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Do I need an app? What about a mobile web site?

The other day I was asked:
I was told that when I start my business I need to get a domain name, a web site and an app. Do I need an app?
Though I love apps and the amazing things you can do with them, they aren’t for everyone, or even most businesses. I’m going to argue that mobile web sites are more important and better than apps for most normal businesses.
If an app isn’t going to be your business, or an important part of delivering it, then don’t worry about it, focus on your mobile web site instead.
My mobile web site?
Imagine a person out with friends who has your service recommended to them. They google your name and then one click later should be on your web site. Or the person browsing on their phone who comes across a mention of your company. They follow a link and are on your web site. So your web site, seen on their phone, is how most people will get to you. You can expect around 70% of your web site traffic to come from mobile phones. The percentage varies by industry, but is high and is only going up. This is why lots of big companies now have the mantra mobile first!
The gotcha lots of people fall into is having a good web site when viewed on a computer, but poor when viewed on a mobile phone. I’ve fallen into this trap before, and it came from building my web site on my computer. It was then natural to make it look good on the computer in front of me, with how it looked on a mobile phone being an after thought. I swap it around these days and make sure that it is good on a mobile phone first, and then consider how it appears on a computer.
It is far easier to start with a site that works well and looks good on a mobile phone, then to make it work on a desktop computer. The other way around is a lot harder. Starting on mobile makes for a better site too, as simpler is better. On a desktop you have too much space and the temptation is to fill it up, often ruining the user experience.
The great thing is that most normal things you might want to do with a web site are services that you can buy off the shelf. If I want to sell products I use Shopify, if I want to provide a training course I’d use Teachable. Managing and tracking client requests and issues? That would be ZenDesk. All these under my own web site. There are services out there for everything.
Web sites have another advantage over apps when you consider people encountering you for the first time. With an app a person has to find out it exists, decide whether it is worth installing, go the App Store or Play Store page on it, install the app, then run it. While people might browse a web site to see what it is all about, they need convincing it is worth the effort to install an app.
In summary, if you are a normal business then you probably don’t need an app, but you do need a good mobile web site. You can also do most things a modern business needs with off-the-shelf services.
You can plug all these services into your own web site if you are tech savvy, but it is often less effort to let a pro take care of it all and have it ‘just be done. There are lots of companies that can help, but one I know and trust is Louise Blackburn’s company Amber Couch.