Which ecosystem to build first?

Web vs Mobile Apps featured image

In this article, we will delve into the world of Android AR i.e. Augmented Reality, specifically ARCore, Google’s platform for building AR experiences. We will see how ARCore is transforming AR application development by abstracting out complex matrix & vector math and providing us with beautiful APIs for AR development.

We see our favourite products on all devices nowadays as websites, android and iOS apps (probably best not to mention the endangered Windows apps). To, however, conclude that your product needs to be present on all platforms from Day 1, could be very costly, both monetarily as well as in terms of time lost.

The focus of the first product should be to validate your core conclusions made through initial market research. Therefore, after researching your idea and polishing it, you need to choose the ecosystem you should launch in first, namely website vs. mobile app.

Let’s figure it out together!

Web vs Mobile Apps

To start with, let’s take a look at what augmented reality is and why we, as developers, should be really excited for this new tech!

The context of your business is extremely critical in arriving at a decision. We have parameterised the decision factors below, which will add up to the ultimate choice. In each case, we have recommended the best ecosystem, ceteris paribus (a fancy way of saying “other things being equal”).

1. B2B vs. B2C:

Products are ultimately bridging the gap between you and your customer. Hence, let’s start by understanding the end user’s typical engagement with similar offerings. We have broadly split offerings into B2B and B2C.

  • In B2B cases, with the end user being a business, it is very likely that individuals interface with products on laptops or desktops at workplaces. Purchase decisions on phones are still largely restricted to personal buys. Further, B2B products are usually data-heavy, requiring a bigger screen size to organise and display the information to your customer to make its consumption easy.

Recommendation: Website

  • On the other hand, since B2C products interact with individual consumers, the choice is more layered. The factor tilting it to mobiles is that they are constant companions of customers, making a good presence on the device important. Further, through mobile apps, businesses can leverage many of the native features of the phone, as discussed in the next section.

Recommendation: Mobile apps

2. Core need for native features:

If your business model revolves around hyper-local, delivery, fitness or others, where the native features of a mobile are integral to deliver a powerful experience for the user, mobile apps are almost the only way to do so (new web frameworks allow the implementation of such features, but the performance of native apps is usually better).

In fact, companies even as large as Uber have websites only as a point of parity: one can’t book cars through it, but can just view general usage details. Moreover, other than basic features such as location, accelerometer and gyroscope, availability of cutting-edge frameworks in AR/VR, advanced image/video processing, graphics rendering, also make the proposition of a mobile app very strong.

Recommendation: Mobile apps

3. Development cost:

Typically, the cost of building an app is going to be 1.5x–2x when compared to a website. The cost of design across both, iOS and Android, and developing them, spike the cost vs. a website — generally you would require two developers with expertise in each ecosystem.

Therefore, if you don’t have a large budget, it is likely that a website would be the better alternative.

Recommendation: Website

4. Marketing cost:

Using mobile apps requires customers to download them on their phones and consume “precious” disk space. On the other hand websites are immediately accessible through a browser. Therefore, it directly follows that this additional step makes marketing apps tougher than that for websites. Of course, once a user has installed your app it indicates a high level of loyalty to your product and also enables you to use push notifications, as discussed in the next section.

Hence, with mobile apps, gaining initial users would be tougher but it might reap you benefits in the future — from a MVP perspective, websites remain the more logical bet.

Recommendation: Website

5. Push notifications:

Mobile apps empower you to interact with your users through push notifications — a message that pops up on devices even if the user isn’t in the app or using the device. Latest offers, updates and call-to-actions can be shared with the customers, allowing for much easier and smoother marketing.

While it is possible to include push notifications even on websites, it requires the user to have an internet connection and an open browser. This makes mobile app notifications much more nuanced and powerful.

Recommendation: Mobile apps

6. Offline capabilities:

While internet connectivity has become ubiquitous, there are still many use cases where users might not have internet access: while travelling in an airplane/ train or while in basements, etc.

Mobile apps deliver the capability to engage users with various functionalities even in the offline mode. From Gmail enabling search of past mails to Instagram’s android app having a host of its features accessible in the offline mode, mobile apps offer this powerful functionality to interact with users without external constraints.

Recommendation: Mobile Apps

The above points should be taken into consideration before deciding your product’s ecosystem. Prioritise the parameters that would have the maximum impact on your value proposition to the customer, and it would ultimately lead you to your choice.

Further, if you decide to move ahead with mobile apps, it is not necessary to build both, iOS and android apps, simultaneously. The target audience of your offering would define the app you move ahead with; for eg. if your app is going to be used by delivery men in India, it is very likely that they will be using Android phones, while alternatively, if it is aimed at High Net-worth Individuals (HNIs), iOS might be the more judicious option.

How do I talk about my product to techies?

Talk in non-tech language

Now that a very important decision has been taken, let’s understand how we can convert an idea into tech features and prepare a feature doc. This will help techies understand the complexity of the app and come up with a budget and timeline for it.

Look out for this column to read about it!

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