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Google: Why a Mobile Site Over An App?

Google in its adSense blog has offered some pearls of wisdom about prioritizing between mobile sites or mobile apps. Aren't apps the step-change evolution over mobile sites? Not necessarily, advises Google’s app expert Tuyen Nguyen, who offered some questions to consider.

First, decide how you want users to access content. Mobile sites require users to have data access, while apps enable the user to cache content to consume later. Some instances where this is particularly useful are tourist information, maps, coupons, and in mobile ticketing.

Second, identify how users currently access your content (e.g., by using the Platforms report on the Performance reports tab in an AdSense account). Understanding the devices with which users access a your site helps you to tailor content for the best mobile experience. If most visitors come from feature phones (unlikely), a smartphone app would be useless to them.

Third, identify how you want users to interact with your content? Mobile apps enable you to tap into phone features that do not exist on a desktop browser (e.g., GPS and embedded cameras). These device features are increasingly available throughHTML5 libraries on newer devices.

How “in flux” is your content, and do you need to change it frequently? Updates to mobile sites are instantaneous and require no action on the part of the user, whereas they may be required (depending on the device and mobile OS) to reload an app.

An excellent illustration of that last point is TicketsNow, a Ticketmaster subsidiary. Its own research revealed that more than 25% of ticketing-related web searches occurred on mobile devices, but it knew as well that mobile ticket buyers require the least possible steps to make a purchase. The company considered building a mobile app, but recognized that a mobile site would work across platforms and be easier to update: Its content is by definition constantly in flux, as the company added new events or had to announce that one was sold out.

In the first after launching the mobile site, the average order value from mobile devices increased 8%, while the conversion rate grew by a sustained 50% and sales by 100%. The company claims its return on ad spend increased by 30%.

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