosted at the same domain).
  10. You just don’t need an app:  Assuming you’re not creating a graphics-intensive game or building features around tightly integrated capabilities of the device, a mobile site is going to be just fine.

In the end, you need to be clear on what audience you want to reach and how quickly.

If you already have a large number of customers who expect to access your services from their mobile device, you may opt to develop apps for multiple platforms and a mobile site.  Otherwise, set your priorities, consider the issues noted above, and think about where we are headed. I believe mobile Web sites and hybrid apps (skinned browsers) will beat out the App universe –except in the case of games and certain business apps.  Why? For the reasons I mention above, plus just take a look at how SaaS products continue to erode the sales of many desktop applications.

Books, Publishing, and Marketing for Authors

Over the last couple of months, several people I know have approached me to assist them with marketing their recently published books. This got me thinking about the direction of the book publishing industry and how author’s are better equipped than ever to reach out directly to their potential readers. Yet, most authors still rely on their publishers to market and promote their books.

The book industry is going through a massive change, not unlike the music industry already has. E-Readers are getting a lot of recent attention, but there are huge changes occurring for authors, publishers, and the marketing of books. Here are a few insights I have gleaned:

  • Book Publishers are Dead – Just like the record labels, publishers are no longer necessary to create and publish your book. With a manuscript in hand, authors can now publish on their own through services like Lulu,, iUniverse, or CreateSpace (an Amazon company). Sure, there may be some upfront expenses, but those costs are fairly low and will continue to drop given options like ebooks and print-on-demand.
  • New Content Distributors for Books – Who will own the new method of book distribution? As with LPs and CDs, paper books will largely give way to ebooks. The new ebook distributors will control the marketplace. The winners? We’ll see. Those with eReaders are getting an early start, but I’m betting on Amazon, GoogleBooks, Apple (think Tablet PC + iTunes + eBook Store), Sony.
  • Social Media for Marketing Books – There are many ways for authors to directly reach out and get found by their target audience. Similar to traditional marketing, the first step is to understand your audience: who are they? where are they? what do they need? But unlike traditional marketing, using social media and inbound marketing let your potential customers find you. A great place to learn more about this is HubSpot. HubSpot provides excellent and free resources (including Inbound Marketing University), plus they actually use these practices in marketing their own business. 

So, my message to authors is “get found.” Understand your audience, create useful content for them (videos, blogs, articles, ebooks), optimize your content (make it easy to find), then promote the hell out of it (Twitter, Facebook, RSS feed, join/create community). It will take work. You may need help. But unless you already have celebrity author cred, you have no choice.

How Often Should You Post Updates?

Are you posting too much, too little, or just right? Everyone has an updating frequency sweet spot, they just need to find it.   Posting updates to a blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or whatever social network group you belong to each have their own nuanced behaviors, but here are a couple of helpful hints to guide your urge to update:

  1. Only post when you have something to say – enough said.
  2. Don’t be a stream hog – too many posts over a short period of time tend to dominate a readers update stream; and that’s annoying.
  3. If posting updates gets in the way, then you’re posting too often – if you’re posting updates obsessively during family meals, dating, talking to your spouse, driving, or instead of paying attention to personal hygiene, then you’re posting too often.
  4. More posts can get you more traffic, links, views, followers, etc… up to a point (see #2) – Sure, assuming you have lots of interesting, insightful, useful, funny, or outrageous stuff to share, frequent updates will keep you’re audience more engaged. But don’t over do it.

In other words, yeah, it’s mostly common sense. 

Marketing in the Present

Wow, the world of marketing and PR has changed so much in the last few years. It’s no longer an option to rely on traditional means of advertising and communications to get out your message. In fact, you are no longer in control of your message.

For anyone trying to grow a business, trying to communicate with customers, it’s time to embrace the current state of affairs. This means letting go and reaching out using new strategies, tools, tactics and technologies. It’s not about announcements, broadcasts, or controlled messages. It’s a conversation. And how do you start this conversation?

A great conversation begins by having something to share that’s interesting, engaging, provocative. Next, you need to be responsive and remain alert as these conversations emerge, spread, and evolve. Whether you start such conversations yourself, or not, you need to participate in them. Start one, find one, change one, just be part of the conversation.