Minimum Viable Product · Lean startup

Webisite or app for (online) MVP?

Adam Signaigo Available advisor :: Experienced operations, product, and services leader

October 28th, 2014

When considering an online offering, best to start with website or app?  Which platform in either?

John Anderson

October 28th, 2014

If a full web-site and a mobile app is part of your overall strategy, consider creating a responsive design site.  This will help fulfill your needs for a full desktop site as well as a mobile optimized sites with one codebase for your MVP.  

Using something like Twitter Bootstrap, you're able to design your site and include/exclude different parts of it for different form factors (desktop, mobile, handheld).  This is a great way to have continuity between desktop and mobile.  Just by adding a few classes to each element, you can easily show/hide them in the different form factors.

If you really want a true native MVP, consider something like  It allows you to quickly get a 100% native prototype up and running and is very easy to show to others via a free Preview App in the App Store.

Todd Ellermann Experienced I.T. Leader, CTO, and Creative Entrepreneur

October 28th, 2014

Forget the technical answer to this question, what is the business answer?

Are you going to charge for the app? Then iOS first.
Can you get away with a responsive mobile web version for proving out the concept? Much cheaper

Doing both in parallel on an unproven business model or product is foolish. 
Even if you build the perfect API the mobile app is still going to take some time, avoid it if you can, but on the other hand, many businesses are Mobile first these days. 

In the end, Android comes last in almost all situations.

Mobile Web has gotten so big, that you might do it before you do desktop.  
If you have a good mobile web team, and you don't depend on camera/GPS/gyro then you may want to consider a native hybrid app.  (install your app which launches an embedded web browser to your mobile web site)   

In the end you shared so little about your business, that any response you get is questionable at best. 

Lev Kerzhner COO at JamRoom

October 31st, 2014

This question is quite broad given that different products have different needs.

Before committing to a development process, I'd recommend looking into building an MVP with a code free app building platform like como or appmakr. The functionality and design obviously have limitations, but for an MVP, it often does the job. Giving you a cross platform app and mobile website while maintaining flexibility to adjust, test and validate your product.

Again, this is assuming that your MVP can be built under the limitations of the platforms mentioned, but its worth checking out because it can save you a lot of time and money.

Zvi Epner

October 28th, 2014

Even if you already know you want to build a native mobile app, I think it's always best to build it in traditional web technologies first.

You will need to be able to prototype and test quickly, and it will change a bunch. So when you really have it down in the form of a web prototype, it will be easier to develop the mobile app.

Caviat: Your app relies on mobile-specific technologies primarily, ie gyro

Todd Ellermann Experienced I.T. Leader, CTO, and Creative Entrepreneur

October 29th, 2014

Thought this article might expand the conversation a bit

If you want some more info on "hybrid"

@Maiaroto  Thanks for your insightful contribution. ;)  Your detailed critique, coupled with the vast amount of insightful information you brought to the argument was enlightening. 

Josh Cramer Internet Entrepreneur

October 31st, 2014

I have been involved in successful mobile first and web first startup projects. This should be looked at as a business model, value proposition, customer segment question. Perhaps a marketing channel question too. Native mobile presents some unique opportunities to offer a value proposition that are not possible via a responsive web platform. There are also unique marketing channels that you can leverage if you are delivering your product via a native app that are not available or not as effective if you're converting people via a responsive website.

I would start by looking at your value proposition. The mobile use case is such that users have a sensor rich device with them everywhere they go. If part of your value proposition is that the app delivers content or functionality that is handy for the user to have on the go or to consume in small bite sized chunks, then building out the native mobile app first may be the best option. In fact, if your value proposition is built on the unique opportunities that native mobile provides, then you may be missing the entire opportunity by deploying via the web first or at all. After all, you are trying to test your value proposition as part of your MVP, so you better understand what that is and give your users the best experience possible in order to truly validate it.

A few startups that I can think of that would have never worked via the web first are Instagram (needs a built-in camera), Foursquare (needs GPS location and to be with you wherever you are), and Higher Learning Technologies. The last one is a startup that I am involved with that deployed the number one grossing app in the education category in the Apple App Store. Part of the strategy is to break down studying into bite sized chunks that can be picked up or left off at any time. This is a perfect use case for a mobile device that you have with you wherever you go.

Hopefully that gives you some perspective that you can apply to your own startup.

Matthew Tomaszewicz Director - Technology (Ai) at Capital One

October 28th, 2014

As others have pointed out, an API that can service both web and mobile is a necessity.
However, beyond that, the answer depends upon the business.

As a general rule, and given the growth and proliferation of "mobile," many recommend that many teams start mobile. That said, offerings differ and are consumed differently pending the platform and form factor.

With mobile (Native/iOS) you get, perhaps, a higher cost of initial development, but a significant barrier to entry (if you are the first mover), in the desktop icon. (Assuming it's consumer focused), unless its games, most apps tend to generate a higher ARPU on iOS--4 to 5x--over Android.

The responsive question is a tough one because display a responsive site within a native iOS environment is typically not the ideal foot forward. That said, as both a backfill and/or a byproduct of starting with a web site, a responsive approach is a no-brainer.

Depends upon the category, product and growth/funding objectives.

The answers are above are thoughtful and accurate. This is just a counterpoint.

Tom Maiaroto Full Stack Consultant

October 28th, 2014

Like John said, going with a responsive approach is good too. You should keep that in mind regardless of a mobile app. However you still need to think about it in terms of an "API" otherwise your responsive site that contains all of the backend business logic still won't translate over to a native mobile app without re-building a lot of what you already built for the web app. Or hacking up your web app incurring more technical debt.

Aleksandra Czajka Freelance Senior Software Engineer, Developer, Web Developer, Programmer - Full Stack

October 29th, 2014

i'd say 80% of the time a mobile working website will work for a good prototype. it's cheaper, faster to build, easier to find people to build it with. when you get to the next stage, investment or getting actual clients paying for the app, then commit to building out the software on the appropriate platform IF customers tell you the experience could be improved through this process.

the other 20% of the time is when you can't showcase your app fully without native components. that is, if native components are what make up the main idea.

Adam Signaigo Available advisor :: Experienced operations, product, and services leader

October 29th, 2014

FD folks - really great feedback.  Appreciate all the perspectives on tech, customer and MVP.  Want to let you know I am studying all input. Thanks again!