If your business is looking to go mobile, think web before native app

An InformationWeek survey of almost 900 people involved in their companies’ mobile strategies found that developing mobile apps is a top priority for many businesses. While 52 percent of respondents said their company offered smartphone apps, and 41 percent have tablet apps, only one-third said their company maintains a mobile website.

But InformationWeek‘s Art Wittmann rightly argues in this piece that building a good mobile website should be the No. 1 concern of most businesses looking to leverage mobile. A single mobile can be accessed by a wide variety of devices — including the feature phones that are often overlooked — while native apps address only specific segments of the market. Wittmann also points to a 2011 Pew study that found many people either don’t download apps or don’t use many of those they have downloaded. And then there’s the constant struggle to bring attention to your app among hundreds of thousands of other titles in Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Businesses who feel compelled to deliver a rich, immersive experience may want to make native apps their top priority, of course, and this certainly isn’t an either/or proposition — most big businesses will want to offer native apps as well as a mobile-friendly site. But a good mobile site enables businesses to reach more users at a lower cost than developing native apps. And as I wrote several months ago, most businesses should consider building that mobile site from the ground up rather than tweaking PC-centric sites.