While large businesses can afford to build both websites and apps, startups and companies with smaller budgets may have to pick one of them. This decision will probably have a huge impact on your product's outcomes, so it's a choice you should make consciously with solid argumentation.
What are Mobile Apps?
Native Mobile Apps are smartphone applications built in a specific programming language and for a specific platform: iOS or Android. Users download the app via an App Store or Google Play; it gets stored in the memory and may gain access to different phone devices (camera, address, etc.). These software applications offer high performance and reliability to users.
How are Mobile Apps Built?
Once you have your app idea and can validate it with in-depth market research, you can define your strategy, design, and development phases. It's important to remember that you should constantly keep track of its evolution and consider the gained feedback to leverage your app even after launch! Considering the high level of complexity that building mobile apps imply, these are built by expert developers and program them in a specific language according to the platform targeted. For example, Swift can be used for native iOS apps and Java for Android apps.
What are Web Apps?
Here is important to consider the difference between an app vs. web app. To understand what is a web app we should know that these are accessed via a web browser like Chrome, Safari, etc., and they do not need to be downloaded as Mobile Apps do. These are not informational websites; they provide different functionalities and interactivity for the user to engage. Specifically, web applications tend to be built using JS, CSS, HTML, or Python and are generally quicker and easier to build than mobile.
Web App Vs Mobile App Pros and Cons
Saying that you have created a mobile app sounds attractive, engaging, and successful. Nonetheless, this isn't always the right call to make. There are numerous variables you should take into account... let's take a look:
It's a fact, mobile apps are more expensive. Why? One of the main reasons is that you'll have to develop the app for different operative systems. For example, to have an app accessible on Android and IOS, your effort might be duplicated:
- x2 programming languages (despite the fact that some hybrid languages nowadays work for both such as React Native or Flutter. They are really useful and are our choice many times, though they can imply some problems when developing complex solutions because of the lack of libraries and the fact that it isn't 100% compatible and sometimes needs adaptations )
- x2 testings
- x2 bug fixing
- x2 maintenance
- x2 UX/UI design guidelines...
Not to mention the fact that mobile developers tend to charge more than web developers because of the language's complexity (Payscale estimates that app developers' salary is 40% higher than web developers on average).
Let's say you're a new brand, which means people still don't know you. In this case, from a marketing perspective, creating a website will increase your chances of you reaching out to new users. Why? Because users will be able to find you thanks on search engines, such as Google.
So what about apps? You may disagree and assume that people might find you as well on the app stores. However, the truth is that most of the time, users need to first know you in order to download your app. This is because downloading an app requires more "compromise" than entering a web: users need to invest time downloading the app and onboarding and they need to use their phone's storage.
Now, let's pretend you're an already established brand in the market and you're launching your first digital platform. As you already have customers, this doesn't necessarily have to be a problem. Your customers will download your app because they like your service/product specifically.
A website will work across all devices (Android/IOS/Windows phones; tables; computers from all brands and sizes; other screens), while mobile apps have to be built for every specific platform.
#4 Maintenance & Updates
Websites are easier to maintain than mobile apps, plus you won't have to make changes because of operative system actualizations. Updates can be done without having to wait for approvals.
If you're in a hurry to launch your MVP and gather feedback and insights, a website might be the best choice. Why? It involves lower costs and development is usually be faster. It will definitely help you get a better panorama of the situation, which will guide you on the following stages (which is the whole point of an MVP).
When to Build a Web App vs a Mobile App
- If you need access to Native Features
If your product must have access to any of the phone's native features (such as camera, gyroscope, sensors, flashlight, etc) or needs to use geo-targeted push notifications or in-app notifications, an app is probably a better choice. Even though thanks to new technologies web apps can access some of the smartphone's features, apps tend to perform better.
- If your product should be used offline
Some products can add much more value to users when being used offline. Imagine having to be connected to the internet to use your calculator or flashlight! Think about how much value offline maps or streaming platforms add to travelers. Does your product add this type of value if used offline? Then the best choice is probably an App. Another alternative are Progressive Web Apps (PWA), which are web solutions that can be used offline too. They might be a good choice, though they aren't as powerful and fast as apps and can also present some limitations.
- If your product will be used daily by users
If your users need to access your product more than once every day, it may make more sense to build an app, which is easier and faster to access.
- If you need notifications
If you must keep users updated with notifications, then apps are a better choice. Remember notifications are a good asset only if they add value to the user, if they don't, they may be annoying for users. Yet, some notifications, such as reminders, are quite useful.
- If you need lots of user's input
If your app requires lots of user's input or data from the device, an app will make more sense. This is the case of, for example, health apps that need to count the number of steps you walked.
- If speed really has an impact on your users' experience?
Mobile apps are faster than web apps because they store locally on the users' phones.
So... Which One Should I Choose, Web or App?
It really depends on the specifics of your product. Check de information above, evaluate your situation and speak to experts. The best tip I can give you is this:
Don't fall in love with the idea of having an app
Websites may not sound as attractive, but when speaking of MVPs, webs are the right choice most of the time.
And of course, it doesn't matter which one you go with, we can help you with it! Drop us a line and let's figure it out :) firstname.lastname@example.org