Even as it has plunged into mobile app development with Android, Google’s first love has always been the Web. That’s because Web sites can be discovered and indexed by Google’s servers, which helps explain a new promotional effort designed to encourage small and medium-size businesses to build mobile Web sites.
Called GoMo and hosted at howtogomo.com, Google’s “initiative” is a slick-looking Web page designed to educate businesses on the value of having a clean and comprehensive mobile Web site. Amazingly, it didn’t really work for me in Google’s Chrome browser (was fine in Safari and IE) but the site encourages businesses not to settle for a mobile strategy based around apps, citing internal research about the growing number of mobile Web searches and a preference among consumers for shopping information delivered via the mobile Web.
Obviously, it’s in Google’s core interest to put more information on the Web, as opposed to within apps that its servers can’t see. But the company has a point: mobile Web sites work on any kind of phone and can be tweaked and updated without forcing the user to download and install a new version of the application. And given how many searches have local intent, local businesses could be missing out on marketing opportunities if their Web site doesn’t render well on a phone.
That being said, the mobile Web still doesn’t offer quite the same experience as can be delivered through native applications. Many expect that to change, however, and we’re already seeing some evidence that tablet users prefer the Web over apps when it comes to certain tasks, given the larger screen size and relative lack of tablet-optimized apps as compared to smartphone apps.
Google (NSDQ: GOOG) provides a list of third-party Web developers that businesses can turn to for their mobile sites, also pointing out that its Site Builder tool can get the job done.