The right tool for the right job: Website Vs Mobile App

 In Blog, Communication

Ever find yourself in a pinch using a tool for something that it isn’t designed to do? I have. I’ve used a knife blade to tighten a screw, a shoe heel as a hammer and duct tape in a thousand different ways. If we use our ingenuity we can often make it work, but it it usually takes more time, is less effective or less efficient. In a pinch, you do what you have to do, but if you had the option, you would choose the tools to accomplish the task for which they were designed.

As a church, technology budgets tend to be tight and you have to make some hard decisions about how to invest your resources. Most churches we talk to recognize that they have a need for a mobile tool to engage their congregation, but are also aware that their website needs to be improved. In a world that has moved to a digital-first approach, it’s never been more important to invest your resources wisely. How you decide to invest those resources have a huge impact on how you connect with and engage your people.

Before you decide to invest in a new website or mobile technology, there are a few questions that you should consider: Who, What, How, Why, and When

Who are you trying to reach?

Think about how you use websites and apps. There is a reason that Google has now been added to the Webster dictionary. Most people use websites to gather information and do research. When we use apps we tend to use them again and again. Before you invest in new and better technology, identify the challenge you are attempting to improve. If your aim is to increase digital visibility for your church, a new website with powerful SEO and digital advertising will help you reach people who don’t know about or are not connected to your church. On the other hand, if your aim is to increase engagement within your congregation, you might be better off with an app. More plainly stated, your website is the best digital tool you have to reach people outside your church and a mobile app is the best digital tool to grow engagement within your community.

What is your budget?

With unlimited time and unlimited budget, we can build anything. The problem is that the two most common constraints churches have related to technology are time and money. So what’s realistic? While there are some low-cost websites, if you decide to pay to have a website built, you can pay anywhere from a few thousand dollars to well over $20,000 depending on the scope of the site. A simple informational website costs between $7K and $10K, while a midsized information site typically costs between $11K and $20K.  Likewise, building an app can range wildly in cost with the most common fees starting around $6K. Aware3 has taken some of the difficulty out of this equation by offering a variety of plans that begin at $0 per month and no cost to build and launch your customized mobile app.

How are people spending time online?

Technology enables us to reach more people in more ways than any other time in history. The technology that is available to us is changing as rapidly as how we use it. In June of 2008, 0% of online traffic came from mobile apps. The reason? They weren’t even released yet. Now, 8 years later, over 50% of time spent online happen in a mobile app.  It used to be the case that it was no brainer – more people will spend more time on your website than in your mobile app. Now the trend has shifted, but that alone isn’t reason to build an app. This trend illustrates the point that making a decision of where to invest your resources is difficult.

Why are you making the investment?

The most common reason we hear from churches that are struggling with the question of investing in a new website or building an app is that they want to extend the impact of the church. This can take many forms and be measured in a variety of ways. If you are a new church or are trying to increase visibility, a website is a good tool for that.

At aware3 one of the ways that we measure reach is by comparing a few key points of data. We begin by looking at a church’s average weekly attendance, then the number of downloads they have had of their app. Each time someone downloads your app from the app store counts as 1 download. The last data point we look at is the number of app sessions or times that someone opens the app, uses it and then closes it.
Here are a few real examples of our church partners’ data:

Attendence App Downloads App Sessions Avg. Sessions Per User
Church #1 50 100 1,400 28
Church #2 340 238 2,729 11
Church #3 4,000 3,800 46,864 12
Church #4 11,000 31,225 427,381 14

Created with the HTML Table Generator

Church # 1 has had 2 app downloads for every person that attends the church and on average the person has used the app 28 separate times. If you look at church #4, it’s as if every church member downloaded their app and then asked two of their friends to download it, too. At aware3, we have found that on average churches have download rates that exceed their attendance numbers. This is a clear way to measure extending your reach.

When will it be live?

Custom websites and apps can take a while to build. Typically there is a discovery process, a scope of work developed, site flow mapped out and wireframes created all before any coding even begins. It is normal to have a custom website take 2-6 months to build and launch based on the complexity of the site.
With aware3’s mobile app, churches have a customized mobile experience that can be released to their people typically within 4 weeks. The process of building a mobile app for your church has been streamlined and made as efficient as possible.

Our great-grandparents would have thought a world with self-driving cars, mobile video conferencing, and virtual reality were things that only lived in the mind of George Orwell and the stories he crafted. Now we have all of that and more. The decisions on how to use and invest in technology are important factors in determining the story that our churches will live out.