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HTML 5 Responsive Design vs. Mobile Apps

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May 28, 2015

“Is there an app for that?”

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times – and not just on TV. It’s a question I field in conversations with potential clients and during product demos all the time, understandably so. It differs a little for every organization, but it’s now widely known and accepted within the industry that more than half of visitors to an event website are using a mobile device to get there. Of course, you needn’t do more than step foot on the floor of practically any show these days to know that mobile usage at events themselves is even more prevalent. So, I can hardly blame organizations for wanting to know what Ungerboeck offers in the way of mobile access. However, I think the real question isn’t “Is there an app for that,” so much as “Should there be?”

For many organizers, availability of a stand-alone mobile app for their event has become a little like a “me-too” item. It’s something else on the checklist to be crossed off without consideration of whether it’s really the best available option. For my money, that’s HTML 5 responsive design.

Certainly, there are arguments to be made for both, but for a variety of reasons, responsive design has an edge on device-specific mobile applications for events – the first of which, is that its use asks virtually nothing of the attendee.

Round 1: Usability

Unlike stand-alone apps, responsive design doesn’t require a trip to the app store. Forget downloading something you know very little about to your personal smartphone (or the hassle of removing it once the event has wrapped), responsive design automatically scales to fit whatever mobile device attendees are using to view the site at any given time. What’s more, since they’re looking at the same familiar interface they’ve been using for all pre-event interactions, there’s no disconnect between how things work on the website vs. a separate mobile application.

Mobile Apps:                     0
Responsive Design:         1

Round 2: Data

Many organizers assume that not having a stand-alone mobile app sacrifices all the valuable, real-time data capture that goes along with it. Not only can you get just as much critical attendee data from an HTML 5 responsive site as a traditional mobile app, with responsive design you get the full picture that comes along with having access to all of the digital interaction with attendees before the event in addition to what’s going on during the show (and after) in one place.

Mobile Apps:                     0
Responsive Design:         2

Round 3: Efficiency

If you’re designing a stand-alone mobile app for your event, I hope you can afford to spend a lot of extra time and money to do it! Beyond just the separate versions for Android and iOS, there are a variety of different devices and screen sizes you’ll need to account for in the design. There’s also the matter of creating and maintaining two separate systems for your website and your various mobile apps. Responsive design bests mobile apps on both counts: one design, one program to manage and update.

Mobile Apps:                     0
Responsive Design:         3

Round 4: Accessibility

This is the one area where mobile apps come close to beating out responsive design. Close, but no cigar. Just like stand-alone apps, responsive sites are also accessible even without online connectivity. Although, the depth of available information (like documents and other info available for download) is marginally less, information from previous sessions is still readily available and everything that happens offline is stored and automatically updated once a connection has been re-established.

Mobile Apps:                     0
Responsive Design:         4

Winner by TKO: HTML 5 Responsive Design

The scorecard doesn’t lie! Not only does HTML Responsive Design match up against stand-alone mobile apps, when it comes to usability, data, efficiency and accessibility, there’s no contest. If you’re interested in discussing mobile options for your next event, send me a quick This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I’d be happy to review the tapes with you!

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