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What are the pros and cons of developing mobile web vs mobile app?

Thinking about launching a new product which would be largely be used on tablet/phone and on the go. How do you best tackle getting something out to launch? App seems like a better end-user experience. Mobile web seems easier to develop and get live.

40 Replies

James Hipkin
0
5
James Hipkin Advisor
CEO, Managing Director at Red8 Interactive
The simple answer is, it depends.

A mobile app doesn't need to cost a lot. It depends what it needs to do. We have built native business process mobile apps for less than $50K. Ditto mobile responsive websites. If the app needs to move a lot of databack and forthit's going to be expensive regardless of the approach.
Federico Segura
1
1
Federico Segura Entrepreneur
Catalyzing change in the financial services industry
Mobile app: The overall experience is immenselybetter because the phones come with great functionality that you can take advantage of. Downside of this approach is you have to develop the same app twice...

Mobile web: Slower, and can't use all of the built in functionality of the phone. However, it is more universal. You just need to make a wrapper for each phone operating system.

It does depends. However, my experience tells me its better to focus on one platform and the other will come when its time.
Matt Belge
13
0
Matt Belge Advisor
UX Design Lead at Carbon Black
With the advances in HTML and supporting technologies, I would say the key deciding factors are: 1)Do you need native functions of the phone, like GPS or camera? 2) Is connectivity an issue - does the user need to able to do something even if their cell connection is down or very poor? 3) Is a lot of data or real time interactivity essential to a successful experience? If the answer to any of these is yes, then it most likely it should be a phone app. If the answer is no, it is very likely you can make a mobile web app.
Eric Owen
4
0
Eric Owen Entrepreneur
CEO Mono Solutions North American
There is an overwhelming amount of app fatigue in the market! If you have a highly engaged audience with very strong repeat usage then an app might be the way to go. I've seen many, many companies invest big time and $$ in apps only to find that their target audience wouldn't download, and even if they did they often uninstall quickly.
Aldo Biagini
2
1
Aldo Biagini Entrepreneur
Managing Partner @ Tibra Software
From a business perspective, an app has some advantages derived from the fact that it runs directly in the device, as opposed to a website that needs an intermediate software to run (a browser).

It means that, with proper authorization from the user, your app can access features of the phone like gps and camera, but also the contact list and identity, that may be an invaluable characteristic if you want to implement a viralization strategy for instance.

An app also runs more smoothly, occupying the whole screen, while the browser shows the address bar and other controls that may disrupt the experience.

Advantages for the website include that with less investment you can target almost 100% of devices. If you want to do the same with an app, you'll have concerns regarding compatibility between different devices and OS versions and it'll cost you more to adapt your app to each platform, device and so on.

That said, there are development platforms that take advantage of HTML5, CSS and Javascript technologies such as Angular.js that allow you to create unique app and website experiences while sharing most the codebase between the two. Maybe this can be the way to go if you wanna replicate part of the functionality of your website with less investment and at the same time offer a different experience and take advantage of some unique features the app gives you.

Good luck on the decision!
David Fridley
2
0
David Fridley Entrepreneur
Founder at Synaccord
Matt and Aldo cover the important points, I just want to make it clear that there are programs (PhoneGap and Cordova) that take web apps and make downloadable apps for phones. So if the user experience you seek can be accomplished through a web app, you can still get downloadable phone apps and spend less on development and have a consistent experience from desktop to mobile. But if there are certain features that you need, a web app can't do them.
Mark Neild
4
0
Mark Neild Advisor
Empowering quietly creative people to prosper through innovative yet authentic and engaging business models
Mobile app v mobile web. Think about customer adoption. It is easier to browse to a web site than find and download an app. Typically web is better for attraction and app for retention assuming the app substantially improves UX
Vinod Shintre
2
0
Vinod Shintre Entrepreneur
I help companies with Cloud/DevOps, BigData/Analytics, UX & Mobile technology
Depends on your comfort zone & who is building it. I did went through this state of what to do, but eventually did an excellent job building an awesome interface for all three scenarios with similar tech stack & backend architecture. Give or take it took me 4 weeks to build a stable & usable model for browser, mobile web(responsive), mobile app using hybrid/html5 - ionic approach. this is a one person effort all the way, but net net the way hybrid app eco system is growing I would bet for an immediate ionic/cordova based app..stabalize & then go for native. ...my two cents
Adam Arthur
1
0
Adam Arthur Entrepreneur
Atom Creative Corp, DevShare and infoATM
It depends on what your product is. If you are just building a mobile website, then this might be the best approach. It's hard to judge without knowing much about what you do. Apps are faster and capable of using features of the phone not necessarily available via Javascript / the browser. I'd need to know more about what you're trying to do. And I have no comment from a marketing perspective...
Simon Effing
5
0
Simon Effing Entrepreneur
Technical Advisor and Scala Developer. I build sustainable MVPs for lean B2B startups.
Compelling reasons for a mobile app might be:

  • highly interactive UI apps, e.g. games. Native apps are more performant and have access to all device resources.
  • the app has to be able to work offline
  • you need background processes, notifications, geolocation, camera, voice or sound
  • regular customer base, the app is used on a daily basis

But mobile apps come at a price:
The user has to install and update them. This costs data usage and and storage space. I'm personally quite annoyed by this frequent message "25 apps need to be updated, 10 need approval".
Walk in customers are put off by interstitials that prompt you to install the app and hinder the access to the web page: techcrunch.com/2015/07/26/google-studies-how-much-interstitials-suck-on-mobile.

This gets even worse if you provide your core service only through the mobile app. In this case you lock out desktop users and all users who don't want to or can't install the app on their device.

Developing and maintaining a native mobile app is a separate task for every platform you want to support. Even big companies are struggling to keep their apps up-to-date, considering how many mobile apps offer less functionality than their web counterpart, although technically they could offer a better experience.


You might have the case that you simply have to build native apps because certain device resources are just not available to a web app. But in many cases, in particular if you're at an early stage and still testing the market, it makes sense to start with a responsive web-app and add mobile apps later, if necessary.

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