So you want to make an app? We all use apps, we love apps, an ‘app’ is what you build when you start a technology startup – right?
But what is an ‘app’? Most people assume that ‘app’ means a native app (i.e an app you can get in the iPhone app store, or the Google play store for Android). But there is more to it than that…
…and is it the right thing to build when you are creating a new technology startup business?
Eric Ries, the author of the seminal “The Lean Startup”, defines an MVP as:
“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product a team uses to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.“
So an MVP should be built with the least amount of investment to be able to start testing the market.
Here are some things about native apps that a new entrepreneur may not be aware of:
- Native apps, depending on what business you are trying to create, are likely to need a back end (a centralised system in the cloud) they can communicate with. This means you need a second piece of software created.
- A native app needs to be developed once per platform (i.e. if you want customers using Android and iPhone to use your app you have to make it twice). There are tools and approaches you can use to make the apps have lots of code in common, but you still need to create and support two separate pieces of software.
- Native apps will be inaccessible to desktop users, and any potential customers that do not have an iPhone or Android device.
- Native apps take longer to code.
- Native apps, with the app store approval processes, the fact they are installed software, and the greater effort to develop, are harder to iterate on.
None of those things mean building a native app is an efficient way to collect validated learning.
So what’s the alternative to a native app? It’s the ‘responsive web app’: a web browser-based application that you can use on any device.
So what are the benefits of creating a responsive web app as your MVP?
- Web apps are inherently cross platform – and can also be used on desktops.
- Web apps can be built as a single piece of software.
- Web apps are easy to iterate on. If you deploy a new version of your app it is instantly available to your customers.
So do you need a native app for your MVP?
Well it depends. It is indeed true that native apps typically give a much better experience. They perform better, can be integrated better with the mobile device, and they generally just ‘feel’ nicer.
To determine if you should risk the extra expense of a native app for your MVP, you need to consider what your business is trying to achieve.
Are you solving a problem for your customers? Do your customers really care about having that problem solved?
If you are solving an important problem for your customer, it is very likely your customer will not care whether they are using a web app or native app. They will use the software because it solves their problem. And if it solves a real pain point well, they will be delighted.
If you are creating the sort of business that does not solve an obvious problem for your customers, and the ‘feel’ and ‘experience’ of using the app is integral to its success, then perhaps the native app route is the better one to go down. However these sorts of businesses are much more difficult to make successful.
If you do start with a web app, remember, this is just the MVP. If your MVP is successful and proves that you have a market for you product, there is no reason you can’t invest in a native app later to improve the experience of your customers.
Want to build an app? Why not book a free consultation with us to discuss your project?
We knew the problems we wanted to solve, but we didn’t know how to start. Dan from Reason Factory taught us all about the MVP approach, helped us with the outsourcing of our MVP and set us on the right track. His help at the start was invaluable in getting to where we are now.