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Are websites still relevant in the age of the app

It almost goes without saying that the modern business requires some form of online presence. Upon hearing of a company, prospective and current customers routinely check the internet for any online information before they take the next steps toward a product or service. With the rise of smartphones and the so-called app economy, this common routine has become more immediate for the sake of convenience. People might search online for the brand, and they might then head to the App Store or Google Play to see what they can find. This leads to new business decisions about the way a company communicates effectively and appropriately to it prospective clients.

Is a desktop website still necessary following the emergence of mobile apps?

According to comScore, in 2015 the number of US mobile-only users surpassed the number of US desktop-only users for the first time. Whilst the uplift from 2014 to 2015 in mobile-only users was relatively slight - from 10.8% to 11.3% - the number of desktop-only users dropped from 19.1% to 10.6%. Yet, what these figures also disclose is that 78% of the digital population is multi-platform, using both desktop and mobile platforms.

During 2016, StatCounter Global Stats found that mobile and tablet devices accounted for 51.3% of internet usage worldwide in October, compared to 48.7% for desktop. This seems to confirm the continuing relevance of websites and while the trend toward mobile usage is undeniable and important, to concentrate solely on mobile interaction would be to miss out on the opportunity to reach the near 49% of users who would prefer to find a company online via their desktop computers. It appears that we have arrived at a time of “mobile first”, but not “mobile only”. The app economy is maturing to find its long-term place in our new daily routines. Of course, until the next thing arrives!

Choosing what’s right for your business

There are many factors to consider when deciding on how to commit to the online presence of a company. As with most things in life, the available budget will largely determine the decision. The typical cost of a successful mobile app is upwards of $10,000 to build across multiple platforms (iOS, Android, etc.) with various design features. For smaller budgets, it might be best to consider concentrating on a high-quality website rather than overstretching on both.

It is fundamental to consider what would best serve the business specifically in its interactions with users. Do you need to deliver information in real-time? Do you need it to work well across many devices? If being mobile is your core differentiation from competition, a bad app is likely to be more damaging to a business than not waiting for a high quality app.

Quality, not quantity

The number of app downloads doesn’t tell the full story. Data presented by mobile intelligence company, Quettra, shows that the average app loses 77% of its daily active users (DAUs) within the first 3 days of it being the installed. Within 30 days, this number jumps to 90% of DAUs. Clearly, just providing an app for your business is not a guaranteed deliverer of success. It is also interesting to note that the number of app store applications has dropped significantly in 2017, which might be in response to the trend that, according to Flurry Analytics, only 36% of apps are kept after one month and only 11% for 12 months. Is the novelty of apps wearing off or is it just settling down into its long-term position in market? Clearly, engagement with users is key but also to measure the quality of that engagement.

So, both?

The above data on mobile versus desktop users suggest it is still important to deliver a great overall web experience. An unimpressive website is likely to result in the loss of not only a web user but an app user as well, whereas a convincing experience on one platform can often lead to further use of the other platform. Visiting a website or using an app can generate interest in a product or service, and a positive web experience will encourage valuable client use regardless of their preference for mobile or desktop access.

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