Should I first build a mobile app or a website?
The question is similar to the chicken or egg dilemma. Which platform should come first to bring immediate value for your business and users?
While the mobile web is now booming and apps are dominating the scene, web-only applications have gone nowhere too.
Trying to figure out which platform will work best for you product idea? Our team at Alty prepared a 5-step checklist to help you with that.
But before moving to practicalities, let’s have a look at some popular products and their reasoning behind choosing a certain product platform.
Products That Nailed Their Platform From Day One
Instagram won over 100.000 first users during the first week after the launch. At that time mobile photography was growing in popularity after the release of the new iPhone with a very decent camera. Hence, the founders chose to target hip iPhone users first with a simple, elegant photo-sharing app, which looked rather unique at the market at that time. They waited with an Android version up till the mobile market share reached 50% and ignored the web space for quite awhile.
Uber knew that people care to order a taxi instantly from their phones e.g. when leaving a bar, restaurant or nightclub. The company wouldn’t have made it so big if relying on web application during early days, as they would lose the competition with the usual taxi services. They also eliminated the need to count the right amount of cash and get change by making payments smooth and simple, with a price stated in advance. Another quick win over taxis.
Snapchat decided to ride the rising mobile first lifestyle wave and target Gen Z, who is basically living in their phones. As teens were tired of constant ramification on other social networks like Facebook, Snapchat broke in with their option to share pics freely and privately to a selected circle of friends. The app actively discouraged from saving photos and hence, created an overall more carefree, fun social experience with a perceived layer of privacy.
Airbnb understood that users want to look at the property pictures on larger devices and study all the details carefully from a desktop device, rather than a mobile app. Besides, their famous Craigslist hack that skyrocketed the startup’s growth would hardly be possible on a mobile app.
Google Analytics is a data-heavy app with loads of chats, data and functionality that is easier accessible from a desktop device. Online marketers and website owners still can get a quick glance on the latest stats on the go via a mobile app, yet most of the times the app is accessed through web interface.
Invision and Mockup.io are professional tools for designers, which spend most of the days in front of huge desk screens. While both products do offer mobile experience as well and easy sharing to present your mockups on the go, they are primarily used during desk work.
JIRA targeted software development companies, which also do the vast majority of their work on desktop devices. With all the robust features and complex chats, it’s hard to imagine this product as a “simple app” as it would immediately lose its value for target users.
Noticed some patterns for the reasoning behind choosing a certain platform? In general, it all boils down to your target audience – how, when and at what occasion they will interact with your product.
And here’s a 5-step checklist to help you answer those questions.
Step 1: Scoop Your Target Audience
Research the market and create a brief outline of your ideal user. Study your competitor’s and their products; run a quick survey on Quora or Reddit; or tap into discussions on Product Hunt to see which platform users in your niche give preference too.
Here are some additional hints based on our product development experience:
Invest into profound market research. For instance, we were surprised to know that the majority of US fans consume sports content mainly via mobile apps, rather than web. Hence, the platform choice is obvious.
Younger users feel absolutely comfortable with mobile apps, yet if you are targeting 50-70 year olds, it’s best to opt for the web. Elder generations are slower with adopting new platforms and learning to use mobile apps.
Launching a B2B product aimed at dealing with loads of information? Web (and hybrid) is your best bet than as the busy pros prefer to have it all right here, right now.
Step 2: Analyze Your Budgets
The average cost of building a simple mobile app ranges between $3.000-$8.000 with more complex products costing between $35.000-$100.000.
Clutch recently conducted a great survey breaking down all the mobile app development costs.
The average web application development cost is around $7,000 – $150,000 depending on the complexity of the product and the development company you’ll choose to hire. If you opt for outsourcing your web development offshore, be ready to pay around $50-$100 per hour; whereas top US developers will charge you around $150-$300 per hour.
If the market research proved that your target audience is equally present at all the platforms, it’s best to start with a web application. You can create a responsive, mobile-friendly website to cater the needs of your mobile users. While if you opt for an iOS or Android app, you’ll deliberately cut yourself off the potential revenue.
If your budgets are limited, yet you’d like to pursue the mobile platform based on the market demand, your best option is to create a mobile web app or a hybrid app. Those are typically cheaper to build, yet the quality may suffer as well.
iOS vs. Android: which app should I develop first?
If your target audience is equally distributed among iPhone and Android users, the best option is to create a cross-platform app. The development costs, however, will rise accordingly.
To make the right decision, consider the following:
How do I plan to monetize my product? Though Android user base is much larger, Apple iOS generates 85% more revenue for app makers. In fact, iPhone users feel more used to paying for apps and spend $35 per year on average for app downloads and in-app purchases. If you’d like your product to get exposed to a larger user base however, opt for Android as they now boast over 14 million active devices worldwide.
Where does my target audience dwell? Android’s massive user-base comes from outside the US, mainly from emerging markets in Asia, Africa (India, Indonesia), Latin America and Russia. The North American and European market prefers iOS devices.
What’s my deadline? Despite the common idea that Android apps are cheaper to develop, that’s not always the case. Due to the fact that Android devices are more variable in screen size and internal specs, it’s usually more time-consuming and challenging to design a great app for Android. Also, Android apps are more prone to bugs hence you should add up the time and budgets for consistent testing. iOS app developers, on the other hand, are now in high demand, especially after Apple introduced Swift – the new programming language for iOS – which most developers are still not really familiar with.
Step 3: Define Your Product Goal
Why are you launching a new service after all? You do have some really specific business goals in mind, do you? For instance:
- To validate your product idea, choose just one platform, which is deemed as the most appropriate one by your target audience.
- To increase customer loyalty with an additional service, you should first understand how your audience interacts with your brand. Run a detailed survey and research prior to deciding on the platform.
- To gather statistics, you should first research where the most detailed stats come from and what’s the easiest way to gather the data.
- To increase your brand visibility, you should learn where your target audience dwells the most and what are their browsing habits.
Step 4: Understand When Your Users Will Use Your App
You should clearly understand how, when and why your users will primarily use your product. Take different situational factors into account:
- Outdoors – mobile apps govern the domain. However, you should better look into your region’s user’s stats to get a better picture.
- Car – obviously the vast majority uses mobile apps or Carplay.
- Public Transport – apps for sure!
- Planes – mobile apps (especially games, right? ☺), however off-line desktop apps are really popular among business travelers.
- Office – mainly desktop web apps to get things done faster and more efficiently.
- Home – both web and mobile apps, with the latter growing in popularity, especially with younger folks.
In general, according to a recent research by Nielsen smartphone owners aged 25-44 use around 29 apps per months and spend approx. 37 hours, 6 minutes on them. Yet, age isn’t the primary factor here as users aged 55+ spend over 21 hours per month in apps across an average of 22 different apps.
Step 5: Tap Into Your The Existing Analytics
Already have a web application? Take a closer look at your Google Analytics. If 20-30% of your traffic comes from mobile, it’s time to consider building a mobile app.
In fact, the latest stats from Google now state that mobile traffic has already surpassed desktop traffic in 10 countries worldwide including the US and Japan. If you are targeting millennials or upcoming Gen Z (with an estimated buying power of $44 billions), going mobile might be all worth it for you today.
To wrap it up, don’t choose a certain platform just because it’s now trending. Shape your decision around your ideal user’s needs and habits and taking all the factors mentioned above into account. This way, you’ll be able to choose the right platform for your product and hit the sweet spot of your target audience.