Customer Experience, Evaluating Mobile Solutions: Mobile Website, Native Application or Responsive Design
While companies eagerly shell out thousands of dollars for an app’s development and launch, too often, they fail to evaluate all of their options and end up choosing one for every reason but the right reason -- resulting in a sub-par product. 

When starting out the mobile development process, one major question every company faces is whether to build a mobile website, build an application based on a specific platform or go the responsive design route. While all have their benefits and disadvantages, it’s necessary to evaluate your own resources and end-users’ unique needs before deciding which solution to pursue.

Here are four things to consider when determining which solution is best for your business:

1. Determine your “must haves”

The first step before diving headfirst into the mobile development process should always be to determine your requirements and then rank them by prioritization. In order to ensure your solution is actually useful and isn’t full of unnecessary features and costs, you must think long and hard about what users need and want in your mobile solution.

Spend an ample amount of time requirements gathering and utilize your end-users, employees and key stakeholders to identify the critical items of your mobile project. Spending time analyzing your requirements up front will save you time and money in the long run.

2. Are your requirements feasible?

Now that you’ve pinpointed your must haves, identify solutions that encompass them. Can responsive design or a mobile website fit your business needs? Or, do you need the benefits of a native application?

If your only choice is to build a native app, determine which business critical items match the platform you’re developing on. It’s possible that necessary items can be covered by either an iOS, Android or Windows environment.

3.Don’t assume the capabilities of different mobile solutions

It can be very easy to make assumptions about how certain mobile platforms function and how features may perform, but to save you costs in the long run, don’t rely solely on your judgment. Fully test your native application, mobile website or responsive site in order to make a fair assessment of its capabilities. From here you can determine what other functionalities or customizations you’d like to add.

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4.Will this scale for tomorrow or hold me back if I try to make future updates?

One of the most important steps in choosing a mobile solution is to determine if it’s feasible in the long term. While a native application may be compatible with your desired features today, does it have the capabilities to meet your requirements down the road? Do you have the budget to enhance and maintain two or maybe three native applications?You might have to sacrifice some features to match your budget.

No matter how perfect your app may be there will always be a flood of positive and negative user feedback once it’s released, which will guide you in determining what to include and remove in the next build. However, if your chosen solution makes this process difficult and doesn’t include everything you’ll need for future builds, you’ll be forced to settle with disgruntled users or to start all over with a new solution.

To avoid wasted frustrations and costs, you must look for a solution that fits you today, but also one that provides you room to grow into.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that what might save you money upfront, could end up costing you in the long run. To avoid this scenario, it’s extremely important to identify and prioritize your requirements.

Title image courtesy of Sunday102 (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more by Roy, see his Windows 8 Should Be the Choice for Touch Business Apps