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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2018

5 - Apps vs mobile websites



Mobile devices are rapidly becoming the main way to access online information. It seems sensible that many of us are investigating ways of making our information more accessible to mobile devices, though often in limited ways.

For most of us, the quantity of information that we provide online has exploded since the early days of the world wide web in the mid-1990s. We still provide some basic information that we may have had online since the start. We show opening times, contact details, news and basic instruction or ‘how to’ pages and guides. Since then, we may have added library catalogues and resource-discovery tools, chat boxes, RSS feeds of useful resources, social media interactions, videos and podcasts, in addition to the same basic information that we have provided for many years.

Some of this information and the opportunities for interaction may be ideally suited to mobile devices. For example, viewing an online video tutorial on a mobile screen while trying at the same time to apply the skills it is teaching on a fixed computer can be extremely effective. While they are in the vicinity of the library, your users may want to know what times you are open, and so they will find it very useful to be able to check opening-hours information on their mobiles.

However, there is a tension between the alternative ways of offering information to mobile devices. We can do it either on the web, using mobilefriendly formats, or by offering platform-specific applications, or ‘apps’. This tension has not yet been resolved. Some of the major issues are covered in this chapter, together with examples of how libraries have addressed the introduction of such services.

Meeting the needs of your users

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods of providing mobile-friendly online information. Whichever method is chosen, try to make sure that you are meeting your users’ needs rather than copying others. No matter how good looking the final result is, unless it provides the information your users want in the format they need, it will be a waste.

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