There’s an App for That! But should there be?

Responsive Web Design

The proliferation of apps for the smartphones is creating an interesting debate in both technical circles and from content management providers.   I recently read two articles that suggested the move towards Apps for the smartphone may be waning.  I love some of my apps, but I don’t like building them.  Its hard enough to maintain a good website, but now build an App too?  And is it really building one App or an App for the iPhone, Android, and maybe one day the new Windows Phone?

Google recently came out with their stance that they prefer a ‘responsive web design’ as opposed to differing HTML/CSS configurations, or separate mobile sites and apps.  Now, some of their unstated rationale is likely based on their desire to compete with Apple and keep users of the app store, but from a development standpoint, less is quite often more, and managing only one site versus multiple is often both easier and delivers a better user experience.

At the same time Google came out with their recommendation I saw a report from the ReadWriteWeb that suggests that users prefer to consume content on a Mobile device via the web as opposed to an App.  Now, there’s a few great content providing apps out there, but in general, I think they’re right.

Particularly when it comes to what we do within the church.  We just simply don’t have the resources to be building Apps or maintaining multiple websites.   We do, however, have to start planning for a mobile world.  Mobile is how more and more people are consuming content daily.  Building a ‘responsive web design’ is a little more complicated and it undoubtedly will take awhile for most Open Source and other vendors to come up with templates for it, but they are starting to emerge.  I haven’t seen one for Joomla! or Drupal yet, but there are a few for WordPress no available.

At Liturgical Publications, we recently upgraded some of our sites to be a responsive web design to support mobile devices.  You can see what I’m talking about here, http://www.weconnect.com.  Go to this site and then start shrinking your browser window.  Try and reduce your window to the size of a smart phone.  As you do that, watch the menuing and layout change.  The entire menu dynamically shifts to a mobile format as the size decreases.  In short, it responds to the format you’re on.  There’s no mobile site, no extra technology, just some HTML and CSS work.  Compare that site to our main corporate site at http://www.4lpi.com.  That site is a Joomla site and you’ll notice it doesn’t respond to shrinking the window.  This site has not yet been converted to be a responsive web design.

In order to implement a responsive web design, you need to be able to make some significant changes to your website’s HTML and CSS.  Even if you can’t do that or your current website design doesn’t permit that, its still something to be aware of.  The era of the mobile phone is upon us.  Its important that all our sites work and respond well on mobile devices.  This is something that everyone should be aware of as you look to enhance or upgrade your website.

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Author:Joe Luedtke

Joe Luedtke is the Chief Operating Officer for Liturgical Publications (LPi). Joe specializes in Social Media and Web 2.0 and is currently leading LPi’s efforts to move into the on-line world. Joe works for the world's largest and oldest social network, religion, and believes that this social network could benefit tremendously from the the proper use of Internet technologies.
  • http://www.facebook.com/karenewillson Karen Willson

    Hi, folks!  Joomla has had mobile Joomla as a free add on for a long time.  It creates a version of the site that is both IPhone and Android friendly.   Web pages do have to be redesigned a bit to look good  – picture with the text following below it, think short, thin and sweet.

    • http://www.catholictechtalk.com/ Joe Luedtke

       Karen,

      Thanks for the feedback on Joomla!  I don’t know how I missed that.

  • http://evangelizela.com/ Ricky Jones

    Great article! I have recently been reading up alot on responsive design and decided to make the switch. What has helped me the most is to think of it in terms of building for mobile first, then scaling up. It’s allowed me to severely simplify my blog (http://evangelizela.com/), getting rid of alot of the unneeded extras (like social media buttons, widgets, etc), and now I can focus more on the content and rest assured that it can be viewed on all devices.

    • http://www.catholictechtalk.com/ Joe Luedtke

       Ricky,

      Your site works beautifully.  Well done!

    • http://www.flocknote.com/ Matthew Warner

      Ricky – I LOVE the site design. Very nice!

  • Brad

    Great thoughts, Joe.  I agree that mobile is definitely something to keep in mind.  I also agree that having to create two different sites and maintain them is not the best avenue for a parish.  For those parishes that want to accommodate mobile but don’t have the resources or know-how to make their current website adaptable, I suggest the following:

    1. Look at what is priority content for your parish on a mobile device (i.e. mass times, calendar of events, contact info, directions, etc.).  

    2. Make sure that content is updated always on common mobile sites for your parish (i.e. Google Places, Facebook Page,The Catholic Directory, etc.) and promote those as the “on-the-go” resource for your parish.  

    As you point out, Joe, we shouldn’t dismiss mobile and should start embracing it and planning for it at the parish level.  Likewise, young people still loving texting so what are your suggestions for affordable text alert tech for parishes?  I haven’t looked into those much because I’m bad about being not-so-crazy about texting although I find myself doing it more and more.  

    • http://www.flocknote.com/ Matthew Warner

      Brad – Flocknote has become very good for text alerts (including the use of a free keyword on our short code to text in and build subscriptions). And we use a very affordable method for text notifications – so we’re far less expensive than pretty much any bulk texting services out there.

      And I completely agree with the article as far as app vs mobile design. I think we’ve been app happy for awhile and assume everything needs to be on an app. Apps make sense for some things…but not just to have them. Most content centric sites just need a good mobile (and/or responsive) design. Thanks for the post!

      • Brad

        Matthew,

        I think the text alert part is an awesome feature (as wellas so many other great features) of Flocknote, and texting often gets overlooked.  Studies are showing that younger folks are texters and often times we think only social networks when it comes to young people.  Texting makes sense and is a great alert system.  

  • Isaac

    Another good example of responsive web design is the University of Notre Dame’s website: 
    http://nd.edu/.

    • http://www.catholictechtalk.com/ Joe Luedtke

      I would hope for no less from Notre Dame. Very nice! Looks great on an iPhone.