When navigating today's mobile marketplace, one of the biggest questions ministries often face is how to best engage through mobile devices. Do ministries need apps? Is a mobile site the best option? Are ministries best serving through web sites with responsive designs?
All three mobile options serve specific purposes and have advantages and disadvantages. Your ministry and mission will determine which is best for you.
A mobile site is an independent, sister site to a main web site and is designed especially for a device. These sites have a unique design and distinct navigation which results in a hybridized version of the website. Many elements from the site are used, but typically mobile sites have a smaller menu, fewer pages, and more links to actionable or interactive elements such as Donations/Giving, media, and events. These sites have sizable buttons to click, and much of the static overview content is removed to keep things simple for the user.
If you have a desktop site in place a mobile site can be added with little to no adjustment to your current site. However, additional management of the content and images may needed to ensure that the mobile site looks great.
Mobile site examples:
One of the most interesting ways websites can be adapted for mobile use, responsive designs include all the elements on the website – every page, every image, every word; nothing is cut. The website is designed to automatically resize and adjust the users' view based on the device they're using. This route requires a ministry to make the most use of the real estate on site pages and keep content tight and to the point.
With the increase in mobile use - smart phones and tablets - a responsive design is a great option for ministries that want to serve all of their content seamlessly no matter the devices being used.
Responsive site examples:
Apps are the most interactive of the mobile options, and they allow ministries to serve users an enhanced user experience–one different than they would receive on the main web site. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that an app needs to do something. It needs to allow users to take action.
An app best serves a ministry when the organization has a platform with multiple users, logins, and account management, or when the ministry has significant media to push to users. An app then becomes an extension of the website and is a great partner in creating access to a ministry's content. Also, apps allow content to be pushed to users through notifications, which a mobile site is not able to do.