So, you need to get your brand online. Unfortunately, you’re not an IT professional and the options you’ve been presented with are overwhelming. How do you choose what will work best and spread awareness about your brand the furthest? You don’t even know what you need: a website, a web application, or a native mobile application (iOS or Android).
The first thing to know is that there are important differences, but these differences are becoming increasingly gray.
“Website” has been used as a catch-all term for just about everything online. Everything on the Internet is a website, right? Kind of.
A website is a collection of publicly accessible pages (or page, sometimes you just need one to get the job done!) that share a single domain name. Websites can be created, edited and maintained by you, your IT department, outside sources, or whoever else you choose. When you put all the websites in the world together, you get the World Wide Web.
The variety of websites on the World Wide Web come in a nearly endless variety; from educational sites to government sites, news sites to social media sites, e-commerce sites to forums, if you can dream it, you can find it. Pages within a website are usually a nice mix between text and images (so finding a designer with web experience is always a plus for making a stand-out site), but there’s no rules dictating the form of a website. It can be whatever you want it to be.
Ever wonder what the endings on websites mean, like .com, .org and more? Originally, websites were categorized by their top-level domains. Government entities were given .gov, education institutes were given .edu, non-profits would be .org, commercial websites would end with .com and informational sites would be given .info. Although you still see these extensions on the web today, they say little about the website’s actual content. Today, the .com extension is the most popular in the world, sometimes used in conjunction with many other country-specific extensions.
A web application’s primary purpose is to be an instrument, like silverware on a table. The web app runs in a web browser, though not everyone sees the same information. The best example of a web application is Google Drive. If you use Google Drive, you might not think of it as a website– even though it’s hosted on the Internet– you’re probably more likely to consider it a tool, or an instrument, that helps you collaborate with friends, family and coworkers. It serves as a vault, that only you and those you choose to share the information contained in your drive can access. Other common web applications include: webmail (like Gmail), online retail sales, online auctions, instant messaging (remember AIM?), wikis and more.
Native Mobile Apps
A native mobile app is a special tool for a special purpose; they’re designed to operate well on a mobile platform. Of course, a web application can work, but a mobile app is typically easier to navigate and work as it’s made specifically for mobile. Native apps live on the device and are accessed through different icons on the home screen. When you release a mobile app, you’ll have to make sure you create an on-brand icon that will live on the home screen of a phone and accurately represent your brand– not an easy task with the space that you have. Native apps are installed through an application store; iPhones access through Apple’s App Store, Android devices typically will use Google Play.
They’re developed specifically for one platform (though brands can release different versions of the app for different devices) and can take full advantage of all the device features– such as the camera, the GPS, the accelerometer, the compass, contacts, microphone and more. They can also access the device’s notifications system and send push notifications, alerting the device owner of updates and other in-app information.
Mobile apps are necessary if you’re creating a highly interactive tool or game that will be accessed by phone, like Candy Crush or Angry Birds.
Deciding What Fits Your Needs
It can be difficult to decide what you need, especially when there’s so many options. If you’re producing something that’s only meant to be consumed, you really only need a website (with a mobile responsive design). If you’re trying to create a tool that’s different for each user, you should go with a web application; a basic web application will work just fine on all platforms and cover most of your needs.But, if you’re wanting to do something special, you might need a mobile application.