A mobile product built on a website MVP

How To's

If you’re developing a mobile product but have limited funds, time and/or skill for building a mobile app: Should you create your MVP on a website instead? Should one even pursue this path?

The short answer is NO you should build your MVP fit for purpose and NO you should not pursue this path.

But there are exceptions.

And now for the long answer.

[warning: you might be reading this and think ‘what a stupid problem’. Although I agree that an entrepreneur shouldn’t even be going down this path, I do recognise this is a real problem].

Mobile growth

Ideas are dime a dozen.

A big portion of ideas in technology will leverage smartphone technology. And why not? The industry is growing at a dizzying pace:

note: insert your own search term in Google or Twitter — but if you follow the industry, you shouldn’t have to.

I myself have an idea and it’s best served as a web app. My problem is the age old problem of time, money and the lack of mobile app development skills. The barriers to entry are HIGH (and there are a lot more). If you have a web app idea, it would seem easier to launch it on a website and ensure that the site is responsive. But before I shoot down my own thought, let me list down pros and cons of website versus mobile apps.

Mobile App versus Website

Assuming your idea is best suited as a mobile app, here’s a look into some pros and cons of each:
Mobile App

  1. Nail the UX. A no brainer. You simply cannot trump an app built for mobile on a responsive site no matter how good you fake it.
trello site

Fat fingering the Trello site on iPhone 6+. Note that Google site appears at the top and Trello website is pulled down.

And believe me sites like Trello can fake it really well, to the point where it looks like a mobile app itself (save for the domain name and Google navigation in the example).

But you can still fat finger the site on a mobile device, and make the site slide down (refer to image) with unintended consequences.

These user slips don’t happen on a mobile app.

note: And there are sites like Evernote Web, that are simply not supported on iPhone browsers.

2. Access to Mobile specific features. Do you want to import your contacts, turn on GPS or access the camera? Mobile apps allow you to do access these features — whereas websites are not built with these features in mind.

3. Availability. You can of course, access apps offline whereas you need an internet connection to access websites.

Websites

1. Lower barriers to entry. More people have the basic front end skills to code up your MVP as a site. In contrast, you do need to have specialist skills to create your iOS and Android apps (Objective C, Java etc.)

2. Speed and Cost. More people developing would arguably equal to lower cost and thus lower time to market for your MVP.

3. Mobile-specific site. Yet another variation to the building your MVP on website is creating the MVP with mobile specifications in mind. Beware though that new specs are coming out every so often and you might end up chasing your tail trying to cater for the entire market.

4. They can be responsive. Detect, expand or contract…and make it fit to user browser:

Breathe in, Breathe out. Courtesy of the stupendous Froont.com blog

The technique is there but should you even do it?

Before I answer that, let me try elaborate further on the above arguments by giving some examples.

Success stories (kinda)

Even though WordPress and Medium have web apps, both have sites that stand out head and shoulders above the rest:

WordPress and Medium as presented in iPhone 6+. Gorgeous and functional at the same time.

We can probably attribute the well-designed success of both platforms to their outstanding dedication to quality. But I also believe that their success is due to their use.

Both are blogging platforms (with WP being a full CMS solution). The UX becomes a bit of a challenge when too many elements on-screen are clicked, tapped, dragged etc. In other words, the more functions, the harder the usability of the website becomes on a mobile.

As in the Trello example above, the site looks undoubtedly fantastic on mobile. But you’re always just a clumsy goof away to messing up the on-screen actions.

Unsuccessful stories

Hmm, honestly? There are too many to name.

Next.

Fit for purpose

So let’s assume that you can make/fake your product as a website rather than a mobile app — should you even do it?

My general advice and take to this is: don’t take shortcuts. If you have a mobile app product, develop a mobile app product.

It really all boils down to the actual use.

Although you might get away with sites on mobile, the superior experience favours the mobile app. Here are a couple of other things to think about:

  • Even if you can get away with it, the market might wise-up to your product/service and develop an app before you do.
  • Users might demand and leave your site if you give them a half-baked solution.

These are real blows to your product growth.

If you’re stuck thinking about this dilemma, then you really should reconsider your approach.

Like finding a co-founder. Or possibly launch it as a website first to attract seed capital.But those are whole new topics unto themselves.


About the author

PC Blue AvatarThis is a post for myself. I know this path will end up badly if I launch my idea as a website (instead of a mobile app). I have found only a few sources on the net about this topic (here, here and here). But I should take that as an indicator to reconsider my approach.

note: This post first appeared on Medium.

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