App or Mobile Web?

Granted, my perception right now has a great deal to do with working at one of the premier mobile web companies in the space, but for me, it’s no contest – I think that mobile web is where companies should be investing their money.

Not every phone will have or can even download your app, but every phone has a browser.

Do I Really Want Another App?

Before, it used to be bandwidth-related, but with increasing penetration of 4G LTE speeds, it’s becoming irrelevant whether someone can download your app or not. Most users simply don’t want to litter their phones with apps that provide no appreciable value above packaging the same functionality as a website.

Amazon Does it Right

Personally, I find that Amazon’s mobile site is great, and I’ve used it both to do research, and to purchase many items. The simple, pared-down, fast-loading interface works just great. I’ve downloaded the Window Shopping app, and have never used it. I”m not going to change my behavior to make my shopping a rich experience – I just want to find what I want, and buy it.

Like Apple’s ID, an Amazon account with 1-Click enabled is as close to a frictionless mobile commerce experience as you’re going to find. In retrospect, the much-ridiculed “patented” 1-Click checkout seems so well suited to mobile, that I would say that a combination of that and Amazon Prime memberships boosts conversion to legendary levels, allowing them to dabble in hardware that’s slowly getting better and better, treading on Apple’s turf, and even taking them head on.

A Truly Mobile Experience

Amazon's product page
Amazon’s typical PDP (product display page). Many options here

One thing that Amazon does brilliantly is not try to squeeze their entire site into a mobile screen. They just focus on what’s important for the purchase decision, and makes it easy to buy.

First, let’s take a loo at their desktop experience on a PDP (product display page).

Note the dizzying number of options. Granted, Amazon are masters of the A/B test, so this wouldn’t look like this if it didn’t convert, and convert well.

You’re seeing everything above the fold on a laptop screen.

Note what fits above the fold on mobile – amazon-camera-mobile
title, image, price, and star rating.

You have to scroll down to get to the buy button. Something tells me that users don’t have a problem scrolling, as based on Amazon’s very scientific approach, there would definitely be a buy button above the fold if it converted better.

Even though I have a bookmark for Amazon saved, I never use it – I simply open up my browser, and go to

I absolutely hate it when I try and go to a mobile site, and they prompt me to download their app, even if I already have it installed. Links at this point are not smart enough to go to the installed app, so I go to mobile web site, which is fine, but the site should eventually know whether I have the app installed or not, and not keep asking me every time to install the app (talking to you, LinkedIn).

What I like here is that they’ve thought through the mobile user’s mindset and goals, and have crafted an experience that they have then rigorously tested.

And it shows. This is one fine-tuned mobile commerce machine.

Amazon just gets it right, making an app completely irrelevant.

Go mobile web! And go mobile-specific – not just a rearranged desktop site responsively reorganized.

More on that in an upcoming piece.


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