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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
Planning Your Mobile Strategy
By Patrick Emmons, Adage Technologies

"We've decided to go mobile; now what?"

It's a question many business leaders are asking themselves these days. With much of the online buzz encouraging businesses to become mobile accessible, we've seen a lot of increased interest on the subject. Reaching a customer's smart phone is quickly becoming just as important as reaching their regular PC. And as technology continues to advance, business not utilizing the mobile web will be at a great disadvantage.
But there are certainly many more decisions to be made even after a business has decided to "go mobile." There are several options to choose from in the mobile environment. The one that's best for your business will depend on what you want online, who you are trying to reach and what your budget look likes.

Your first big decision will be between using a mobile-compatible website, a web-based application or a native mobile application. A mobile-compatible website will likely be the quickest and cheapest way to get your message to the mobile community. This will allow customers to search for you on their smart phone browser and find a clean, mobile-friendly website to navigate. For those seeking a more advanced mobile presence, an application may be the way to go. These allow for more direct interaction with the user and will be easier for them to access quickly from their phone.

Between the two types of applications, a web-based app will be a cheaper route. These applications are based within a website, meaning users must link to the site through their mobile browser to use it. The other option is a native mobile application. These are downloadable apps that will put a link right on the user's phone for the quickest and easiest access. Native applications provide the most functionality and oftentimes, the highest user-loyalty because of their placement directly on a smart phone.

If you choose to provide an application for your customers, be aware that you shouldn't take everything off your website and simply drop it on an app. Too much clutter can cause a slow and confusing user experience. There may be a time in the future when more functions are possible but ease-of-use should still be your main concern. Just as computer users used to be impatient with dial-up or DSL internet service, so will mobile users waiting for complex pages to load. Sit down with your business team and lay out exactly what you want your users to get out of the app. Then make sure it does exactly that, and nothing else.

For those deciding on a native mobile application, your final decision may be the toughest. As you're well aware, there are several different phone platforms to develop for. The iPhone, Android, and Blackberry smart phones all require separate programming so developing for all of them can become very costly. And that doesn't even include lesser used platforms like Microsoft's Windows, Nokia's Symbian, Palm/HP and others.
All of these platforms also have varying development costs. Many current business have decided to design apps for just the iPhone and Android devices, as they are currently the two most popular. Blackberry's app market is quickly falling behind because of its challenging development environment. Because Blackberry features versions with a track ball, touch pad and full touch screen, separate applications must be developed for each device. This can get very costly and is why the Blackberry app market is lacking compared to that of the iPhone and Android.

All these options should be considered when it comes to preparing your best mobile strategy. If you're simply trying to reach the most users, perhaps all you need is a mobile-ready website. For those seeking applications, a web-based app may be most cost-effective but a native app could provide a better user experience.

Making the right decision comes down to who you are trying to reach and how you'd like to interact with them. Cost will certainly play a part in the decision, especially for developing applications. But there is little question that "going mobile" will only become more popular as the smart phone industry progresses. Businesses looking for a better way to reach their customers should discuss their options with a developer now.

About the Author:
Patrick Emmons is co-founder of Adage Technologies and an accomplished technical architect with more than 15 years of programming and web development experience. Prior to Adage, Patrick was a principle for another web development firm and also worked as a developer and consultant for Ameritech, Motorola and Baker Robbins.
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