Today’s mobile ecosystem is highly competitive and offers many challenges for brands. There is an increasing need to communicate clearly while delivering a cohesive experience across multiple devices.

Whether you are a designer, architect, strategist or developer, you probably have great ideas for apps and mobile websites—but making those ideas a reality is a complex process.

Here’s how I approach planning and executing a mobile project:

The first question to ask is would my brand benefit more from a native app (which offers access to 130 million US users) or a mobile web app (which reaches 55 million people across multiple app platforms)?

If you’re trying to drive awareness and consideration for your brand, consider a website or mobile website, often the user’s first stop. Users first make contact here and begin to form opinions of your brand. According to Stat Counter, U.S. mobile web traffic increased approximately 9% in 2012 and is climbing. The majority of websites are not mobile ready, so it’s safe to say there will be a lot of broken experiences.

Your digital experience is a critical touchpoint for your brand. How users experience your mobile website is a direct reflection on the quality of your products and services. A good mobile experience should seamlessly deliver the brand promise across multiple platforms. This is where responsive design thinking could come into play, developing once for multiple platforms and devices that serve up tailored experiences depending on device or location.

Talk to key stakeholders and your core set of users to fully understand where mobile fits into their wants, needs and expectations. As you analyze existing content and understand what works for specific mobile users and what doesn’t, be platform agnostic. Plan to provide prioritized content based on device or location. Throughout this phase you will want to continuously review technical and front-end implications to ensure you will be delivering the most optimal and cohesive experience possible, as well as remain flexible for the future.

When developing responsive experiences, consistency counts.

To be portable, navigation schemes should be consistent in their graphic look and feel, nomenclature systems and brand tone. Navigation should be modular so it can be reconfigured based on the device.

Iconography should also be designed to work across multiple devices and screen sizes. Look, feel and nomenclature should be shared across all touchpoints to create the proper brand and usability language.

Also, keep in mind programming for specific device gestures. This is where you add a real native app feel to your websites and mobile apps.

When looking at development platforms, be open to solutions that will let you and your content remain flexible. Keeping design and content elements modular will help you deliver tailored experiences for the desktop, mobile phone and tablets.

With hundreds of thousands of native app and mobile websites out there, attention spans and desktop space are shrinking, so how do you remain relevant?

Be sure to update your content frequently. Fresh content gives users a reason to keep coming back. Push alerts provide timely and/or location-sensitive updates to users.

Finally, be sure to listen to your users. Their feedback will help drive new features and innovation.

We all have good ideas about mobile websites and apps. To succeed, you need a relevant mobile strategy. And the time to act is now. A seamless mobile experience that brings your brand to life is no longer a “nice to have,” it’s a “must have.”

Visit Siegel+Gale for more mobile, social and design thoughts.