What are the pros and cons of building an app versus a responsive website as an MVP?

I am building an MVP to prove a new business concept around using technology to help women research beauty products. I am getting conflicting advice around whether the MVP should be built as an App or as a Mobile Responsive website. Longer term, I see the App being the predominant platform for our service and my target market are the millenial segment who are high smart phone users. I would love some advice on pros and cons of the App versus Website route for testing an MVP?


This is a great question and an important one as well. I would start by identifying:

Who is your target market?
How will they use your product? On the go? On their laptop or on their mobile device?
What kind of technology does your product need? Can it be built as a simple website or does in need to be an app (i.e. you need push notifications, integration with other mobile apps, etc).

On the other hand, how much time and budget do you have? Typically a responsive website is faster and cheaper to build than an app and will get you out the door faster.

Answered 9 years ago

I built a social discovery platform to help pregnant and new moms discover, find and buy baby products. Since this is a MVP I suggest the quick and dirty method.

Quick and Dirty:

Buy a Wordpress template (they come responsive), style it to what you are trying to do. Become an Amazon affiliate to pull the products. You or someone else write about the beauty products. That is your MVP.

Long term items to think about:

1. Regardless if you have an App or a responsive website you will need a Content Management System.

2. Depending on the demographics you are targeting it will dictate what to build. More likely build an App for the long haul.

3. How will they accessing the app or site? Will you be sending weekly newsletters? or weekly push notifications?

4. What do you want the women to do on the platform? Discover then buy?

5. Where will you be finding the products from? You could use Amazon API or Viglink API to bring in the products and make commission.

If you want to discuss further shoot me a message.

Answered 9 years ago

I am currently advising a cosmetics and high fashion wear entrepreneur. My understanding of their data and demo shows that the buying decision - which is why you're in this game, right? - depends on two things: explanation and comparison.
In other terms, 'what is this?' and 'is it the best of it's kind?'.

With those being the asks, a responsive website would be best for 'closing sales' till you have a recognized brand.

Let's get on a call to figure out how to divide the utility of site and app to give customers the best overall experience, and for you, the most sales!


Answered 9 years ago

I can provide you with my thoughts, they are a little one sided but I feel, for good reason. While everybody believes they have the next best idea not everything even great ideas take off. Thus the whole concept of the MVP. Get something out there get people using it, start generating revenues and then invest further. It is my opinion that because the responsively designed website can reach a higher audience, ie everyone with the internet, mobile or otherwise this is the best direction for 90% of MVP's.

The thought here for me, is simple. Build it once. With an App, you will have to build for the given platform(s) iOS as well as Android, unless you wanted to test it on a smaller segment then focus on just one, probably iOS. But then don't forget that this will only work on mobile devices, and because it is an app built for a platform that is constantly changing you too will need to upgrade the app, in some cases just to keep it alive, rather than focusing on enhancements that your user/customer is looking for.

Those are just a few of my thoughts, the other is that building an app will need the involvement of a different developer base and to do it correctly will probably increase your overall costs to get your MVP to market.

In the end, I would say build something that is accessible to a wider reach then once its proven its viability start rolling out the iPhone and android apps. (I am pretty sure Clarity itself is a case in point of website before app development).

Hope this helps.

Answered 9 years ago

As a product designer, I get asked this question by clients often. Start by asking: Who is your user? What will this product help them accomplish? What does your brand offer in this space better that no one else can (your gift)? Are there inherent qualities in either platform that you must have in order for this to work? (For example, an accelerometer.)

It's less about pros and cons and more about proving your MVP through a technology that's most useful for your user. You may start focused on one and eventually build out the other, if you can prove the concept. Take the Spring shopping app as a great example.

The awesome team over at Crew built a tool to help. One of the main concerns is budget, but if you have a technical cofounder, you are one step ahead.

Let me know if I can help more over a call and good luck!

Answered 9 years ago

My rule of thumb is this: Unless you must harness specific features available only by building an app, build a mobile site. Mobile sites can get much more traffic and usage because the user does not have to install yet another app that takes time and space on the device.

