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.
However you define them, native apps have traditionally been built using software development tools such as Swift, Java and others. 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 them and development cycles are long, especially when you consider any changes which means revisiting the code and re-doing the work.
The solution to these and other challenges can be found in cross-platform development. With traditional native development on Android, Windows, iOS, code is typically written in one language and a different language on each platform. With cross-platform coding, it’s 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 a with 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 don’t feel native.
Which is the best option for the development of your mobile applications? Consider three 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. 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 mastering one language skillset.
Mobile app development done well improves customer satisfaction and builds your bottom line. There is also no question that how to get it done is a 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 optimization for continual enhancement.
If you’d like more information on cross-platform app development, join us at the Titanium User Meeting, May 18 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at The May Fair Hotel in London. Registration is open now.
Jason Kneen is Freelance Cross-Platform native app developer based in Wiltshire, United Kingdom. He is married with 4 children, and works from his home office, building cross-platform native apps for clients all over the world. He’s the author of a book on Titanium Mobile development, regularly speaks at conferences and meetups the co-host of the podcast at http://thecheckedshirt.com. You can find out more about him and his work at http://bouncingfish.com