September 26, 2013
Church Mobile Apps and Websites
Determining the best way to expand your church's digital presence
The authors of Mobile Persuasion warn that "developing a mobile 'experience' is fundamentally different from a web experience. The experience is not only 'smaller,' but should also be 'smarter.' They go on to conclude that "being mobile is much less about technology, and much more about culture, connectedness, and fundamental human needs."
As you consider making your digital presence compatible with mobile devices, you will be confronted with the decision of just how to do so. Your first thought might be to quickly develop a mobile app that users can download to their phones to obtain information about your ministry. But this is probably not the best first choice for going mobile.
A mobile app is an expensive proposition, and it will only run on one type of mobile device at a time. For example, if you create an iPhone app, people with Android phones are out of luck. Each app takes several thousand dollars to create, so this may not be the best use of your funds.
Instead, I recommend the first step that any ministry take is to simply ensure that their existing website works well on a mobile device. A mobile website works on all mobile devices and costs about the same as creating an app (see chart below). This may require taking some time thinking through how a mobile version of your website should look and spending some money on designing it. You may want to simplify what people find there. For example, many people using a mobile device to find your site may be looking for an address to plug in to their GPS, so you may want to make that easily available on the mobile version of your site.
Once you have your website working well on mobile, then it is time to consider if you also need an app. A mobile app can provide a very engaging experience for your users and can be an improvement over a mobile website. [This] table offers several comparisons between apps and websites:
Website and App Comparisons
|Channel||Cost to Build||Percentage of Mobile Phones Reached||Number of People Per $|
|Mobile App (iPhone)||$30,000||16%||1,254|
|Mobile App (all platforms)||$90,000||48%||1,266|
Developing for the mobile environment, at least in 2013, is not a simple task. But just as developing for the computer-based browser has become so much easier in the past few years, I believe that developing for mobile devices will also become much easier. One simple solution for developing for mobile would be to simply become part of a site that already has a mobile interface. For example: YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter already work well on mobile devices, so creating a presence on one or more of these sites will automatically put your organization on mobile devices.
In March, we reported on seven insights on church digital strategy that David Bourgeois presented in a Christian Leadership Alliance webinar.
For information on the risks and liabilities involved in online activity by your church, check out Untangling the Web, Using Social Media Safely, Defamation in a Digital Age, Best Practices for Technology Usage, and Essential Guide to Copyright Law for Churches.