There's an App for...You?

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"There's an app for that!" I remember saying that as a joke when apps first started appearing, but now I use dozens of apps every day. In fact, I do practically everything on my phone. Whether it's an app or in a browser, most of my online interactions happen on my tablet or smartphone. The same probably holds true for your advocates. People spend more and more time on mobile devices - more than 50 percent of their time on average!

So, what's the best way to reach these advocates? Will a mobile-friendly redesign of your existing website work? Or, do you need a full blown app for your organization? Let's review your options.

Responsive Design 

Responsive design refers to a site that operates on both mobile devices and desktop. Responsive sites respond to the screen size in use and shrink or expand based on the device. You may need to adapt your navigation or change your button size, but most responsive sites look similar to the desktop version.

How do you know if a responsive site work for you? Here are some of the advantages and drawbacks of this mobile experience:

Pros

  • Adapting your current site to a responsive design can be cheaper and faster than creating an app. 
  • A responsive site is easy to update and maintain. Changes you make to the desktop version are immediately reflected on the mobile version. 
  • With just one URL, your advocates can quickly locate you online no matter what device they're using. 

Cons 

  • Your site still depends on your user's Internet speed and connection. Poor connectivity could mean a poor experience. 
  • User experience varies widely depending on the device. 
  • What's easy on desktop may not be so intuitive on an iPad or an Android device. You may need to create different pages and forms for mobile to make your site work across platforms. 

Mobile App 

Should you invest in an app for your advocacy organization? If you have an event or a special advocacy tool, an app could be perfect for you! But, an app also has limitations. 

Pros 

  • You can build a custom app from scratch and make it fit your exact needs. 
  • Apps run locally and don't get slowed down by poor Internet connectivity. 
  • Every time an advocate looks at their phone, they see your app! When they close the web browser on their device, the app stays visible on the screen. 

Cons 

  • Apps are expensive. There's no getting around it. In some cases, developing an app can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. 
  • Keeping your app updated can prove more difficult than maintaining your website. 
  • You need a different version of your app for every operating system. Otherwise, your app only works on certain devices. Plus, every update to your app must be reviewed and approved by the app store; limiting your flexibility

As you consider your mobile options, remember that you don't have to rush. Take the time to weigh the pros and cons and discuss with your team. Have you tried an app or do you use a responsive site? What other options did you consider? Tell us in the comments! And for more information on building a great advocacy website, visit the Digital Advocacy Institute.