Not necessarily, but you do need a mobile friendly website! Current statistics show that smartphone users spend nearly 25 minutes per day browsing the internet on their device. Also, as of October 2012 according to the Pew Research Center, 50% of all U.S. adults own either a smartphone or tablet device.
A mobile app is a program designed to perform a specific task and programmed to run primarily on Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android platform. It isn’t necessary to build a mobile app to simply deliver your website content; in fact, it’s probably a mistake to do so unless your app has extra functionality. Your customers expect your website to be presented in a format that looks good on smartphones, tablets and computers without any extra effort on their end—without an app. Downloading an app should provide information or content to the customer that can’t be easily distributed via a web browser.
Mobile apps have two major shortcomings compared to mobile optimized websites. First, a mobile app needs to be downloaded and installed, either from a website, or typically from a Google Play for Android, or Apple App Store for iPad. Second, if you have changing information such as store locations or product information, the user may need to update the mobile app as often as each time they use it. A mobile optimized website, on the other hand, is always available simply by visiting your URL, and is always updated with the latest information that is displayed on the website.
There are numerous options to make your website mobile friendly and run like an app for mobile users.
Responsive web design
The latest advancements in HTML5 include responsive web design that allow your site to behave like an app allowing website content to be delivered seamlessly on multiple devices with different resolutions. All new website development projects should consider mobile responsive design.
Pro: Design once, deliver everywhere
Con: Takes more upfront development time, more rigid design guidelines
Here are some resent projects: (hint: need to use a smartphone or resize your browser, pretty cool!)
Mobile WordPress plugin
If your site is developed using WordPress, you can install a WordPress plugin specifically designed to show your web content on a mobile device. WordPress is a CMS tool that keeps your content separate from your website design which allows multiple versions of your website content to be delivered to different devices.
Pro: Cost effective, gets the job done.
Con: Limited visual appeal, plugins not easily modified
Check out these samples: (hint: need to view from your smartphone to activate plugin)
Custom mobile website
A custom mobile site is a separate website usually hosted at a different URL than the main website, i.e., m.domain.com or www.domain.com/m/, and is automatically loaded when a mobile device is detected. Mobile sites don’t usually emulate the main websites content verbatum, usually the most popular content is delivered, which speeds up the user experience.
Pro: Create highly optimized content for specific mobile devices
Con: Requires maintenance of two separate websites
Here are samples can view, and try adjusting the size of your browser window to see how the displayed elements changes. (hint: check it out on your smartphone too!)
Responsive web design provides you the best option if you’re building a new site or revamping an existing one. More and more HTML5 features are tapping into your smartphones technology like GPS and camera. For many website owners the trend is to provide more mobile app like functionality from a web browsers rather than a native IOS or Android App.
Whichever approach you choose to take, do not ignore the mobile user experience!