Flexibility has become a significant requirement when it comes to evolving technologies. Platform agnostic solutions, multi-platform technologies and versatile tools and software are the need of the hour. Cross platform mobile app-development belongs to the same league of flexible solutions that are gaining rapid popularity.
Native development is not the only method of creating and launching apps as developers and app owners now have a myriad of options to choose from. Cross-platform app development has been the go-to alternative to native development and today we will share all that you need to know about this method of app development.
In this blog
- What is cross-platform mobile app development?
- What are the advantages of cross-platform development?
- What are the challenges of cross-platform development?
- How to develop cross-platform mobile apps?
- Best cross-platform app development frameworks and tools
What is cross-platform mobile app development?
Cross-platform mobile app development, as the name suggests, is the method of creating an app that can be published on any platform (Android or iOS). Such apps are compatible with multiple mobile operating systems as developers follow the “build once, publish anywhere” approach. Unlike native app development, the code base for cross-platform can be repurposed.
Developers use programming languages that are not native to specific devices and Operating Systems. Instead, the programming architecture is diverse and the apps may be supported on two or more platforms. The apps are built using cross-platform frameworks that enable accessibility to different platform SDKs (Software Development Kits) and libraries.
It is important to know that cross-platform app development is different from other alternatives to native app development like Hybrid and PWAs as it has a very distinct approach. Here’s how:
- Cross-platform Apps: One app built for different OS (two or more) using shareable and reusable code with native like UI/UX.
- Hybrid Apps: Hybrid app development is the combination of native and web solutions and the apps often have limited capabilities.
- Progressive Web Apps (PWAs): PWAs are webpages that behave as mobile apps and are shared via browsers.
- Windows Universal Apps: Apps built with one codebase for all Windows-based devices.
- Rapid Mobile Apps: Apps built using low-code or no-code mobile app development software.
While native app development is still the most popular choice, cross-platform app development is rapidly catching up. It also requires less time and budget, thereby accelerating the app development projects and reducing the time to market. Stay tuned and learn how developers and businesses are benefiting from cross-platform app development.
What are the advantages of cross-platform development?
Cross platform app development has several advantages over native and other app development formats. Here are the most notable benefits of creating cross-platform mobile apps:
Low barrier to entry
It is easier to commence cross-platform development as these apps have a simpler ecosystem to maintain. Creating separate apps for Android and iOS is a demanding process and involves a complicated range of steps. However, cross-platform app development requires less resources and ensures low barrier to entry.
Cross-platform app development requires developers to create only one app. This eliminates the need to code and manage separate apps for Android, iOS or any other platform. Hence, the process becomes several times faster. Eventually, the time to deployment and market reduces and it enables businesses and app owners to focus on other segments.
Cost & labour-efficient
Traditional methods of app development require huge investments and a battery of developers, designers and other professionals. However, one of the biggest advantages of cross-platform app development is that it is affordable and requires only a small workforce to get the basic tasks done. Therefore, it is suitable for small business owners.
Cross-platform development gives developers the ability to use the same codebase for different platforms. The logical applications and UI/UX elements remain the same. Thus, there remains less room for cognitive biases and discrepancies in design, code and content. The chances of errors and flaws also reduce, thereby making the overall project more consistent.
It is not feasible for every business or developer to create and launch apps for every user base (Android, iOS, etc.) separately. Cross-platform development enables customers to overcome this challenge and reach a wider consumer base without allocating different budgets and resources for different platforms. All users get access to a similar app and it also becomes easy to maintain them.
What are the challenges of cross-platform development?
Cross-platform development has many advantages. However, like any other technology, it has its share of downsides. Now that you are aware of the pros of cross-platform development, let us tell you about its cons in this section. The limitations of cross-platform app development are as listed below:
Lower performance ability
Cross-platform apps are easy to build and maintain. However, when compared with their native counterparts, cross-platform apps do not measure up to the abilities and performance. This can be a setback for some businesses that want their apps to be super potent, fast and high-performing.
