Mobile App Development
Ultimate Guide to Cross-Platform App Development (2022)
At Sneakers Apps, we want to introduce new developers to cross-platform app development. In this article, we discuss the role of cross-platform app development in the development process, the use of cross-platform mobile app development tools, and the challenges in developing cross-platform applications with a consistent user interface.
What Is Cross-Platform App Development?
Cross-platform app development, in contrast to native app development, is a programming practice that allows software applications to work on many devices without compatibility problems, glitches, or loss of functionality.
Benefits of Cross-Platform App Development
Cross-platform app development may seem like an added cost compared to native app development if developers initially only anticipate selling the app to users of a particular platform. However, many developers profit from investing in cross-platform development.
Ability to Reach a Wider Audience
Creating an app that works the same way across multiple platforms allows people who create apps to market it broadly without worrying about causing frustrations among their target audience. Consumers become frustrated when they try using mobile apps on their phones, laptops, and tablets, only to find the operating system is incompatible with their device.
Less Costly Development
Building cross-platform apps can be less expensive compared to the costs of redeveloping native apps to fit users’ new devices or different platforms.
For example, let’s say a developer creates a native Android app, and a loyal user of your mobile app switches to an Apple device running iOS. Perhaps they bought an iPhone or a Mac. In this case, the app developer would face unappealing choices that could increase development costs, such as:
- Lose loyal customers who will use competing apps built to work on their new devices.
- Redo the app development process for every competing platform at a high cost.
- Start cross-platform development later after spending money and time on native app development.
Cross-platform app development enables developers to create a single code base rather than different modules for each version of the app. If bugs arise within the code for the product, programmers can fix them for one cross-platform app rather than having to debug multiple different versions of the app, possibly written in different programming languages.
If your developers need to patch or update software, they can deploy cross-platform solutions rather than creating and deploying updates to a variety of native elements in each targeted platform.
Go Live Sooner
Cross-platform development allows developers to complete mobile development as a unitary process rather than several simultaneous projects. If native development for one platform hits a snag, developers might have to delay the product release for the mobile application or release the app.
Provide the Same UI Across Devices
Imagine a consumer calling tech support because they have trouble with your mobile application. Tech support personnel will have an easier time walking customers through troubleshooting steps if all users interact with the same interface.
The process will take much longer if support personnel have to deal with a different interface depending on the user’s device and operating system.
Developing a Cross-Platform Mobile App
If you are unfamiliar with cross-platform app development, you don’t have to worry about becoming bogged down as long as you follow these steps in mobile app development. Cross-platform app frameworks, programming languages, and cross-platform development tools can make it simpler to create mobile apps for various platforms.
Define Your Expectations, Timeline, and Roles
As with any application development project, an essential step is defining the project parameters. To do so, ask the following questions:
- What are your target platforms?
- What mobile devices does your target consumer use?
- What user experience and functionality do your users require?
Defining expectations for the program beforehand will help you budget the time you need to complete cross-platform app development and delegate responsibility for aspects of the process.
Do you need to bring on new talent for your cross-platform development efforts? This step will help you decide which cross-platform development framework and programming language or languages your developers need to be proficient in for the project.
The Design Phase
Before creating code for web apps or mobile apps, develop a wireframe that describes the elements of your app and create a blueprint for the app as a whole. Wireframe software programs enable developers to visualize and test the app’s usability.
One option to consider when developing cross-platform apps is hybrid mobile app development. Developing hybrid mobile apps combine elements of native app development and cross-platform developments to create cross-platform apps that work well with native apps on different operating systems and mobile platforms.
Building the App
Your design will help you decide whether a native app vs. cross-platform app will best meet your objectives and decide on the right cross-platform app creator software or native mobile app builder to use when you build the app.
Cross-platform frameworks work by bridging the gap between the underlying code for the cross-platform mobile apps and the multiple platforms on which the apps run.
If you decide on cross-platform app development, your next step is to choose among the available cross-platform app development frameworks. Currently, the leading cross-platform frameworks for app developers include Flutter, React Native, Xamarin, and Ionic. Each framework has advantages and disadvantages.
For example, Flutter is a cross-platform development framework that Google introduced 15 years ago. Developers used Flutter to create high-profile mobile applications, such as Alibaba and Google Ads. Not surprisingly, for a Google product, Flutter makes it easy to connect with Google applications like Google Maps.
React Native cannot always create fully cross-platform apps, so apps created with React Native might need to use a hybrid design incorporating elements specific to Android or iOS along with cross-platform elements.
Unlike Flutter, which shares the same parent company as the developers of the Android Native Framework, React Native is not directly connected to a native format. This means that React Native might be out-of-date compared to competitors, and you might have to debug and tinker with your cross-platform apps a bit more than its competitors.
Ionic is an open-source, cross-platform framework that works with plug-ins to interact with parts of the user’s device, such as the camera. Its ability to simulate the user experience of native apps is an advantage.
Xamarin is another open-source framework for developing cross-platform mobile apps. Its designers built it in the popular C# programming language and used the Objective-C runtime library, making it compatible with iOS apps.
Microsoft owns Xamarin and states that it is free for commercial and non-commercial use as part of the .NET framework and Visual Studio. Visual Studio is Microsoft’s IDE and code editor.
These frameworks support hybrid and cross-platform application development. The choice of which cross-platform app development framework to use depends on several factors, such as:
- Whether an open-source design benefits you or meets the needs of the project.
- Whether you want your mobile applications to capture the feel of a native app.
- The third-party apps and third-party plugins you want your application to work with.
- The languages and other development tools you plan to use for developing your app.
- The mix of devices and operating systems that you expect your target customers to prefer.
Read more here on Cross-Platform App Development Tools.
Outsource Your Cross-Platform App Development
Even with support from internet guides, app-building tools, and the development community, designing an app to work smoothly on any mobile platform can be challenging, especially for developers new to mobile development. During the design phase of app development, ask whether you have the tools, experienced team members, and time to develop your app.
Trying to save money by creating an app in-house could be more trouble than it’s worth if it leads to higher costs, delayed rollouts, and costs for licensing and consultant fees.
One solution is to choose a dependable company to handle your cross-platform mobile development project so that you can focus on assessing user needs, marketing the app, and other core parts of your business process.
Cross-Platform App Development Summary
We hope this article explained how to develop a cross-platform mobile app and appreciate the questions you will have to answer when developing wireframes and conducting usability analysis. At Sneakers Apps, we can evaluate Ionic, Xamarin, and Flutter vs. React Native cross-platform development and suggest criteria for choosing the best cross-platform app framework.
Avoid the cost and time expenditure of developing native apps for native platforms. Instead, develop apps that give users the reassuring feel of native interfaces with maximum functionality. We look forward to hearing about your latest plans for cross-platform app development.
Our Sneakers Apps team are experts in cross-platform mobile development for multiple platforms, including iOS and Android platforms. We also have experience with hybrid mobile app development.
Interested in learning more about mobile app development? Read our Mobile App Development Guide 2021.
Need help with a project? Contact us.