Nowadays, no idea is a bad idea. In an age where we are continually trying to come up with out-of-the-box services and products, every idea has relevance. But not every idea, is marketable and feasible implementation wise. All over the world, many new startups emerge every year, promising to offer something new. Before we begin, it is important that you understand that both, mobile app development and web app development are crucial in their own manner. It is not possible for a business to survive without having them both in the long run. That being said, you don’t need a mobile app or a web app development both in the beginning when you are just launching your startup. Now some of these startups enter the market fully equipped, backed by sound apps, beautiful websites and significant capital. But not all startups have this type of financial proficiency.
But having money doesn’t mean you can play fast and loose with it. It is necessary that you invest only where you can see some profit in return. Coming up with an idea is one thing, implementing it, is another and substantially harder. If you have done enough market research before entering the development phase of your startup, you will find yourself making a lot of critical decisions. One such choice will be if you should go for a website or an app in the initial phase?
In the smartphone age, web apps are quickly losing their popularity. But they are still and will remain, at least for some more years, relevant. Both mobile apps and websites have their quirks and perks. While commonly it is suggested that you go for a website first and then slowly, if your business takes off, invest in a mobile app. But this is no longer a necessity.
All of it comes down to you and the type of business you intend to run. So below we have prepared a list of questions you need to ask yourself before deciding if you should build a website or a mobile app for your startup?
1. What does your market research uncover?
What you need to understand is that you are about to bring something new to the market- something which has never been seen or done before. So naturally, there will be risk involved in it. People might like what you’re selling and they might not. So it is very important that you conduct thorough market research before making any big commitments and investments.
Things you need to focus during your market research are as follows:
1. Make sure people want the solution you’re providing.
Finding out the market relevance of your product or service should be the first thing that you do. Market research is all about gathering market data and learning about consumer behavior and then using that data to form a sound business plan.
Before pooling all your resources in your startup and getting a web app or a mobile app built, you need to test the waters and know if you can swim in them. A tool called MVP (Minimal Viable Product) might be of help here. Simply said, MVP of a startup is the basic beta version of your service. The idea behind MVP is that before you invest in getting an entire solution built, you release a smaller version of it, containing very basic functionalities. It can be anything- a screencast video, a landing page telling about all the features of the solution or a small mobile app containing fundamental elements.
This will help you in finding out the sentiment of the customers you intend to target towards your product or service. This approach will minimize the financial risk and will give you essential market data to better your product.
Now the decision that you need to make is whether you will go with a web MVP or a smartphone application MVP. There are a couple of factors which will influence this decision. The first factor will be the customers you target. Conducting interviews and analyzing online reports will help you in gathering crucial information.
The second factor will be your competitors. Find out what they are doing and how they carried out their MVP phase. And then the last consideration will be the amount of money you are willing to spend on your MVP.
2. Know your customers’ Behaviors
By using the information you gather during the MVP stage, you can start forming a plan. Deriving your customers’ behaviors from the data you have collected will help you model and remodel your startup. What OS are they using the most? Do they use websites on mobile phones or desktops? Which pages do they visit frequently in a mobile app? All of this data will help you in understanding your customers better.
Once you have conducted your research, you should be able to choose one of the two platforms.
Which one will be better suited for your solution and how can it be improved?
The answer to this question should be with you at the end of the market research phase.
2. How will your customers engage with your solution?
The next question you need to answer is- how will your customers interact with your solution? You need to think of different ways customers will be able to use your product and prepare accordingly. For example, you need to find out if your customers want your solution to have real-time data insights and actions in it or not? And furthermore, you need to figure out how your product can be better? Will having a mobile app, enhance its functionality and handiness or not?
Next thing will be to know how often your customers will use your app. A mobile app such as Whatsapp or Instagram is used daily by most youngsters. So it is not a surprise that nobody wants to visit their web apps to do what they can do on their apps very easily. But, if your startup imitates businesses such as Myntra and Amazon which are not that frequently used by most, you might benefit from a website rather than an app in the founding stages. The reason being, customers, don’t want to go to app stores, then download an app and then install it to shop maybe once a month, if even that. These type of business models are better off with having a website.
3. Do you need a phone’s native features?
Native features are a mobile’s hardware features such as camera, speaker, and mic. Now you need to be in a position in your startup planning that you could answer these two questions:
- Will you be storing a device’s current location?
- Will you need to make use of a mobile’s features like camera, mic, and speakers?
If the answer is yes to both of these questions, then it is better if you opt for a native mobile app. Now some developers can build web apps which can make use of a mobile’s native features, but they in no way enhance your solution. If anything, they make it messy and slow. Furthermore, some smartphone platforms restrict web apps from using certain native features, as iOS does with geo-notifications.
4. Online or Offline?
The next question that you need to answer is whether your solution requires a full-time internet connection or not?
If your product can only survive when it is connected to the internet, then it might be a better idea to go with a website in the beginning. But again, it is not as simple as that nowadays. There are solutions which can work only when they are connected to an internet connection. Social media, music streaming, are just two examples of such products. While Spotify and Facebook both have websites, it is far more convenient for users to access them with their apps and these apps need to be connected to an internet connection at all times to work.
So what you need to do is understand the different ways your product can be used. If it is entirely net-dependent, then go with a website in the beginning. But if there are features in your solution which can be used in offline mode as well, then you should go for an app. For example, many net-enabled gaming apps have both online and offline operation modes. They save data and player progress internally on the device when the app is offline, and when it finds a reliable enough internet connection, it uploads new scores and achievements on to the server to bring your progress in sync with it.
5. How deep is your pocket?
Without money, your dreams of a starting a startup collapse in the very first step. Whether it is getting a website built or a mobile app developed, you need money to do both. Now based on your pocket strength you can decide your next step.
According to Clutch, the cost of building a native smartphone app is somewhere between $37,193 and $171,450. This number goes up in subsequent years because of regular app updates and maintenance. Furthermore, developing an app for just one platform is not enough. You will have to develop an app for as many platforms as possible, and all of them will cost you separately.
Website design, on the other hand, is cheaper and easier. There are multiple ways by which you can make a website. Using tools like Wix.com you can create your own site. Then you can hire a high-end web development company to design your web app, and you can always find an offshore firm to do so as well. Based on the approach you take, and the complexity of your idea, the cost of your web application will vary. Typically, building a website can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $150,000.
So before landing on a decision, you should ask your self the following questions:
- Mobile app or website, which one enhances your business?
- Does your solution require real-time data?
- Does your solution need to make use of native features?
- Offline or Online- which will be its operational mode?
6. A Mobile app- is it worth it?
Mobile app development is a costly, time-consuming to step which is always at the risk of becoming a huge financial disaster. So you need to be absolutely sure that your mobile app will provide you with good ROI (return on investment). The best way to answer this question is by finding the answers to all the questions above. If according to your business model, a mobile will help you in targetting more customers and will bring in big profits, then you should definitely go for it.
In the end, all of it depends on the business model you employ and your budget. If you are backed by investors who are willing to go big, then getting a mobile app and a website both will be a good option. But if you are an anxious investor, then your market research will reveal the best option for you.