mobile app or a responsive website

Which is better? A mobile app or a responsive website

You may be wondering whether a mobile app or a responsive website is a better option for your visitor attraction, heritage centre or tourist destination? You’ll almost certainly have a responsive website already in place. This will serve-up information to mobile, desktop and tablet screens simultaneously. So why would you go to the additional trouble and expense of commissioning a mobile app?

It’s a valid question indeed, and the reasons can be manyfold. But firstly let’s discuss your mobile responsive website. Generally speaking, most of these websites are built using WordPress, which is a brilliant content management system (CMS). It’s a fact that WordPress powers over 40% of the internet (an estimated 810 million websites!). It’s a website system linking visual interfaces with menu systems to backend databases of assets. The capabilities are endless, with an extensive range of plugins available to extend functionality.

Responsive websites can’t do it all!

It’s true however that responsive CMS websites cannot do it all. By this we mean that because they have to perform such a wide variety of tasks, they are prone to getting bogged-down. The requirement to serve neat layouts to a wide range of screen sizes and shapes including mobile being onerous. And you could argue that WordPress wasn’t originally designed for visually orientated mobile experiences. Asking it to do so on mobile screens also, may be the proverbial straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back. Particularly if your attraction’s WordPress installation has numerous plugins installed. This brings us back to the question about visitor-on-arrival information delivery. Is a dedicated mobile app or a responsive website the best option?

So in reality, your responsive website can deliver information to mobile screens, but it’s not an optimised solution. Information and page opening may be slowing down, and mobile responsive website menu systems are never that easy to use. But there are additional factors that visitor attractions should consider. Particularly when it comes to visitor-on-arrival information provision:

Key information streams for visitor attractions:

  1. MARKETING – promoting your attraction to a wide audience in order to bring in visitors is a vital function of your website. The SEO function is particularly important to consider. It’s essentially about gaining the maximum exposure out there on the internet.

  2. GENERAL INFORMATION – your attraction may have events, general information and reference that you’d like to be available on your website. The ability to add information whenever it becomes available is important.

  3. MERCHANDISE SHOP – your responsive website may be hooked-up to a POS inventory of your merchandise. This will help in the drive to increase revenue generation. Your WordPress website is the best place to have this facility. This is because cart and payment methods are fully supported, efficient and reliable.

  4. VISITOR ARRIVAL INFORMATION – your visitors will need a specific range of information that is particularly focussed on arrivals. So for instance, a site map showing where all the facilities such as the toilets, cafe are located. Also the ability to show visitors where highlights are located. Also narrative and information on exhibits, perhaps even providing augmented reality experiences?

As you can see above, your responsive website will need to perform 4 important functions. The reality is compromises and conflicts may arise from expecting this many functions to work well simultaneously. The more you ask your CMS responsive website to do, the slower it usually will become – it’s a fact!

Boosting delivery of visitor information

The introduction of a mobile app boosts your website by unburdening it from function 4. Visitor Arrivals Information. A mobile app will provide a clean, dedicated arrivals-focussed experience for your visitors. Issues such as merchandise, ticketing, etc., can be kept within your website, but linked through directly from the mobile app. This removes complexity and alleviates the burden of technical issues. Essentially meaning that you don’t need to run two systems in tandem, only a single one. And your WordPress attraction website now has only 3 functions to serve.

Conclusion – mobile app or a responsive website?

If you want to serve information to visitors on arrival at an elevated visual and experiential level, then the best option is a mobile app. This will leave your responsive (CMS) website to do what it does best. In terms of answering the question regarding whether a mobile app or a responsive website is better? A mobile app will provide a highly focussed visitor experience for guests on arrival, with interactivity for smartphone users built in.

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