Frank Barry recently blogged about the increasing use of mobile devices to access the web and how nonprofits should adapt their strategies to accommodate for this. With the rise of mobile applications, a lot of nonprofits getting into the mobile game are wondering whether they should start with a mobile website or a mobile application.
Without question, a mobile website is the best and easiest place to start your mobile giving. Mobile websites have many advantages over mobile applications – you can create it on a common platform so it will run on all devices; discoverability is much higher, so any constituent with web access can find your website using any search engine; and finally, you can publish a variety of content on your mobile website rather than limiting yourself to a single service.
Mobile applications, on the other hand, are generally developed to provide a specific service to your customers other than a means to donate. Some good examples are The Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app or the American Hiking Society’s HIKE app.
Some advantages to mobile apps are that you have full control over the user interface; your app can use all of the mobile device capabilities; performance is dependent on the mobile device rather than internet service; and a well-developed app can raise awareness (and sometimes revenue) for your organization.
The disadvantages of mobile apps can be fairly limiting for non-profit organizations, though. Mobile apps need to be developed separately for each type of device (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm, etc.) Mobile apps can also be expensive to develop, advertise, publish, and support. Even then, most mobile applications will fade into obscurity without a well-defined strategy or the funds to back it up.
So, what do you think? Does your organization have a service that a mobile app would be perfect for? Have you seen much traction on your mobile website?