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iphone4There’s a big shift in how people are shopping these days. “Let me Google that and see where I can buy it,” or “let me find a discount on Coupon Sherpa” are showing up in everyday conversation.

And people are searching for these things on their smart phones. If you want a chance at capturing these potential customers, you need to cater to their on-the-go search habits. That means you need a mobile website or application for your company — or both.

If you’re wondering about the difference, a mobile website is a condensed version of your site, optimized for viewing on a smart phone. The content and navigation are simplified and the images are minimized.

A mobile application is a self-contained program that runs on a smart phone. For example, Starbucks offers an app that lets users find a store using GPS. Chipotle has an app that lets you build, order, and pay for a burrito right on your phone.

If you haven’t thought about what kind of mobile presence your business needs, it might be time. Here are some questions to get you started.

  • Who’s your audience? Are they new customers, who might need to find you using search? Are they loyal customers who might appreciate a special app?
  • What are your goals? Sites and apps can have radically different purposes. Are you trying to build brand awareness? Provide information? Encourage a call or a purchase?
  • What functionality do you need? Based on your goal, what functionality is required? For example, do you need to track and store a user’s GPS info? Does the app need to be usable if there’s no Wi-Fi or network signal? Does it need to run heavy animation?
  • What device do you want to run on? iPhone? Android? Blackberry? Unfortunately, each platform has a unique language and process for pushing out applications, and its own internet browser. That means a site can look great on an iPhone but awful on a Blackberry. On the other hand, a site that works well on all platforms may need to have a generic look and feel.
  • What’s your budget? As always, you may need to balance your goals and budget. Maybe there’s a strong business case for moving your company into the mobile space – so it’s worth it to stretch your budget. Or maybe mobile access isn’t critical for your business. In that case, scaling back on both budget and goals makes sense.

As with everything in business, there’s no cookie-cutter solution. Mobile apps and sites have awesome potential — but you want to think about what’s right for your business before you take action.

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The idea that you need a PC to browse online is nearly as old fashioned as, well, the Old Fashioned. Now more than ever, people use their mobile devices to do everything—from finding the recipe for a classic cocktail, to ordering repair parts online, to writing cell phone novels.

What’s more, U.S. sales of AT&T-based iPhones are expected to reach 21.3 million by 2011. With those numbers in mind, making your content mobile-accessible seems less of an option and more of an essential, ongoing consideration.

At Atomic Interactive, we help customers adapt their web content to the mobile world in a variety of ways:

  • Create an application that has value to your audience. Coming up with a concept for your application is a great place to get started. Ask yourself a few questions: “What do my clients want?” “What struggles are they having?” “Is there something fun I can share with my customers to get them excited about my product or service?” We can guide you every step of the way from concept to completion of your application.
  • Fitting your site to its users. With mobile-formatted websites, we use code to sniff out your clients’ browser preferences based on the device they use to find you—whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, or mini Netbook. Your content is then displayed in an easy-to-read, mobile-size format, with the most important information up front.
  • Using the latest technology. Since websites are much easier to update than applications, we’re using the latest web-development technology, such as Ajax, HTML5, and CSS3, to make functionality extremely user friendly, device-specific, and even downright sexy. We know how to optimize graphics to display well on both large and small screens, for example—so we don’t shortchange traditional users or overwhelm mobile users.
  • Helping you navigate the “app” universe. Apps—the quirky, convenient applications that present information in personalized ways to mobile device users—are a great way to get multi-channel exposure (e.g., at the iTunes Appstore or the Android Market).

But how do you know which options to invest in, and whether they’ll attract customers? Our experts can help you review the online marketplace and make sure that a mobile application adds value to your brand and is useful for your customers. After all, even if you have a great app, if it’s not properly marketed, your target audience may not know it’s available.

We build sites and applications using clean code that prevent disruptions that can send mobile users running to the virtual competition. We also help prioritize your information with the mobile user’s briefer browsing habits in mind. And we always test our work from the most popular mobile platforms to be sure the content views correctly.

Want to learn more about maximizing your Web presence? Use your mobile device to find us online, send us an e-mail, or ring us up the old-fashioned way.