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Web or Mobile App: Which One Should You Build?

When building a digital product, one of the first decisions that any product manager or startup founder must make is whether to build a web or mobile app. This decision may sound simple, but it is critical because it can impact the cost, time, and results of a minimum viable product (MVP). In this article, I will explain why building a web app first and then a mobile app later is a better approach in most scenarios.


Building a Mobile App is the Most Popular Choice


Many people believe that building a mobile app is the best option for digital product development. However, they often fail to consider the technological implications that can impact their business later. For example, if you have a limited tech budget, shouldn't you opt for a less expensive option? If you have a tight deadline to release an MVP, shouldn't you choose a less time-consuming option? This decision should not be based solely on trends or popularity but should also consider cost and time constraints.


Sometimes Building a Mobile App is the Only Option


Building a mobile app may be the only viable option in certain business scenarios. For instance, developing a mobile app is mandatory if your digital product needs access to your customers' contacts, tracks their geolocation, or interacts with mobile hardware. In such cases, you have no alternative but to build a mobile app and assume all the implications. However, if you can choose between developing a web or mobile app, it is worth analyzing whether the challenges of building a mobile app are worth the effort.


An iPhone y AirPods
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Check if Your Potential Customers May Use a Mobile App


Ensuring that your potential customers may use your mobile app is crucial. Some customers may have a cheaper mobile device incompatible with your app, lack sufficient storage space to download it, or not see enough value in your app to install it. Therefore, gathering as much information as possible to understand your potential customers before making any decision is important. In my experience, many digital products encounter significant challenges when, after investing a year in building a mobile app, they discover that their customers avoid installing it.


Check the Costs of Building Your Mobile App


Building a mobile app is usually more expensive than building a web app because it requires specialized programmers in mobile development, who typically demand higher salaries than web programmers. This can be particularly critical when developing an MVP with a limited budget. Additionally, tech teams need more licenses and infrastructure for mobile app development. Although there are ways to cut costs and frameworks that promise to simplify everything, they often have none or little practical impact.


Check the Time-to-Market of Building a Mobile App


Releasing new features or fixing bugs in mobile apps usually takes longer than web apps. This is because building and deploying new code in mobile apps is more complex than in web apps. As software complexity increases, the likelihood of delays and errors also increases. As a result, your ability to change or adapt your product may be affected. However, if you have a tech team of brilliant and experienced developers, your time-to-market could be just as good as, or even better than, a web app. But keep in mind that this may come with higher costs.


Making an informed decision instead of following trends will better prepare you to face future challenges and avoid surprises.

Build a Web App First and Later the Mobile App


In most cases, where you can choose to build a web or mobile app, the best approach is to build a responsive web app. This allows you to release an MVP as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Later, if you discover that your customers love your product, you can develop a mobile app. This approach allows you to take advantage of the benefits of a web app during the MVP phase, adapting and refining your product. When the time comes to create the mobile app, you will better understand the features your customers demand. This reduces business uncertainty and helps your tech team to develop the mobile app more efficiently.


Conclusion


The decision to build a web or mobile app depends on various factors, such as your potential customers, the nature of your digital product, your budget, your deadline, and the seniority of your tech team. Making an informed decision instead of following trends will better prepare you to face future challenges and avoid surprises. It's essential to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so you must adapt my recommendations to your context. But in most scenarios, if you can build a web or mobile app, it's often best to start with a web app and iterate toward a mobile app.

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