3 ways to cross-platform app development
Rich, engaging mobile experiences are no longer a nice value-add, they are simply expected by today’s digital consumer at any time, from any device. But how do you build seamless mobile applications that keep customers coming back?
With native apps
Powerful mobile experiences start with native apps which most developers will describe as an application coded in Objective-C, Swift or Java. More generally, native apps are considered to be applications developed for use on a particular platform or device, or from the perspective of a user, one that came with a device and just ‘feels’ native. In other words, native apps look, feel and behave just as users want them to, says Vince Padua, VP Platform Innovation and Technology at Axway.
However you define them, native apps have traditionally been built using software development tools such as Swift and Java. They work great of course, but their creation is a time-consuming, expensive process. Developers are most-often trained in one language, which means you have to hire a team of experts where development cycles are long, especially when you consider any changes, which means revisiting the code and re-doing the work.
The solution to these challenges can be found in cross-platform development. With traditional native development on Android, Windows and iOS, code is typically written in one language and a different language on each platform. With cross-platform coding, you have just one language to learn and one to build and update apps across ALL platforms.
What are the available cross-platform options?
Think of them across 3 categories:
- Mobile web: This option allows your information to be viewed on a mobile device – yet nothing is native. It’s simple, scalable, re-uses skills and adapts to different devices but it has to run in a browser. Despite all the arguments for mobile web, users still seem to prefer native apps — the App Store economy is proof of that.
- Hybrid: This approach takes your remote front-end website, puts it on a mobile device and wraps it with a native application. While it uses a single code base and offers more functionality including features you won’t get from option 1, the applications often won’t look, feel or work as the user may expect them to — they are immediately obvious as being web-based and do not feel as native to the user.
Which is the best option for the development of your mobile applications?
Consider 3 key factors when making that decision:
- Customer experience: Let’s face it. In the age of the digital consumer, people want the interaction only native mobile apps can deliver. Your customers expect much more than a simple website. They want great mobile apps that run on all their devices and connect to back end data. A mobile site that runs on a server will not provide the experience most users expect and your brand could easily be over looked for one that does.
- Resource allocation: Cross-platform development environments don’t demand that your developers know the ins and outs of multiple languages; the environment shares code libraries and delivers the native experience itself. This could mean lower head count and fewer tools.
- Efficiency: Coding once for multiple platforms means fewer bugs to fix, quicker time to market and only mastering one language skillset.
Mobile app development that is done well improves customer satisfaction and builds your bottom line. There is no question that how to do this is a difficult and strategic decision. Cross-platform app development takes much of the pain out of the process – there is no need to spend time and money reinventing the wheel. Instead, developers can focus on refactoring and optimisation for continual enhancement.
The author of this blog is Vince Padua, VP Platform Innovation and Technology at Axway
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