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Wasting Money? There's an App for That

Article date: Fri, 25 May 2012 11:11 GMT

Neil Lathwood, technical director at UKFast

Businesses in the UK are investing badly in developing mobile apps rather than focussing their time and money on creating one strong mobile site.

'Forget apps' is the warning from a panel of web development and e-commerce experts who gathered at a round table event held by hosting specialist UKFast.

"With the phenomenal popularity of smartphones and tablet computers, businesses have flocked to developing expensive apps for every device and platform," explained Neil Lathwood, technical director at UKFast. "What these businesses don't seem to realise is that one, really great mobile site can do the job of all of these apps."

Research suggests that the average cost of designing, developing and deploying an app is around £20,000 per platform - a hefty combined cost when considering iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android, and Windows Phone platforms. Panellists agreed that the cost of developing one mobile-friendly site would be much lower.

Although smartphones have simplified the purchasing process and put sites literally into the palm of the buyer's hand, John Pinnington, head of e-commerce at Rare London suggested that mobile commerce is shifting to tablet computers rather than the small screens of mobile phones.

He said: "Fifteen to 20 per cent of our sales are made by people viewing the site from mobile and tablet devices, but we must recognise that iPad is different to most mobile devices - it's similar to using the desktop version of a site.

"In two years time I'm certain that laptops will be a thing of the workplace only, so, from a retailer's point of view, I have got to be looking at iPads and tablets as well as phones, and I would simply say forget apps."

Alex Ormandy, digital operations manager at Liverpool digital agency Yoma, explained that although a mobile site may be better in the long term a 'horses for courses' approach is the safest option as apps can provide a simple and cost-effective entry into mobile commerce.

"We built an iPhone app for one of our clients, using Magento. It's a nice, quick entry into the app world and it only took us around five days, whereas when we integrated a client's website with their mobile site, it took around six months.

"However, when you look at the features and experience, the integrated site is much better. The iPhone app is a nice, cheap, easy way to move into mobile commerce but most people are talking about mobile-optimised sites which, I think, is the best way to go now."

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