Your Options For Mobile Friendliness: Responsive Design, PWAs, AMPs, and Native Mobile Applications
As more people turn to mobile devices when surfing the web, it is essential that your website’s user experience is as mobile-friendly as it is desktop friendly. This means ensuring that your site is responsive for mobile users, and displays and functions correctly for all mobile operating systems (such as iOS and Android).
If it’s not, potential customers viewing your website from their phone are likely go elsewhere. That’s a lot of potential customers you could be missing out on.
The good news is that all this can be avoided by simply making your website more mobile-friendly! In this blog post, we are going to be looking at some of the ways in which you can do this.
Generally speaking, there are four main ways in which you might go about making your website mobile-friendly. These are responsive design, accelerated mobile pages (AMPs), progressive web apps (PWAs), and native mobile applications.
We’ll now take a more detailed look at how each of these solutions work, and how you can use them to improve your website’s mobile-friendliness.
Responsive web design
Responsive web design means building a website that is optimised for both desktop and mobile users, so that it displays and functions correctly on both types of devices. A focus on responsive web design should be something you look for as a priority when choosing a web designer.
When building a website, there are two main design standard practices that professional website designers may use: mobile-first, where the mobile version is designed first, followed by the desktop version; and desktop first, where the website is designed for desktop first, then mobile.
Generally speaking, mobile-first design is viewed as being best practice within the industry. However, the desktop first approach may be favoured for certain businesses or types of websites.
For example, if the majority of your website or application’s views come from desktop devices, a desktop-first approach would be favourable. On the other hand, if most of your views are coming from mobile users, a mobile-first approach would be preferable.
The decision between mobile-first and desktop-first web design will be made based on your website’s analytical data. This will tell your web designer about your site’s key demographics, user groups, and targets, and help them to identify which design approach would work best for you.
Regardless of whether the mobile-first or desktop-first approach is used, the key is to ensure that your website is viewable by users on all platforms. At a minimum, the information on your website should be correctly displayed, even if its design is simplified for mobile viewing. However, depending on your budget and goals, you might choose to go the extra mile and make your website’s entire design viewable for both mobile and desktop users.
It is important to note that responsive web design alone is not sufficient to meet the needs of your website’s mobile users. Because of this, it should be used in combination with other mobile-friendliness solutions, such as AMPs, PWAs, and native mobile apps.
Accelerated mobile pages (AMPs)
Did you know that over half of all mobile internet users will navigate away from a page if it doesn’t load within the first three seconds? That’s why it’s so important that you ensure your pages are optimised to load near-instantly.
One of the ways in which you can do this is with accelerated mobile pages, or AMPs. This is a type of digital ecosystem developed by Google.
It enables pages to load almost instantly by “lazily loading” the less important elements on a page, whilst loading the page’s most important elements (such as the content your users will be looking for) more quickly and effectively. Essentially, an AMP optimised webpage will load more quickly than a standard webpage.
AMPs are often recommended as a mobile friendliness solution for eCommerce websites. It is also a popular choice for websites with a large volume of text-heavy pages – for example, news and media sites or journals.
With that said, this sort of website optimisation may benefit any website with a news or blog section, as it will ensure your content is instantly visible before your three seconds are up.
The main downside to AMPs is that they don’t incorporate any of the special extra features offered by other types of optimisation, such as PWAs and native mobile applications.
Progressive web apps (PWAs)
Progressive web apps (PWAs) bridge the gap between standard websites and fully native mobile applications.
In many ways, PWAs mimic mobile applications, as they allow users to download your webpage so it can be viewed locally from their phone at any time. This increases your content’s offline accessibility (as users don’t need to be connected to the internet to view your website).
Another similarity that PWAs share with mobile applications is that push notifications can be enabled for them. Users can also add a shortcut to your PWA-compatible webpage to their phone’s home screen, so that it functions like a pseudo-mobile application.
The main advantage of PWAs over mobile applications is that you can simply make your website’s existing codebase PWA compatible, rather than having to develop a completely new application.
PWAs also share some similarities with AMPs, including that they enable near-instant loading. However, whereas AMPs can be loaded almost instantly the first time that a user visits the page, PWAs need to be loaded normally the first time, after which instant loading is enabled for all future visits.
The main disadvantage to this solution is that Apple’s App Store does not currently accept PWAs (though Apple users can still access these via the internet). The Google Play and Microsoft App Stores do though.
Native mobile apps
The final solution we are going to be looking at is native mobile applications. These are considered to be the epitome of mobile-friendliness.
The main downside to this option is that it is the most in-depth, as the mobile application needs to be developed completely separately to your website. This will usually require expertise of native app developers who are experienced with this type of app.
Many development tools exist that can help to streamline the native app development process. Some examples of the multiple platforms and frameworks that can be used include Flutter (e.g. eBay) and Ionic (e.g. Pacifica).
When choosing which mobile-friendliness ecosystem to use for your website, your decision will be guided by your site’s demographics and the specific features that you want.
Sometimes, this decision will be a simple one to make, but other times, it can be more complex – especially when you are looking to develop a single unified system that covers all of your needs.
Although this guide has provided a basic summary of your options, we understand that it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to making your website more mobile-friendly.
If you’d like more help with finding a solution that works for you, we can help. At Tomedia, we take the guesswork out of responsive website design, AMPs, PWAs, and native applications, and make achieving mobile friendliness easy.