Mobile or Web App for your Startup?

Tech entrepreneurs have limited budgets, limited time, and high expectations. How should they decide what experience to build first?

Distinct Purposes

Mobile and web apps serve very different purposes. While it’s ideal to have both, entrepreneurs must make tradeoffs for the sake of simplicity and expediency.

There are a few questions you can ask to determine what to build:

  1. How often will customers use the service?
  2. Where will customers use the service?
  3. What’s the effort-elasticity of your target market?

Now, before you read on, please note that the rest of this article is based on our experience building apps for our clients at Hexient Labs.

How Often will Customers Use the Service?

Think of the apps you use every day. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, mobile banking, music streaming, stock tips, meditation, parking, restaurant reservations, etc.

Each of these apps is used repeatedly and frequently. That’s the beauty of the mobile app; there’s no typing or authentication, you can tap a button and immediately consume valuable content.

Now, think about paying your gas bill, buying insurance, or chartering a bus. These are things you do once a month at most. There’s no need to download a new app for such infrequent usage. This is a perfect use-case for a web app. Just type in a URL and you’re good to go.

Where will Customers Use the Service?

Many mobile services are frequented on the train, in the waiting room, or on the toilet. If that sounds like your service, you’re probably on track for a mobile app.

On the other hand, mission-critical applications likely take place in front of a desktop computer. That’s where people feel most comfortable to make critical decisions. For our clients, if they’re system deals with payments, sensitive information, or B2B applications, we recommend building a traditional web applications.

What’s the Effort-Elasticity of your Target Market (EETM)?

If you’ve ever taken an Economic course, you’ve probably heard of the Price-Elasticity of Demand. It’s a measure of how sensitive consumers are to changes in price. A high Price-Elasticity of Demand means that small changes in price have a large impact on the demand for a given product. The same principle applies to users of mobile and web apps.

A high EETM indicates that exerting any amount of effort will deter people from using your service. You’ll normally see high EETM in elderly users- they’d prefer to type in a URL as opposed to taking a few minutes to download your app from a store. Contrarily, teens and college students generally have no problem downloading an app, especially if they anticipate it being valuable to them.


If your service is used frequently, on the go, by people who don’t mind putting in some effort, build a mobile app.

If you’re working with sensitive information, lazy customers, or want to drive a high volume of traffic right away, the web is your best friend.