Code and feature limitations
While native app development is complicated on the whole, strategic laying of codes makes it frictionless for developers to add endless features and customizations. However, achieving the same with one uniform code base can get complicated sometimes. Therefore, it may become challenging to deal with intricate features and detailed customizations.
Repetitive UI elements
While it may be tempting to have an app that looks and behaves alike across platforms, it is an unavoidable fact that each operating system is unique. What works for one platform may not be as best suited for the other. Moreover, repetitiveness and redundancy can pose their own challenges and compromise the overall quality of your app.
Concerns around security
Native apps are tight when it comes to security as they get access to device features and in-built security resources. However, cross platform apps have no such leverage. This makes cross-platform apps more prone to security risks and hazards. Cross-platform app users also have a wait-time on new updates when it comes to SDKs and thus further affects the security and maintenance.
Compromised user experience
Just like security updates, new feature updates also unlock early for native users, while cross-platform app users often have a waiting period. Besides, such apps might also not be able to access device resources to show compatible graphics or customized features. This leads to an average user experience when compared with native apps.
How to develop cross-platform mobile apps?
Creating cross-platform apps might be easier than building native apps. However, it has its own nitty-gritties and challenges. Go through the steps discussed below and learn how you can create cross-platform apps:
Define your concept & objectives
Start with extensive research and planning. Analyze the market and also conduct competitor research to learn what works for them and what does not, what are the trends of the industry, what goals and objectives your app will address, and so on. Finalize your app’s idea and goals and proceed accordingly.
Create and test prototypes
Over time, creating wireframes and prototypes has become an important step in development. This step lets you test the basic architecture, design, content, feature and functionalities of the app. Create and share prototypes with your team and get feedback on the product. Here’s a guide that you can refer to: What is App Prototyping? A guide for beginners
Choose your development path
Once you have tested your idea, go ahead and choose a suitable development path. Pick a development framework that aligns with your goals and ideas and get started. You can also explore low-code and no-code development options that support cross-platform development.
Develop your cross-platform app
Design your app UI and UX and add features and functionalities. Develop your app with your preferred method and make sure it is suitable for both Android and iOS and the other platforms you are targeting. Start with creating an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and then scale it the way you want.
Launch your mobile app
Once your app is ready, go ahead and deploy it. Depending on your use case, apps can be published on the mobile app stores (Google Play Store, Apple App Store) or distributed through the web via desktop application stores (Microsoft, Mac App Store, etc.), or even through application installers. Optimize your listing and go ahead and promote your app.
Best cross-platform app development frameworks and tools
In this section you will learn about the top frameworks and tools for cross-platform mobile app development. You can use these technological frameworks to create and launch your app. This list is as follows:
Flutter, owned by Google, is a popular framework that enables creators to build mobile, web and desktops apps using a single codebase. Developers need to work with Google’s programming language Dart in order to create apps with Flutter. It has all that one needs to create premium cross-platform apps. Some well-known mobile apps based on Flutter include eBay, Google Pay, Alibaba, etc.
Xamarin, owned by Microsoft, is an open-source cross-platform app development framework that uses the C# language and the .Net framework. It powers Windows, Android and iOS app development and is supported by many contributors and developers around the globe. Some popular apps built using Xamarin are Academy Members (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) App and Alaska Airlines.
That was all you needed to know about cross-platform mobile app development. It is certainly tempting and has its own unique advantages. This method is especially suitable for businesses who want a quick and affordable solution as an alternative to custom and traditional methods of app development.
However, it is true that native apps are unmatchable when it comes to quality, performance and overall potential. Therefore, if you are only settling with cross platform app development because you want to save time coding and build your app on a tight budget and timeline then go with no-code native app development instead.
No-code app development tools that enable native app development often do not require you to create two separate apps. The same inputs can be used to generate different app builds for different platforms. No-code app creators like AppMySite let users create enterprise-level apps within minutes of signing up. You can explore our platform to learn more and experience app building for free.