Cross Platform App Development Demystified – How to Make it Work for You

cross platform app development demystified

Web developers had a simpler life back in the day. App developers today have iOS, Android, and Windows. Each platform has an entirely different approach to app design and development. While a lot of people will strongly insist that native apps are the only way to go, cross-platform apps have their advantages too. If you are looking for a core functionality B2B app where the end result and time-to-market are more crucial than a sleek look and enhanced visual output, cross-platform app development offers a quicker, more cost efficient solution.

However, developing cross-platform requires a different sensibility and mindset, as there will be some basic differences in the way they look and feel, especially for somebody too accustomed to native apps. Here are some of the most helpful tips that will let you design better cross-platform apps –

1. Choose Your Development Technology

When it comes to cross-platform apps, you have two main options to choose from – Native Hybrid Apps or Responsive HTML5 Websites. Choosing which one of these you wish to develop with is the first step.

An HTML5 web site is essentially a website, which can be local to a device and can responsively adapt to it. Therefore, it can offer a slightly better experience than a standard website accessed through a browser, as it adapts to different screen sizes. The capabilities of HTML5 sites as an app are, however, severely limited. It has no access to your phone’s camera, cannot send push notifications or be sold from an app store and hence, is very difficult to monetize.

Hybrid Apps are somewhere in the middle of Native apps and websites. They use code that is common to both platforms but can integrate platform specific API’s to your target language, allowing the apps to work almost as well as a native app. Depending on your project requirement, available budget and time, you can choose what works best for you. There is no ‘one size fits all’.

2. Adopt Cross-Platform Mindset from the Start

You use high-quality native apps on your personal smartphone day after day and are obviously accustomed to a sleek user experience and flawless performance. You sure want your app to deliver an equally good performance. If you are however choosing cross-platform app development, you must be prepared for a performance at least slightly different from native apps. You must begin with a mindset prepared for a more cross-platform like performance.

3. Design for Both Platforms Differently

Android and iOS are just so different from each other in terms of software, hardware, user expectations and design conventions. Coming up with a single design that adapts seamlessly to both platforms is a formidable task. However, it is far from impossible and with an abundant understanding of both platforms, it can be done quite well.

An experienced designer will adapt the design, imagery, icons, and font to different layouts, making tweaks wherever necessary, while keeping the core branding same. So instead of creating one design and stretching or squeezing it across different devices and interfaces, the design will be scalable to all devices. The trick is to maintain brand consistency, follow basic platform guidelines and conventions but also innovate where possible and use well-balanced combinations of the two.

4. Choose the Right Tools

There are a number of cross-platform app development tools available for developers to choose from. Based on your needs and expectations, choosing the right tool will make all the difference to how your app will turn out. Here are a few popular options for you to consider –

Xamarin– One of the most used and recommended tools for cross-platform app development is Xamarin. Instead of simply writing a common code that is often seen as ‘write-once-run-everywhere’, Xamarin implements native user interfaces on each platform, while keeping most of the non-interface code shareable. This allows Xamarin to create cross-platform apps that look, feel and work like native apps to a large extent. Xamarin uses C# as its main language.

Appcelerator Titanium– This is an open-source framework that allows you to create cross-platform native mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows, using JavaScript codebase.

QT– One of the oldest players of this game, QT was initially used for cross-platform desktop development. Slowly, it added support for iOS and later for Android. It uses C++ as its primary language and doesn’t adapt very well to iOS and Android, delivering a somewhat weak GUI or Graphic User Interface. However, a highly skilled C++ programmer can create useful apps with QT.

NativeScript– like Titanium, NativeScript too uses JavaScript and also supports TypeScript, Angular, and CSS. While slightly new around the block, experts see a lot of potential in NativeScript.

RubyMotion– RubyMotion is another fairly new player. It uses a different GUI code for each platform but allows code reuse or sharing for the business logic.

Choosing the right tool makes all the difference in your final product and hence, you should carefully research each of these to decide which would be best for your project.

5. Use Agile Development Methodology

Agile development is an iterative approach to software development that allows for delivering incremental pieces of the projects instead of delivering the whole of it at once. It allows for a more collaborative development where there is increased communication and collaboration between all concerned teams.

There is also increased flexibility when it comes to dealing with any problems that arise. As there is continuous monitoring at multiple stages of the development, problems can be tested and dealt with as and when they occur instead of waiting until the very end. Using Agile methodology in cross-platform app development, thanks to the multilayer iterations and testing, helps in a smoother, more streamlined development. When the designers, developers, and clients are on the same page throughout the process, the end result is a better product.

Wrapping Up

Even though the gurus will harp on the merits of native development dismissing any mention of cross-platform app development as a subpar technique, the truth is that sometimes, cross-platform is the more cost effective and faster solution. If you are in search for something exactly like that, the above pointers will help guide you in the right direction and develop high-quality cross-platform apps.

Hiral Atha is the Co-Founder and Technical Head of MoveoApps.