Mobile App, Mobile Web, and Responsive Design

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on October 21, 2014

in technology, website

©monicaodo/DollarPhotoClub

©monicaodo/DollarPhotoClub

The data is clear. More and more people are accessing the Internet via mobile devices. Total mobile access of the Internet exceeds that on desktops. Therefore, it is important for all Church communicators to be sure that when mobile users access their website, it is a user-friendly experience.

User-friendly means several things:

  • That the content users are seeking is easy to find and succinctly presented
  • That the website loads quickly
  • That the presentation of the content adapts/responds to the screen size of the mobile device

 Content Needs to:

  • Answer the questions and address the needs of your specific audience
  • Be direct and to the point: providing who, what, where, when, how information
  • Be supported with good images
  • Be up to date

Speed

A website or app needs to load quickly. You can find out the page speed score (out of 100) of your website at this link; https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/. This site will tell you the page speed score for both mobile devices and desktops. Enter the url for your site to get your report.

According to seochat, the normal speed for top ranking websites is 78.52 to 83.04 for their Google Page Speed score. This does not mean the speed is necessarily great, but good. Anything above the 83.04 score is very good. The Google Page Speed indicator makes recommendations on how to improve your score if you are interested.

The Layout of the Site Is Suited to Different Screen Sizes

A website with a responsive design automatically adjusts to the size of the screen whether it be desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. (If you are not sure if your website is responsive, read my previous post Responsive Websites Are Here for a Reason.) For many current websites, a responsive design requires a whole new design. This may not be the best option for you at this time, so you may consider creating a separate mobile website. You would select the content that would go on the mobile site and repurpose it for mobile. One of the issues with this is that you have to keep two separate websites up to date.

The other option is to create a mobile app for your content. This would not replace your website, but would complement your current or future responsive website and could draw content from your website.

In the technology world where all this gets debated, there is much discussion about mobile apps vs. websites (mobile or responsive). But from what I have been able to discern (not being a techie myself), it seems that both mobile apps and websites will continue as users switch between devices all the time.

If I lost you any where in this post, I apologize. Even if we are not technology experts, we do need to know enough to bring mobile technology into any discussion about a new website for a ministry and we need to insist on getting technology professionals to help us create it. Some of us may prefer not to have to think about all of this.  In our personal lives that may be okay, but in our professional ministries, we do need to think about it. If we are not the ones who will implement it, we have to be the ones who support it.  We cannot bury our heads in the sand and hope this all goes away.  That is not going to happen.

I will be writing more about mobile apps, because they do have some advantages over mobile/responsive websites and those are good to know.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

 

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

angela ann zukowski October 21, 2014 at 9:46 am

As always, your words carry a lot of practical wisdom, all should adhere! Thanks!

SAAZ

Travis Gear October 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Thanks for your insights Sister!

FWIW, here are my thoughts:
I’ve seen good research lately that indicates that most people use mobile apps primarily for games, productivity, purchasing, social media, and general entertainment. The one thing that many people don’t use apps for is news (less than 2% of time spent in apps is for news related content). In general, many people prefer to receive their news via mobile optimized websites. Here is an article (http://www.theverge.com/2014/9/2/6096609/welcome-to-verge-2-0) from last month from one of my favorite tech/news websites who decided to kill all of their apps (check out the second paragraph). In my opinion, the parish website is intended to keep people up to date via news, which is why I encourage mobile responsive websites rather than apps.

Some argue that the value of the app is to push notifications to users. I see great value in that, but I think there is a better way to approach notifications. Here’s my theory: I think app adoption will be low, but I think people will give you their cell phone number without thinking twice. So, rather than push updates out via an app, why not send text messages? According to this article (http://www.tatango.com/blog/sms-open-rates-exceed-99/), 99% of all texts are read; and 90% of texts are read within three minutes of receiving them. That is extraordinary, and can be very useful to the parish that uses texts wisely.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND October 21, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Dear Travis,

Thanks for taking the time to respond and for the links. I found this information in the first link from the verge.com especially helpful:
Most major smartphone platforms have gotten much better at saving a website to your home screen…. In Safari on iOS, it’s a tap away in the Share menu, the square icon with the arrow sticking out. In Chrome on Android, it’s an option under the menu. On Windows Phone, it’s also an option under the More menu. This eliminates the need to go to the browser and enter the url.

In my research, I came to believe that the push notifications are a big plus for the app. Your theory that people will give you their cell phone number without thinking twice may or may not be true. We would have to test that. When a person signs on to notifications from an app, they remain anonymous. That is a plus for some. Also, I think (you can correct me if I am wrong), push notification are free, text messages are not. And there is always the question of who is your audience? Is it only those in Church on Sunday or is it more far reaching?

I am inclined to believe that a responsive design is the best place for parishes to start and most parishes are not there yet, so they have plenty of work to do. That is only the design issue. Very few parish websites recognize that their most important audiences for the home page are visitors and new comers and then parishioners who are looking for something specific i.e. the Christmas schedule. That is a lot more work, before we get to a mobile app. I have been researching companies that specialize in parish apps and most of them provide in addition to the basic parish info: (Mass schedule, contact info, etc.) direct access to other Catholic web resources: prayers, scripture, daily saint, etc. That is a plus especially for young adults and possibly for seekers.

I will be writing more about the services I found in the future.

Joe Luedtke October 23, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Sr. Susan,

You are absolutely correct. It is now a mobile world. At LPi, we host websites for now over 500 Catholic churches, on our website product, WeConnect (www.weconnect.com). I can see clearly in our Google Analytics that just over 20% of all traffic to these 500 some sites is coming from a SmartPhone with another 19% coming from iPads. In short, if you’re website isn’t a responsive design or at least mobile aware, you’re missing 20-40% of your potential visitors.

Do a simple test, from your phone, go to your church website. Can you find your mass times, contact info, map/directions, and the event calendar? These are what the majority of your site’s visitors are looking for. If you can’t easily find these functions, you’re parishioners or visitors are missing out.

Joe

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