The corporate question often arise these days: should I build a mobile web site or a mobile application? Well, there are already thousands or millions of pages on pro and cons but below, thanks to the feedback I got attending the Usability Week by NNGroup, I tried to summarise the essence of this discussion:
MOBILE APPLICATIONS: For highly specialized services and/or very specific content with frequent recurrent users a mobile application makes sense. Nevertheless, marketing/service positioning can be a special and valid reason for building a mobile application for the organization. (e.g. I need to have an app because my concurrence has already or is planning one.
MOBILE WEB: For all the rest(kinds & targets of users, the accessibility is the most important requirement so a mobile website is enough.There are nevertheless (at least) 2 main technical implementation options:
Keep your web site as it is but place a specialised proxy in front of it so it detects when a mobile is coming to your web site. You can easily outsource the detection and service of mobile web pages (reverse proxy or similar solutions to Adesso in Germany) as it will be impossible for you to maintain the caracteristics of each and every main mobile device out there.
Build a mobile version of a site using for instance adaptive layout (one size that fits all – average quality; see Lessframework exemple : http://www.lessframework.com/). Device detection layer (point above) can still be outsourced or insourced.
But ultimately DO NOT FORGET this: Building a Mobile Application or a Mobile Web Site…..this MUST BE a business decision and not an IT one!