Web vs Mobile: The Definitive Answer To Your Development Dilemma

What should you build first, a website or a mobile app?

Web development vs app development is a common dilemma to a number of business owners looking to leverage technology in order to expand their reach to the customers.

With people spending more time on their mobile phones than ever before, mobile first development strategy is being considered the new gold rush for startups and business owners. The downside is that getting the users to download your app is a tricky task. The initial acceptance barrier is much lower in websites as compared to mobile apps ensuring a wider reach.

Developing a business website or building a business app, both are resource intensive activities. Depending on your unique business needs, you would need to prioritize by choosing one over the other.

In order to determine whether you should be pursuing mobile app development or web development, you first need to narrow down your business requirements. Here is a list of aspects that need your consideration to help you prioritize and take the best decision for your business venture.

Things to consider while choosing between web development and mobile development

1. Purpose of development

Before you launch full-fledged development efforts, clarity on the goals that you aim to accomplish as a result of software development is a must-have. What is the purpose behind the development efforts?

If your answer to the above question is something vague such as “changing the world” or “making money” you definitely are in dire need of some serious introspection.

Ideally, the software product that you develop needs to solve a problem for your target customers, provide them with enough value and then find a way to monetize on this engagement.

The goals that you wish to accomplish via your website or mobile app may vary and the choice of the platform to develop for would change as well. Does your idea involve frequent daily use as in the case of a social media platform or an eCommerce platform? If your answer to the previous question is yes, go for building a mobile app as asking users to log in repeatedly on a website is a hassle and the app provides a better user experience.

The decision always depends on your end goal. For example, if you want to increase brand awareness and visibility, building a website would be the preferable option.

On the other hand, if you have a pre-existing customer base, a mobile app can be a great way to boost engagement and provide convenience to the users.

In either case, once you determine the purpose, developing a minimum viable product is a great way of validating your assumptions at fraction of associated costs. The MVP can be the first iteration of your app, a basic version of your website or an explainer video that communicates the features and advantages that the software developed would have (along the lines of what Dropbox did prior to its launch)

2. Target users and their preferred platform

While mobile usage is ever increasing and mobile apps are bringing in a lot of revenue, the actual usage statistics show that the distribution is highly disproportionate. There are a few apps that garner millions in downloads and users but the number of mobile apps that fail to get any attention at the app stores is much higher.

On top of that, when developing a mobile app, you need to determine whether to target Android users, Apple users or should you target both iOS and Android platforms at the same time. This brings in the question regarding whether you should go for platform specific native apps or are hybrid cross platform apps a better choice for your business.

While native apps do offer a better user experience hybrid apps have a distinct benefit as they can be downloaded on every mobile device irrespective of the operating system which increases their overall reach and accessibility.

Websites fare even better in terms of reach as they have a far better chance of penetrating and reaching its intended users. Responsive website design ensures that the website developed can be accessed from a number of devices including mobile phones, ensuring a uniform user experience and wider reach at a fraction of the cost.

Keeping the target user’s needs in mind can help you choose the platform to develop for first. The best example of this is Uber. Since its target customers were mobile users out on the road, in search of cabs, it adopted a mobile-first approach. On the other hand, AirBnB’s target users were primarily desktop users who preferred to search for options to stay in advance and hence they opted for a website-first approach.

3. Need for features native to mobile phones

If you need the phone native features to be incorporated within your software, a mobile app is the reasonable choice of development. If access to camera, gyroscope, touchscreen or other phone native features are essential to your business idea, a native mobile app is what you require.

While a developing progressive web app can give you access to some of the native features using HTML5, the performance of a native app would always be superior when compared to a web app.

For example, at the custom software development company, Arkenea, a client of ours was looking to develop a product which would help parents preserve their kid’s artworks. Since access to a camera was a critical development requirement, our team of developers built an iOS application- Canvsly that went on to be featured across numerous publications, was rated among the top apps on the Apple app store and also won multiple awards.

Another feature that needs to be factored in is the offline availability of your product. Websites, web apps and hybrid mobile apps are only accessible when the user is connected to the internet. If you intend for the user to have offline access, developing a native mobile app is the way to go.

4. Cost of development

Budget is an important determinant while choosing web development vs mobile development. In general, website are relatively more cost effective to develop than mobile apps which are definitely the costlier option among the two.

As a general rule of thumb, most businesses first go for development of websites due to ease of outreach and then switch towards development of a mobile app once a considerable customer base has been established. This, of course, varies depending on what the actual business needs are but from a cost perspective, website development always trumps over mobile development.

The cost of hiring web developers is also lower than hiring app developers. Maintenance costs associated with mobile development is also lesser than app development which brings down the overall cost of development to a significant extent.

In the course of website maintenance, only the content needs to be updated. In case of app updates, the users need to install the entire update onto their phones in order for the application to function.

Whether you are developing a website or building an app, the actual development effort depends on two factors.

1. The quality of the development team hired: How to hire the best software developers? The entire process of sourcing and vetting talent to hire for working on your software product leaves business owners muddled. Needless to say, the decision is of course of crucial importance. The development team that you hire have the potential to make or break your business idea. You need to ensure that the development team that you hire consists of skilled developers to ensure the success of your project.

2. The effectiveness of the brief provided to the developers: The efforts of the development team that you hire to your on your project is only as effective as the brief that you provide them with. A well-defined software requirements specifications document clearly spells out what the project requirements are in a clear and detailed manner giving the much-needed direction to the development efforts. If it is your first time designing a brief for a development team, using an SRS template is definitely going to be helpful to you.

5. Competitor analysis

Apart from market research about customer preferences, researching the existing competitors prior to development is a necessary consideration. Competitor analysis involves a thorough study of the competitive landscape and listing out individuals/businesses which run along the same lines as you.

Once you have figured out who the competition is, find out what have they opted for. Do they have a website or a mobile app? How is the market reception to their product? Identify the gaps and figure out what improvements you can make in order to outperform them and garner more customers. In case you take the opposite approach, what are the opportunities for improvement?

For example, for Renomania, a home decor startup, the primary competitor Houzz had a website based business. After doing the research, Arkenea’s development team built a website that went from zero to 450,000 monthly unique visitors within 8 months of launch.

Web Development vs App Development: There’s No Right Or Wrong

Choosing between web development and mobile development is always tricky because of the subjective nature of the matter. While the points mentioned above do give you a solid start, the final decision depends on your individual business needs.

In case you need any help in determining the best approach for your business, our solution architects with 11+ years of experience in building web and mobile applications would gladly help you in overcoming your dilemma. Get in touch for a free consultation.