We live in the age of mobile, smart and digital, where entrepreneurs around the world increasingly embrace the start-up culture. While this is an attractive model, it doesn’t come with an instructions manual so plenty of decisions need to be taken. One of these decisions is picking what type of platform to develop on. Let’s explore the differences between mobile vs web development if you’re a start-up.
If you’re already doing research to inform your choice you’ve probably analyzed the world-class brand activating in your field. Whether your business is social or rather technical, successful brands serve as an inspiration and a best practice model. When we look at companies like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, it seems like the majority of them are now mobile-first. This is due to mobile’s high accessibility and convenience. Still, this doesn’t make a rule of prioritizing mobile over web apps.
Pros and cons
These two types of platforms both bring pros and cons that can weigh on your list. Let’s start with web apps since they’ve been around for longer. The main advantage of web apps is that they don’t need downloading. This makes them better in terms of compatibility since they are available on any device connected to the internet. Therefore the operating system is not a barrier. In addition, web apps have a wider reach as their only access requirement is an internet connection. When regarded from a more critical perspective, we notice a disadvantage: the web app is unreachable offline.
Mobile apps also have their strengths. Since they require the user’s action to download them, they score well on retention. The users are more likely to revisit a mobile app since it is visible on the user’s device. This enables the user to interact and fill in their preferences, so it allows for personalization. Available both online and offline, mobile apps offer a more targeted experience and even a more attractive interface. Still, going for a mobile app for your start-up requires building it for IOS or Android. If you want to learn more about the price differences between web and mobile check out our 11-point guide of app costs.
A 3-element frame
If you already know what mobile and web apps entail and still can’t decide what choice to make, we propose three key factors that can guide you:
Product. Audience. Experience.
What’s your product?
It might seem obvious, but it turns out that sometimes start-ups lose their focus in the sea of tech opportunities. Your product is the centre of your business and you should build everything starting from it. What is the purpose you want to achieve with your start-up? You can validate your product concept with an MVP. Do you want to serve a wide audience or are you going for a specific niche? Is the need you fulfil bound to the online or does it need to be accessible offline?
There are a few essential questions that can point you in the right direction, but it often happens that clients overlook these basics. Keep it simple and straight to the point and consider your time and money resources. Building a native app is generally more costly and time-consuming, so if your web floats your boat better then start with that.
Who is your audience?
There would be no business without the user so the audience is a guiding factor when deciding between mobile vs web development for your start-up. Who is your target customer? The psychographics of your audience will help you decide if you should develop your app for one operating system or both. Let’s take Clubhouse, the app of the moment as an example. This mobile app was developed strictly for iPhone users and can only be accessed from iOS devices and it’s not even optimized for iPadOS. This choice can be put on the developer’s wish to keep it an exclusive circle, considering there are roughly 3 times more Android users than iOS users in the world.
Your audience’s age is also extremely relevant. While millennials and Gen Zs are more prone to being online and eager for personalization, older generations prefer offline access. At the same time, they might show resistance to mobile apps as their familiarity with web apps exceeds the former.
What experience do you want to offer?
You know what you’re selling and to whom, so there is one more thing to consider: is user experience (UX) a focus of your strategy? The UX can be a gamechanger as it is a key driver for users. This choice is closely tied to the previous two factors of product and audience. As you’ve probably noticed, many high-profile businesses, like Uber or Instagram, concentrate on a mobile-first approach while others, such as Airbnb and Slack, bet on the web app version.
Remember what service your start-up provides and visualise how the audience will interact with your app. Are there any specific elements that you want to bring forward? Is there a design logic behind your service or do you have a complex process the user has to complete before they get to the product? Take a look at a few apps that provide great UX and that resemble your needs and learn from their example.
Each start-up has a different story and there are solutions for all of them. Take a close look at your purpose, audience and the experience you want to offer through your service and you’ll know what to pick from mobile vs web development for your start-up. Make a list of the pros and cons and outline the needs of your business. If you have questions or need help developing an app for your start-up, we’d be happy to help you achieve your goal, either web or mobile.