The Rise of Cross-Platform Mobile App Development
In the past, to build a mobile app, you had to first decide which platform to target, then identify rollout plans for other platforms. Now, cross-platform mobile app development allows you to develop for every platform at once.
With the rise of new devices like smart watches, and other connectivity opportunities inherent in the Internet of Things, developers are increasingly turning to cross-platform approaches.
But what exactly is cross-platform mobile app development? What are the benefits of using it and how, exactly, do you get it right?
Read on as we cover each of these questions in order.
What is cross-platform mobile app development?
Cross-platform mobile app development is simply a strategy for developing mobile apps that will work across all the different operating platforms. This approach provides the same functionality for each operating platform (such as iOs or Android), and on any device (like Windows PC, Mac, iPhone, or Samsung).
While this sounds like an obvious approach, until recently, it was simply easier to build out applications “natively” on each platform. Today, there are new tools and platforms available to developers that will allow them to program effective and amazing cross-platform mobile apps.
What are the benefits of cross-platform mobile app development?
Native app development still offers some benefits such as device and user customization, native e-commerce and promotion features, and operating system–specific controls.
But cross-platform mobile apps provide many benefits that often far outweigh the potential disadvantages, such as:
- Scale: With cross-platform functionality, your mobile app is available within all current app stores and open for downloading by the more than one billion worldwide mobile app users.
- Speed: It only takes one cross-platform developer team to build an app for multiple mobile operating systems at once, while native mobile app development often requires two or more different teams. This means that cross-platform mobile apps can be delivered to the market more quickly than native apps.
- Ease of use: Available developer tools and frameworks make it easier for even the newest and most inexperienced developer to create new mobile apps. By focusing on functionality over platform, cross-platform applications can also make things easier for end users.
- Lower costs: By building one core code base, you can shorten development cycles and overall programming costs to focus on what really matters, end-user functionality and deployment success. Once the app goes live, maintenance costs are reduced as you only have one developer team, working with a common code base to address any required updates.
The latest generation of cross-platform approaches, tools, and frameworks, are even allowing developers to overcome what used to be considered scope and functionality compromises when choosing a cross-platform approach over native approaches. The latest tools actually allow developers to tailor the UI of apps to each platform.
5 tips for making the most of cross-platform mobile development
According to Thomas Grassl, SAP’s VP of Developer Relations, it is important to understand the mobile app use case and the audience you are trying to address when using a cross-platform development approach.
Here is a list of 5 cross-platform mobile app development tips to help you create better mobile apps for any use case, audience, framework, or platform.
- Collaborate with users: As a developer, it is necessary to answer a number of critical questions such as: “What problem are you solving for the user?” “How important are navigation and user controls?” “Is the app intuitive for the user?” Developers should interact directly with the potential users of the app, as often as possible.
- Work closely with a designer: Developers must work closely with graphic designers to explain the visual differences of each platform, in both the function and the UI, and to take those differences into account when creating screen designs.
- Determine whether native app development is required. When looking at the mobile app use case, consider if the app requires deep interaction with the device such as the camera or the GPS-location data.
- Perform cross-platform testing: To ensure that your cross-platform app works well on each individual platform, release and test small patches frequently across each of them.
- Be platform-agnostic: Many developers have one platform or operating system they prefer. However, as a cross-platform developer, you need to appreciate all platforms, and be able to compare and contrast the merits of each.
The best way to learn how to build amazing mobile apps is to learn by doing. With SAP Cloud Platform, user-based packages, apps are easy to build and the process is much quicker. Click here to get access to a free (for production) account and try it out!