Maybe You Shouldn’t Build An APP For That
A mix of curiosity, envy and cynicism draw me to a legal marketing website award program. The envy and curiosity are logical, right? Perhaps I should explain the cynicism.
In a recent Legal Marketing Association website award competition, I was alerted to the three finalists in an email received while I was commuting on the Metrarail train to work. I navigated to the finalists’ websites on my Android smart phone.
Cynicism 1 – An app but no mobile site?
I was not particularly surprised to see that none of the award-winning contender law firm websites had a mobile style sheet for their websites. Even though most attorneys at large law firms have been carrying smart phone devices as company standard issue for years, apparently few have actually considered that maybe their clients, prospects, referral sources or prospective recruits would actually visit their website using a similar product. So when they designed their shiny new websites, mobile was not in the design spec.
Cyncism 2 – An iPhone app because …..?
However, what especially struck me was that one of the non-mobile law firm websites was touting a great new innovation. They had built an app. Moreover, it was an iPhone app. And their home page told me I could get it free by leaving their website and going to the iTunes store and downloading the app. Well, that was just fine. But I have an Android phone. And this app doesn’t work on my phone. And it’s a horse race to see exactly what app might be the right one to get behind, if any. Google and Apple are battling it out and Microsoft is making a substantial effort. Only this month, Nielsen report that Google’s Android mobile operating system has beat out RIM BlackBerry and Apple iOS to become the number one mobile OS in terms of consumer market share in the U.S., But I suspect that all the attorneys in this firm have iPhones, so, well, an iPhone app it is.
Cynicism 3 – And I should acquire this app because …..?
The huge image on this law firm’s home page featuring their app did not share with me any benefit I might derive by downloading this app, even if I could. Nor did it link to an internal page where I might learn why I might want to bother downloading another app onto my device. I suppose it was just assumed that with a big enough image and a featured spot on the home page I would, of course, need to have this app. But, sorry, I am not convinced. Even if they made the image bigger!
Celebrate Mobile Web Experimentation
Cynicism is cheap. And the truth is that at this early stage in the game I’m willing to celebrate every organization that steps forward to experiment with new media and new ways of doing things. This is especially true of law firms whose marketing efforts are terribly constrained by their individual state bar associations and by the lawyers, themselves, who are generally not early adopters. So “A” for effort and leadership.
Therefore, let me draw a constructive point. An organization has to develop an online mobile strategy. Don’t just race off to build an app. There is an order to the way things should be done and it relates directly back to business objectives. That is, there is not a standard right way or wrong way. Yes, I believe that, in most cases, a mobile website should precede the development of a mobile application. But there are too many exceptions to make this a rule.