Mobile First or Rumors of Desktop's Death are Greatly Exaggerated?

Mobile app vs. Web app

In the world of app development, success isn't the last thing to think of. The entrepreneurs founding IT startups often wonder: "Are apps better than websites? Should I start with desktop application or hybrid one? How many platforms to pick?". It's a natural way of thinking, especially when all the Internet is talking about mobile first trend. Now what? Should we forget about PCs at all? Or would it be nice to adapt the mobile version for it?

Let's see what is mobile first good for and try to solve the dilemmas above.

Web app vs. mobile app

Marketers would tell you that we live in the mobile first era and would describe all the benefits of creating app for mobile first, followed by versions adapted for browsers and desktops later on. To a certain extent they are right: users prefer browsing with their mobile devices today. Phones and tablets are always at hand, people use them at buses, streets, cafes, toilets, bedrooms, etc.

Smartphones are much more ergonomic than laptops, their batteries serve longer and they don't need any additional wires or devices. They are more than sufficient for watching YouTube video, writing a tweet or checking news feed, which are the first services that come to mind when we speak about Internet. That's why everybody think that desktops are useless these days.

However, let's be honest: would you use a mobile device to do something like coding, deep and professional photo and video editing, audio recording, developing a 3D model, running VST plugins in real time or writing a book? I wouldn't. Mobiles are great for taking entertainments with you at any place, but they're not designed as professional tools. Sound engineers, app developers, artists and writers still use PC as a primary tool thanks to large screen, powerful hardware core and additional control devices, such as a mouse and a keyboard.

Before opting for mobile first development, you should analyze the type of service you want to offer. For example, there's no real need to choose between desktop or mobile when developing a text editor - do both! Make the full functional desktop version in its whole glory, design it for handling dozens of text pages, making spreadsheets, etc. And let mobile be mobile, allow it to perform some basic functions like preview, simple editing and making notes. This would be enough to write down sudden ideas if users are not near their PC.

Mobile first design is great for social networks, photo and video services where most users come from mobile platforms. For such applications, it's better to set the mobile version as primary and then adapt mobile design for desktops so that users could also upload photos and videos after professional editing.

While choosing a platform, you should consider:

1. Amount of data. Desktop is better for hundreds of pages, large videos and 4K photos, while mobile is born for chats, tweets, short clips and instant photo uploads.

2. Capacity requirement. Big games requiring latest Nvidia graphic chip, 16Gb RAM and 3,5 Hz processor definitely need a spaceship to launch! Hopefully, we'd be able to adapt such products for tablets in, let's say, 10 years. On the other hand, who needs a simple 2D platformer with straightforward gameplay and without deep and complex story on PC? It's a 100% mobile product, classic time killer while you're on the go.

3. Mobility or productivity. Streaming your adventure in mountains is a great idea. Thanks to modern apps like Periscope, such features are our reality now. But for deep photo editing you need a good workstation with high resolution screen. Taxi apps like Uber are definitely a mobile thing, while game engines and 3D-model editors are desktop things. Weather widgets are best suited for phones, but bookkeeping, project management and app development are handier on PC.

4. Screen size. If user has to work with multiple windows at the same time, he'll probably need several widescreen monitors running together and it's something only a desktop app can deal with. For example, sound engineers often do that - they have a digital audio workstation on one screen and virtual instruments, equalizers and mixer on the other. Artists, developers, editors, photographers, engineers and many other professions do the same. The phone's or tablet's screen size is not enough for such tasks. But you can use mobile devices in addition to the desktop. They are good for tracking the developing process or writing down fresh ideas. Artists often connect their tablets to the PC and draw on touch screen which makes the whole process much more comfortable and enjoyable than trying to create a picture with the mouse.

As you see, mobile first strategy is a hot trend, but you shouldn't rely solely on it in mobile app development. You need to fully understand who and what you are creating app for. You have to choose the platform that allows the most accurate implementation of your original idea.

While apps for desktop are pretty straightforward, mobile apps bring new dilemma to the table: iOS or Android?

Native or hybrid? Android or iOS?

We have shared our thoughts on why native apps are better than hybrids in one of our recent articles. To make a long story short, we figured out that hybrids are good for simple multi platform apps without high hardware requirements, while natives work best for apps that use maps, camera, gyroscope and require high performance.

Android or iOS is an entirely different topic and we also have an article that may help to sort this out. To decide which platform suits your app best, you should analyze your audience and find out what devices they use. It's better to stick to one platform, release mobile app for it and test it with users. In case of success, you can port your app for other devices. It's also necessary to assess your budget sensibly, since the cost of development for different platforms varies.

In the end

As you see, the choice of platform is difficult and full of doubts. Trying to be versatile and to satisfy everyone is great, but who ever made the hybrid of tipper truck, SUV and family car, that's also great as a bus? Or a bullet that fits both bow and mortar? Or maybe the same string gauge for ukulele and bass guitar? It's pretty obvious that Photoshop is best on desktop, while Snapchat and Angry Birds rule on mobile devices.

Thanks so much for reading, see you next time in Anadea Blog!

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