When comparing Web vs Native Mobile, the Slant community recommends Web for most people. In the question“What are the best platforms for consumer startups to target first?” Web is ranked 1st while Native Mobile is ranked 2nd. The most important reason people chose Web is:
It is far easier to rapidly test a product to both fix bugs and respond to user feedback on the web. With a mobile app you have to wait for the App Store to approve the changes and then hope your users will update the app before getting frustrated and churning. You can also take advantage of a multitude of analytics and split testing tools on the web. Services like Optimizely make it easy to test multiple versions of your site to improve conversions. This is important through the lifecycle of a product, but especially so when the UI/UX is immature at the very beginning.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Rapid Testing
It is far easier to rapidly test a product to both fix bugs and respond to user feedback on the web. With a mobile app you have to wait for the App Store to approve the changes and then hope your users will update the app before getting frustrated and churning.
You can also take advantage of a multitude of analytics and split testing tools on the web. Services like Optimizely make it easy to test multiple versions of your site to improve conversions.
This is important through the lifecycle of a product, but especially so when the UI/UX is immature at the very beginning.
As was shown in Approaches to mobile app development even if your product is designed to be used heavily on mobile, a web first approach has significant advantages.
- Faster and Cheaper to Develop - No approvals required, easier to code and cheaper to hire developers.
- Platform Agnostic - You don't need to develop native applications for each of the platforms.
Pro Mature Distribution Channels
From Vibhu Norby
Distribution is much harder on mobile than web and we see a lot of mobile first startups getting stuck in the transition from successful product to large user base. Strong product market fit is no longer enough to get to a large user base. You need to master the "download app, use app, keep using app, put it on your home screen" flow and that is a hard one to master
There are other significant advantages of the web environment:
- Easier to close viral loops - A user can click an email and immediately be using your app with you without the churn of finding, downloading and installing your app.
- Superior onboarding - Typing is easier. Sign-up with OAuth is faster. Tab to the next field. Provide marketing alongside sign-up as encouragement. Auto-fill information is a feature in every browser. The open eco-system of the web and 20 years of innovation has solved many of the most difficult parts of onboarding.
Pro No servers
Depending on what you are developing of course, but for apps that stand alone, not having to run up or maintain web or other servers can be a bonus as developers can work anywhere with nothing more than their development environments.
Pro Slicker UIs
The web has progressed greatly but mobiles still have it when it comes to performant UIs that delight the user. Ultimately though, your app or web site is really only as good as your designers and coders.
Pro Simpler to develop
The thing about developing for devices (particularly iOS) is that there are far less variations in hardware and software than the Web. No trying to handle all the variations of IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari etc on Windows, Linux and OS X. Same goes for the APIs, no where near as many issues with things working or not working and it's rare in a mobile to have to do any sort of if-this-platform-or-that-platform style coding which I often saw when doing web work.
Con Development cost
Again depending on what you are doing, you may need developer memberships, device purchases, etc. Of Course web develop can also come with it's own costs too.
Then there are the development costs. On average, a mobile development takes longer than a web development. Although it's all going to come down to the skills and quality of the developers you have. Just because something is done fast, doesn't mean it's a good basis for a company. I've see companies start up based on a few weeks work and a couple of years later be in dire trouble because they kept trying to patch a hacked together product rather than writing a solid one.
Con Uncontrolled software updates
It is posible to code your app to ensure users download the latest, but generally speaking your dealing with hundreds of thousands of installs which you cannot control. So if you have backend servers as part of your application, you'll need to have a strategy for handling different versions of your app.