It seems difficult to grasp that just 15 years ago websites were leading the fore for technology. Every business became quickly aware of just how vital an always working, online representative of their company was.
Today, however, tides are swiftly turning. Mobile devices such as Smartphones and tablets have, as of 2014 (comScore 2015), overtaken desktop in terms of time spent browsing online, with experts also predicting that by 2020 there will be a staggering 6.1 billion people in possession of a Smartphone (Digital Trends 2015). This has led the industry to coin a term for this ‘new digital age’, known as the ‘Post PC’ era. It is because of this, that there are intense debates about whether or not apps could eventually take the place of websites.
In this article, we explore the growing domination of apps and assess just how viable a world without websites could be.
As of 2012, app usage was already taking up 82% of Smartphone users’ media time (comScore 2012) and so it seems that the domination of apps over websites has been a long time coming!
Another force that will drive further change over to applications, is the growing importance of Millennials to consumer markets; this tech savvy bunch are already four times as likely to have their purchase influenced by Smartphone applications over and above any other target demographic (Symphony IRI Group 2012).
However, despite these staggering statistics the rate of application adoption by businesses has been somewhat lacklustre, with only 41% of businesses reportedly recognising the importance of mobile apps, and an even less impressive 7% having put a mobile strategy in place (Information Week 2013).
Despite the unstoppable growth that is the popularity of applications, there will almost certainly always be a need for websites. We will still need websites to introduce us to a company, through a search engine or alike, although the most innovative of companies could and should find a way of transforming their visitor to a Smartphone application user, if the conditions are right.
There are five core areas that call for a business to commission its own application:
- Interactivity is required
Interactivity goes hand in hand with an application, where features can allow for the storage of data; a prime example of this is gaming apps.
- Where the app is regularly used and personalised
Applications are ideal for providing the user with the ability to personalise their experience, and essential for apps with regularly used features (such as Evernote, accounting apps and workflow apps).
- Where complex calculations and/or reporting must be undertaken
Complex calculations and reporting features can work seamlessly within an app (such as those features found within the average banking application).
- There is a need to access the Smartphone’s functions
Mobile browsers are today becoming ever more advanced, and as such, they’ve come a long way in relation to how they can work alongside your mobile’s functions (key examples include Click to Call and GPS). However, applications pip the average mobile browser to the post when it comes to accessing features such as the Smartphone’s camera and being able to capitalise upon the phone’s processing power.
- Where you want to provide offline access
Offline access is a non-negotiable when it comes to the debate between applications and websites, with the former being the only way of providing features and functionality when unconnected to the internet.
There’s undoubtedly a continued shift toward application usage over and above the traditional website when it comes to consumer behaviour, however as it stands, there are still plenty of situations for which an application solution isn't right. That said, for the business with clearly defined marketing goals, where there’s an aim to deliver customised content and functionality more akin to a computer programme than a website, the first choice will always be an app.
With so much having changed over the course of a mere 15 years and with a solid proportion of our time already committed to apps, rather than websites, who knows where we’ll be 15 years from now...