Are you considering building a mobile app? We’ve been getting a lot of requests lately. Often, we’ll suggest that we build it as a mobile website and not a native app. Why?

Native apps are great if your goal is to monetize software, but they don’t make a lot of sense if you simply want to provide mobile content or functionality to as many people as possible, as easily as possible. Think about it: Native apps must be downloaded from a store. That’s a hoop for your customers to jump through, even if it’s offered free. You must build unique versions of the app for each supported platform (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry,) which can be expensive. And then it must be approved by each store, which can cause delays.

In contrast, a mobile website runs on any device that supports HTML5, requires no one to approve and distribute it, and can be updated any time you want.

You might be surprised to know that the new LinkedIn iPad app is almost entirely built in HTML5-based mobile web technology. It’s getting rave reviews for its elegant design and responsive performance. VentureBeat has a great article about LinkedIn’s new iPad app.

The mobile web strategy isn’t for everyone. If the app you have in mind requires a really unique user experience or functionality, it might still be best to build it as a native app. But for 95% of our clients, building a mobile website makes a lot more sense.