The Blog

by Cole Parsons

Choosing to Build The Right Mobile Experience

With smartphones snagging more and more web traffic each month, brands continue to find themselves facing a key mobile experience decision: native app or mobile web app.

You likely know the difference, even if you don’t know the difference. Native apps are like Instagram or Candy Crush. You download them at the app store and they live on your phone. A mobile web app can offer a native app-like experience, but really it’s just a swanky mobile version of a URL that’s running on your browser.


Last week, Jake Cohen, COO of Privy in Boston issued an on-point reminder about native apps: just because you built it doesn’t mean they will come. His blog entry, “why you’ll abandon your branded app in 12-24 months” is penned with the restaurant industry in mind, but certainly worth a read regardless of what type of brand you manage.

Getting consumers to download and use your app consistently is really, really hard.

We actually encountered the Native App v. Web App question when developing We knew we could build a useful resource to help drivers find cheap parking in Seattle, but what was the smartest way to ensure consumers adopted it and continued to use it?

WSDOT actually has a pretty all-encompassing native app. It includes real-time ferry info, traffic maps & cameras, pertinent social feeds, border wait times and mountain pass info (all the things you like to swear at). It’s a one-stop shop for any Puget Sound driver. And while parking rates & availability in Seattle garages and lots is similarly helpful, it’s much more specific info set and not a behavior likely to be repeated consistently enough to require a native app (nor the extra step to download it).

Of course, there are many variables in all this (product, platforms, connectivity, maintenance, etc.). One that Cohen reminds us to think about is the associated marketing effort. Fortunately for us, is the name of the brand. Like 1-800-Flowers, it has a built-in call-to-action. Plus, there was already a year-old marketing effort driving people to the URL, so it seemed unnecessary to add another layer. It ended up being a fairly straightforward decision.

THE VERDICT? Web mobile app.

And not a moment too soon. Nearly 70% of inbound traffic to is coming via mobile or tablet.