App and webapp: which comes first?

January 24, 2022 | di admin

App and webapp: which comes first?

The best approach to launching a digital business.

The chicken and egg paradox about which one came into being first well exemplifies the question most often asked when one wants to launch a new digital business: do I do the app or the webapp first? Unfortunately, there is a tendency to mostly choose from the gut, without relying on hard data or real case studies, thus increasing business risk. We will then attempt here to answer the question in a simple way, reporting real examples of global successes and failures-from Facebook to WhatsApp and Instagram-highlighting on a case-by-case basis which is the most suitable choice.

The beginning as a Facebook webapp

App and webapp: which comes first?

Facebook was born after a series of rollicking adventures involving Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard, and a date gone wrong. A very famous story that David Fincher told better than we would know how in the film The Social Network. For the MVP phase, Facebook is developed in the form of a webapp, with the purpose of going to market quickly, saving money on development, and testing the validity of the idea. It was 2004 and a Harvard student, from his college room, could not afford much more.

App and webapp: which comes first?

On February 4, the webapp is published and used solely on campus. Within a month it reaches the main student circuits, ready from there to conquer the United States and Canada to the rest of the world. A choice, the initial one, that proved more than successful. Indeed, the webapp technology made it possible to test and implement, as we went along, additional features quickly and with minimal effort. Only once it had reached a sufficient number of users did Facebook scale up its experience, launching an app and other touchpoints.

The beginning as a WhatsApp app.

App and webapp: which comes first?

WhatsApp, understood as an instant messaging service, was born in 2009 from an insight of Jan Koum and Brian Acton. Conceived as an app in 2007, it aimed to inform via real-time statuses contacts about daily activities, avoiding annoying unsolicited calls.

App and webapp: which comes first?

The breakthrough came in 2009 with an Apple update that integrated the iOS operating system with push notifications. From that moment on, WhatsApp completely changed the user experience. To date it boasts more than 600 million users and users. A milestone that certainly would not have been reached if the founders had opted for a different touchpoint than the one they chose. App technology in this case proved to be crucial for accessing the phone’s systems (sim and push), parallel to its rapid spread in daily habits, finding its ideal place in people’s pockets. Only after the product was broken in and reached critical mass were new touchpoints such as the webapp integrated.

The beginning as an Instagram app.

App and webapp: which comes first?

Instagram was born on October 6, 2010 from a brilliant intuition of Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom in a historical context in which Facebook and Linkedin were dominating. The need was to have a less complex social network, with few features but well managed, with a great UX. A philosophy based on the concept of immediacy and spontaneity, proposing a product that could upload, take and edit photos in seconds. With these assumptions, nowadays, it would be possible to choose either an app or a web app, specifically a PWA (progressive web app). The skills of the founders – computer engineers – and the absence of technologies such as PWAs (in 2010), along with the need to have a product that was easy to use, mobile and quickly deployable, drove the team to choose app technology. An app would remain the most widely used tool, only later joined by the webapp and other touchpoints with new features and opportunities.

How to choose the right strategy in technology.

With the understanding that the choice should always be based on data and specific market research, we can summarize what has been said so far in three short questions/answers.

  • Do you need access to device instrumentation (geolocation, camera, sim, etc.) or do you want to create a project that quickly becomes habit? Then you probably need to start with an app.
  • Do you want to quickly spread the service with a pocket technology that becomes habitual? In that case you can choose the app, depending on your budget, or a PWA webapp, which is less powerful but much cheaper and more manageable.
  • Need to break in processes, work on SEO, save on implementation and maintenance costs to make content and services more accessible in the meantime? Better start with a webapp.

Whatever your digital project, contact us to analyze the various technological opportunities. Together we will find the best way to quickly achieve your business goals.

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Simona Muscogiuri, UX/UI Designer at Baasbox, is passionate about art and cinema. Curious by nature, she loves exploring new places and living outdoors.

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