mobile-apps1June 7 Update :: As mentioned in the post below, I started sensing that a mobile website may be a better investment for nonprofits than an iPhone/iTouch App early in 2010. Some new data reinforces that idea:

comScore: Browser Continues to be More Popular than Applications for Accessing Mobile Web
CNET:
Google Android surpases iPhone in the U.S.
Pew: 1 in 5 Americans now access the mobile web each day
Search Engine Land:
Top 10 Reasons Your Website Should Go Mobile

In addition to the 5 points below, I’d like to add a sixth:

6) Mobile websites are more affordable than iPhone Apps. With a little creativity, you can use a WordPress blog as a content management system (CMS) for your mobile website, and then sign up for a mobile website service like Mofuse Premium – essentially allowing you to create a mobile website for $8 a Month.
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When I bought my first iPhone in June 2009 I was absolutely blown away. Love my iPhone. What a miraculous little tool of technology. I immediately downloaded the Apps for the social networking sites that I regularly use as well as the few Apps that were available from the nonprofit sector. In the months following my mind was ruminating and imagining nonprofits throughout the world launching iPhone Apps.

Now eight months later, with the exception of Facebook, Twitter and Pandora, I rarely use Apps on my iPhone anymore. I browse mobile websites. For those 5-10 nonprofits that are my personal favorites, I would definitely download their Apps (if they were free) and use them when I have a moment to spare while I am out and about. But in all honestly, I have shifted away from using Apps to using mobile websites more on my iPhone. That said, here are a five reasons why it might make more sense to initially invest in a mobile website over an iPhone App:

1) Almost anyone with a mobile phone can access your mobile website whereas only iPhone users can access your iPhone App.

There are 4.1 billion mobile subscribers worldwide (277 million in the United States) and just a small fraction of those are iPhone users.  iPhones and AT&T are also expensive, so your user demographics will be narrow in comparison to the general web community. Also, 57 million Americans now regularly access the mobile web, and that’s a June 2009 stat. The mobile web is exploding – especially for social networking sites. Believe it or not, Facebook Mobile is now growing faster than Facebook Desktop!

2) Mobile websites are easy to update whereas if you want to update an iPhone App, then the user has to download the Updates.

If you change the functionality of your iPhone App, then users need to download those Updates from the iPhone App Store. I personally don’t download Updates very often. You?

3) As the smartphone market expands, are you then going to also launch multiple versions of your App?

Are you going to also create Apps for Palm, Blackberry, Android, etc.? That could get expensive. To reiterate, a mobile website can be easily viewed on all smartphones.

4) Social networking sites all have mobile websites and their traffic grows every single month.

m.facebook.com, m.twitter.com, m.myspace.com, m.youtube.com, m.linkedin.com, m.flickr.com. All bookmarked on my iPhone. Easy. And as Tablets hit the mark this year, their traffic is going to grow even more. Facebook of course is one step ahead with Facebook Touch. It looks great on an iPhone and I bet it looks even better on an iPad. The point is more and more people get acquainted and comfortable with mobile web browsing each and every day.

5) Text alert campaigns need mobile websites to be successful.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago. It’s definitely not a best practice to link to desktop sites in text alerts.

Next week I’ll write about the benefits of iPhone Apps, but I really am starting to come around to the conclusion that a mobile website and text alert campaign should be the entry point to the mobile web, rather than smartphone Apps and Text-to-Give.

Related Links:
Mobile Marketing Special for Nonprofit Organizations
HOW TO: Create a Mobile Website for Your Nonprofit for $8 a Month
Four Reasons Why Nonprofits Need a Mobile Website
10 Nonprofit Mobile Websites

10 Nonprofit Text Alert Campaigns
10 Free Nonprofit iPhone Apps
Webinar: How Nonprofit Organizations Can Successfully Utilize Group Texting, Mobile Websites, and Smartphone Apps

Which is a better investment for your nonprofit – an iPhone App or a mobile website?