Answered 9 years ago

As with any other website, a mobile website is a browser-based way of accessing internet content. Unlike regular websites, it's designed specifically for mobile devices, and therefore is not displayed perfectly on desktop. Along with mobile, there's another broader concept of optimizing websites for smaller screens: we're talking about a website with responsive design. A responsive website contains HTML pages linked together, which are viewed in browsers over the internet. Here you won't find anything out of the ordinary. However, unlike regular websites, this particular type is geared to displaying correctly on all sizes of screens. It works well not only with mobile-friendly websites and desktop versions of them, but also properly scales down for smartphones and tablets with touchscreen interfaces. Therefore a responsive web design goes perfectly with the mobile device just as much as a mobile website.
Compatibility. A website enhances the user experience across different types of mobile devices. In contrast, a mobile application requires developing a separate version for each operating system and device type.
Broader Reach. Due to the multi-device support that responsive web design provides across various platforms, it's becoming easy to reach a broader audience than a mobile app can reach. In the "app vs website" debate, the website definitely wins in terms of the potential audience.
Support and Maintenance. Websites also cost less to upgrade. You need to maintain just a single version of them. Compared to mobile apps, which require downloading of every single update, responsive/mobile websites let you change the content or design just by editing them once and allow you to do that efficiently and flexibly.
Convenience. Unlike an application, a responsive/mobile website can't leverage all smartphone features as efficiently. Cameras, GPS, phone dialing, and other features integrated into mobile devices aren't always well developed for responsive/mobile websites. Another limitation to user benefits is a device's screen size. Of course, portability is the key reason why users enjoy having smaller devices on the go. However, mobile devices display a lot less content compared to a computer monitor or laptop screen. Both responsive design and mobile websites don't fully access all the content available on the desktop.
User Experience. Since mobile experiences significantly differ from desktop experiences, implementing the same interface for both platforms may harm your UX strategy.
Offline Access. Even if you design your mobile website in the lightest and most informative way possible, it still may work offline with only limited functionality using cached pages.
There are so many factors that are due to word count I can't list out all. We can schedule a call in more detail
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Answered 3 years ago

An MVP is something that can be thrown away. Its purpose is not to evolve over time but to prove money can change hands, aka "viability."
An App is about distribution. iOS has the most money spent on its ecosystem, but outside of USA Google Play is more predominant. A web app itself is device agnostic. It would be the appropriate place to evolve to in order to avoid Apple's 30% commission. Apps do have their benefit, for example engaging the user with less distraction from a web browser. It also can load faster with offline data. Yet those are efficiencies for production once MVP is proved. Therefore imagine an MVP as catching salmon in a net, and app as a grocery store + Instacart system. Hope this helped answer your question. Let me know if not and I'd be happy to clarify over the phone.

Answered 2 months ago

As an expertise i have experience in advising startups and entrepreneurs on their digital product strategies. When it comes to building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) for a new business concept, the choice between a mobile app and a responsive website depends on several factors, including your target audience, functionality requirements, development costs, and testing goals.

*Pros of building an App as an MVP:*

1. *Native experience*: A mobile app provides a native, seamless experience for users, leveraging device features like camera, GPS, and notifications.
2. *Offline access*: Apps can function offline or with a slow internet connection, making them ideal for users who need access to your service on-the-go.
3. *Push notifications*: Apps allow for push notifications, enabling you to engage with users and drive retention.
4. *Security*: Apps are generally more secure than websites, as they have better control over data storage and encryption.
5. *Monetization*: In-app purchases and subscriptions are well-established monetization models.

*Cons of building an App as an MVP:*

1. *Development costs*: Building a high-quality app requires significant investment in development, design, and testing.
2. *App store approvals*: Your app must meet app store guidelines and pass review processes, which can be time-consuming.
3. *Limited reach*: Your app will only be available to users with compatible devices and operating systems.
4. *Updates and maintenance*: App updates require re-submission to app stores, and maintenance can be complex.

*Pros of building a Responsive Website as an MVP:*

1. *Lower development costs*: Building a responsive website is generally faster and more affordable than developing an app.
2. *Wider reach*: A website can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, regardless of device or operating system.
3. *Easier updates and maintenance*: Website updates are simpler and more flexible than app updates.
4. *SEO benefits*: Websites are more discoverable through search engines, driving organic traffic.
5. *Cross-platform compatibility*: Responsive design ensures a consistent user experience across devices.

*Cons of building a Responsive Website as an MVP:*

1. *Limited native functionality*: Websites may not have access to device features like camera or GPS.
2. *No offline access*: Websites require a stable internet connection to function.
3. *Limited engagement*: Websites may not offer the same level of engagement as apps, with limited notification capabilities.

Considering your target market of millennial smartphone users and your long-term vision for an app, I recommend starting with a responsive website as your MVP. This approach allows you to:

1. Test your business concept and validate assumptions with a lower development cost.
2. Gather user feedback and iterate on your website, refining your service before investing in an app.
3. Establish a web presence and drive organic traffic through SEO.
4. Develop a user base and build a waiting list for your future app launch.

Once you've validated your concept and refined your service, you can invest in building a high-quality app, leveraging the knowledge and user feedback gathered from your website MVP.

Answered 2 months ago

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