* Note – There’s obviously categories of applications that only make sense on mobile (Yelp), just as there’s some that only make sense on web (zendesk). I’m clearly not talking about that category of application.
Recently, there’s been a bunch of discussion about mobile first vs. web first. Some of my favorites are from Fred Wilson here and from Vibhu Norby here. But I think all of these articles are missing 2 really simple factors in deciding.
1. Forget mobile first. Screw web first. How about “product market fit first”?
Product market fit … not the platform … is ALL that matters. Until you have that, you’ve got nothing. And “nothing” looks the same on mobile as it does on the web.
So really, the question when viewed in that light, is “what platform (mobile, web, desktop) will get you to product market fit fastest?”
The common sentiment is that apple’s review process and timing is a bane. And even if you develop on Android, you need users to install updates to test native changes. So a lot of people are arguing for web based on that. I disagree though. I think it all depends on the ability of your team to iterate and execute FAST. Although it’s rare, some teams/developers are much faster building on mobile than they are on web. I’m one of them. For those teams, mobile is probably the way to go. No, you can’t test multiple variants daily, but the review process isn’t THAT long. I’ve typically had updates accepted after 2 to 3 days.
So I’d say, go with the platform you’re most competent in. It’s all about speed, and your ability to get to product market fit before running out of time. Once you’ve achieved product market fit, you’ll probably want both.
2. Keep in mind that mobile … and web … are just windows into the service that you’re building.
And if that service sucks … whether the window is mobile or web … you’ve got nothing. “Mobile” isn’t a silver bullet, nor is “web” (or any other platform). They’re just windows into value that you’re providing the user. Spend more time thinking about what that value and pain is. Let THAT drive the platform choice, rather than letting the platform choice drive the value. Otherwise you’re a hammer looking for a nail.
Ultimately, if there’s value at the core, and pain that you’re solving, it’ll surface, through web OR mobile.
* A caveat
If I could summarize Mary Meeker’s slides from a few days ago into one line, it would be something to the effect of “Holy shit, mobile is growing at an unbelievably unbelievable rate.” So if you don’t go mobile first, you certainly have to be planning for mobile. In anything I’ve done, that’s meant mocking up UI and UX on mobile in parallel with any web first design and development. Doing that is good enough to make sure that anything you do will make sense on mobile.