In an era where people are constantly addicted to their phones, it’s no surprise that businesses are beginning to invest more in mobile app development. But, with so many types of devices available, how can you ensure that your app will work on all of them? The solution is cross-platform app development!
Cross-platform development enables developers to create apps using a single code base, ultimately reducing development expenses and saving time. These apps aid in reaching a larger audience and provide a consistent user experience across several platforms, making maintenance and upgrades easier – no wonder why it is a popular choice of businesses in 2023.
In this article, we’ll be discussing all about cross-platform apps. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
What Is a Cross-Platform Mobile App?
A cross-platform app refers to an application designed and developed to work on multiple mobile platforms or operating systems. It allows the app to run on different platforms, such as iOS and Android, without significant modifications to the codebase, thereby saving time and effort compared to developing separate native apps for each platform.
Why Develop a Cross-Platform App?
If you’re considering building a cross-platform app and still aren’t sure if it’s the right move, here are several reasons that can compel you to it.
- Multi-Platform Compatibility: One of the most important benefits of developing cross-platform applications is that they can be used on various platforms to target and reach a wider audience. For instance, this approach is ideal for businesses with a shorter time to market and the goal of reaching both iOS and Android users.
- Cost-Effective: Typically, to build an app, you need to invest in three separate development workflows such as iOS, Android, and web. But with a cross-platform framework, only one single codebase needs to be created, which reduces the cost of developing separate apps for each platform.
- Time-Saving: Since a cross-platform app developer only needs to create a single code set, developing a cross-platform app can save them time and effort to create different applications for different platforms.
- Easy to Maintain: Cross-platform apps enable simple code maintenance and usability. When it comes to adding or removing functionality, developers only need to make one set of updates sufficient to update the app across all platforms.
Comparison of Native vs. Cross-Platform Development
When it comes to mobile app development, two primary options emerge, native and cross-platform app development. Here is a comparison between the two:
- Tailored for a specific platform (e.g., iOS, Android).
- Utilizes platform-specific programming languages (Swift/Objective-C for iOS, Java/Kotlin for Android).
- Provides access to full platform capabilities and performance optimizations.
- Requires separate codebases for each platform.
- Generally offers better platform integration and user experience.
- Enables app development for multiple platforms using a single codebase.
- Utilizes cross-platform frameworks like React Native, Flutter, Xamarin, or Ionic.
- Promotes code reuse, saving time and effort.
- May require additional effort for platform-specific customization.
- Balances between code efficiency and native-like performance.
Steps to Building Cross-Platform Mobile Apps
The cross-platform app development process comprises several steps. We’ve briefly discussed these steps below.
Step 1: Define App Requirements
Begin by clearly defining the requirements and objectives of your cross-platform app. Prepare a product vision, and understand the target audience, desired features, and functionality to determine the scope of your project.
Step 2: Select a Cross-Platform Framework
Next, research and choose a suitable cross-platform app development framework that aligns with your project requirements. Evaluate factors such as programming language, community support, performance, and available tools.
Step 3: Set Up the Development Environment
Install the necessary development tools and SDKs for the selected cross-platform framework. This typically includes installing the framework’s command-line tools, development IDE, and relevant platform-specific dependencies.
Step 4: Design the User Interface
Create a user-friendly and visually appealing interface by designing the app’s user interface (UI). Consider platform-specific UI guidelines and best practices while maintaining a consistent user experience across different platforms.
Step 5: Write Code and Implement Features
Start writing code using the chosen cross-platform framework and its associated programming language. Implement the required features and functionality, leveraging the framework’s APIs, libraries, and plugins.
Step 6: Testing and Debugging
Once done with the code, thoroughly test the app’s functionality and user experience across various devices and platforms. Perform unit, integration, and user acceptance testing to identify and fix bugs or issues before deploying.
Step 7: Building and Deploying the App
Once testing is complete, build the app for each target platform. This process involves compiling the codebase into platform-specific binaries. Finally, deploy the app to respective app stores or distribution channels, adhering to platform-specific guidelines and requirements.
Best Practices for Cross-Platform Mobile App Development
Now that you know how to build cross-platform mobile apps, here are the best strategies and approaches to help developers create a successful product.
1. Performance Optimization Techniques
Developers should employ strategies to enhance the performance of the app. This includes optimizing memory usage, reducing network requests, streamlining database operations, and improving code execution efficiency. By prioritizing performance, developers ensure the app runs smoothly and provides a responsive user experience on various platforms.
2. UI/UX Design Considerations
Cross-platform app developers must consider design guidelines and principles that work well across multiple platforms. They should aim for a consistent and intuitive user interface, taking into account platform-specific design patterns, screen sizes, and interaction paradigms. It helps provide users with a seamless and familiar experience regardless of their platform.
3. Handling Device-specific Features
Different mobile platforms offer unique features and capabilities. To provide a native-like experience, developers should gracefully handle these device-specific features in their cross-platform apps. This may involve using platform-specific APIs or third-party libraries to access functionalities such as the camera, GPS, push notifications, or biometric authentication. Leveraging these features enhances the app’s functionality and makes it more useful to users.
4. Continuous Integration and Deployment
Continuous integration (CI) and deployment (CD) practices are essential for efficient cross-platform app development. CI involves integrating code changes from multiple developers into a shared repository regularly. On the other hand, CD automates deploying the app to different platforms after successful integration. By adopting CI/CD, developers can streamline the development process, catch bugs early, and ensure the app is consistently up-to-date across platforms.
5. Security and Data Protection Measures
Mobile app security is critical, especially when dealing with user data and sensitive information. Developers should implement robust security measures such as secure communication protocols, data encryption, and secure storage mechanisms to protect user data from unauthorized access or breaches.
Tools and Frameworks for Cross-Platform App Development
To build a cross-platform mobile app, there is a wealth of tools and frameworks to pick from. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones in 2023.
Flutter is an open-source UI toolkit developed by Google. It enables developers to build high-performance, visually appealing apps for multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, web, and desktop, using a single codebase written in Dart.
Flutter uses a reactive framework that allows fast rendering and provides a wide range of customizable UI widgets. It also offers hot-reload functionality, which allows developers to see the changes in real time, making the development process more efficient. Google Pay and My BMW are popular flutter-based cross-platform apps.
2. React Native
The framework provides a rich set of pre-built UI components and allows access to platform-specific APIs, enabling developers to create highly performant and visually appealing apps. Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb are among the top apps built using React Native.
Xamarin, acquired by Microsoft, is a robust cross-platform development framework. It allows developers to use a single codebase written in C# to build mobile apps that run on several platforms, including iOS, Android, and Windows.
Xamarin offers native performance and access to native APIs, resulting in highly functional and visually native-looking applications. It also provides a comprehensive development environment and an extensive choice of libraries and tools to streamline development. Xamarin-based mobile app examples include Microsoft Azure, FreshDirect, etc.
How Much Does it Cost to Make a Cross-Platform App?
Mobile app development cross-platform costs around $20,000+ for a simple app, between $20,000 to $45,000 for a moderate app, and $45,000 to $75,000 for an advanced app with various features.
The cost of building a cross-platform mobile app can vary significantly on your specific requirements. Thus, it’s challenging to provide an exact development cost. Get in touch with a professional to get an accurate cost.
With technology evolving rapidly, cross-platform app solutions are expected to evolve and improve. This guide covers all a beginner needs to know about cross-platform development before building a successful mobile app.
Ready to leverage all the perks of cross-platform app development? We’re here to help you with it. As a fully-functional app development company, we are equipped to offer top-notch app development services. Talk to us for more.