Mobile health applications have taken off as opportunities for public health intervention coinciding with the increasing usage of mobile phones and mobile phone applications in everyday life. A search for “mobile app” in the Journal of Medical Internet Research returns over 1,000 results.
While some of these applications are certainly changing the way we approach our health and lifestyles, some of them can also do more harm than good. As a result, the FDA has developed guidance for the development of these applications to ensure their safety.
However, mobile applications aren’t the only option for providing health information and interactive experiences to users on mobile devices, though they’ve become an incredibly popular option. Many mobile applications could likely be created as websites using responsive web design to make them easily viewable from computers, tablets, smartphones, and so on.
This is especially important when thinking about your target audience. While younger audiences might use their phones regularly, older individuals might be less inclined to use a mobile app, but they might visit a website from their computer or tablet.
A website with responsive web design will also work across platforms (so users can switch between their phone, tablet, computer, or other devices) and will likely take less time and money to develop. They’re also easier to update and maintain for longer periods of time.
Also, if any of your users are like me, they might hate downloading yet another app to take up space on their phone. Apps contribute to clutter on your mobile devices and take up storage space that could be used for pictures, music, emails, and other content.
In a rush to utilize new technologies and meet users where they are, some of these mobile health applications have come out poorly.
Turner-McGreivy, et al. (2016), available from PubMed Central, provide a great comparison of responsive-design websites versus mobile applications, including an easy-to-use table.