Mobile apps and NGOs / NPOs: Pros and Cons

January 21, 2017 12:00 AM

At the earliest stages of considering whether to publish a mobile app, NGOs / NPOs must consider the pros and cons of mobile apps. The following information is very handy for people interested in using technology for Non-Profits/Social impact. The list considers various aspects of app ecosystems such as platforms, devices, usability, and user behavior.


  • Offering choice: With the steadily increasing smartphone user base, mobile apps are a key channel to interact with users. Offering an NGO’s stakeholders both the website and app based means of interaction can help both user acquisition and retention.
  • User experience: Mobile apps provide the best means of taking advantage of a smartphone’s features. No matter how well designed a website, it cannot replicate the usability of a native mobile app.
  • Feature set: By virtue of their design and usage context, some of the features smartphones offer cannot be replicated on websites. For instance, push notifications, once enabled by the user, are significantly more effective via mobile apps than on websites.
  • Always on: Since smartphones can be assumed to always be on, the nature of user engagement is vastly different as compared to a website. This usage context offers opportunities - high probability of users noticing notifications is one example – which can be leveraged when designing the app.


  • Need for upgrades: Unlike websites, apps need to be upgraded regularly if only to comply with the platform’s technical specifications. This is the outcome of app platforms being closed ecosystems whereby the platform operator exercises control in ways not possible on the open web.
  • Multiple editions: While there has been a reduction in the number of mobile operating systems, app publishers are still faced with the decision about which platforms to publish on. Though hybrid app frameworks provide a workaround, it comes at the cost of user experience thereby further complicating the decision-making process.
  • Investment: Despite the range of options available for publishing an app, the app development process is significantly more investment intensive than website development.
  • Performance tuning: Ensuring that an app is feature rich without being bloated is a challenging task.
  • Device fragmentation: Owing to the high degree of variability in device characteristics ranging from screen size to hardware capabilities, app publishers must give careful consideration to the design process. While the advantages of good design may offset the investment, an organization with resource constraints may not be able to afford the escalation in project cost.
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Weighing the pros and cons before deciding to publish a mobile app is imperative

While opening up a key channel to interact with users, mobile apps require regular upgradation

Some features offered by mobile apps cannot be replicated on websites

However, mobile app development process is significantly more investment intensive than website development


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