December 6, 2011
Students are accessing information differently than before. They aren’t always checking our website from their rooms or even
laptops. More often than not, students are accessing our information from some sort
of mobile device. For sake of argument in this post, I’m going to identify “mobile”
as either a smartphone (Internet capable) or a tablet (such as the iPad).
Often times, we hear "there’s an app for that" or "visit our
mobile site," but what’s the difference? Simply put, mobile sites should be
useful when looking for static information, whereas an app needs to do
something. For example, an app could find you the closest open parking spot in
the city or identify the song to which you are listening. These apps are doing something for you. A mobile site it
better utilized as a way for someone to search for a particular answer, for
example, utilizing a mobile website for a Campus Information Center.
So, what’s better? Well, it depends on your goal.
Apps can be fun; they can have extra features and really engage your
audience. However, apps can be expensive to develop. You need to create at
least two versions of the same app to be accessible on the two main mobile
platforms—iPhone OS and Android OS. However, you don’t want to leave your
Blackberry audience in the dark. You’ll also need to have someone on your
staff, or be willing to pay someone, that can update the app regularly and be ready to
troubleshoot any issues.
A mobile website, on the other hand, can be more easily
created and edited to add new content. Yet, you can’t
incorporate phone functions, such as tweeting, camera functions, or location services with a mobile site like you can with an app.
So, what should you use? What are your goals? What
information or experience are you trying to convey with your audience, and how
can you share that information or experience in the most seamless manner? What
are your resources? At the very least, utilize some of the students you work
with and have them access your office’s website on their mobile devices. Is
your website even mobile-friendly?
Mobile devices are here to stay and are becoming
cheaper and more easily accessible, particularly to incoming students. Student affairs professionals need to ensure that we are
engaging and informing our students where they are at—whether on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
Does your school or
department have any sort of mobile presence, either through an app or
is the Manager, Campus Information Centers at University of Michigan–Ann Arbor.
Campus Information Centers serves as a resource for university and community guests and members. He is also responsible for the social media strategy for University Unions, which encompasses three union facilities, retail spaces, student activities, and food operations. In this role, he helps create the overall strategy for incorporating social media with the marketing campaigns as well as other uses of technology.