Building a successful mobile app for today’s volatile audience is already a daunting task, not to say about building an app that works great on different mobile operating systems. And not only do the tastes and needs of the audience change but simply the number of mobile users is growing year-over-year too. According to the Digital 2023 report, the number of global mobile users from January 2022 to January 2023 has grown by 168 million, and now practically 68 percent of the population is using mobile phones.
Developing a mobile app for many people to use and enjoy can bring lots of frustration to you. Check out Yalantis’s expertise if you’re looking for a trusted software development vendor. You might not know where to start or might be confused by the sheer amount of technologies that can help you with your project. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn everything about how to make cross-platform apps.
What is a cross-platform app?
A cross-platform app is a mobile application that is built to run on multiple mobile operating systems. A multi-platform app can be used on different devices without rebuilding it, and it can be used by multiple users at the same time.
These apps are typically built using software development kits (SDKs), which allow a cross-platform mobile app developer to write code once and then deploy it across all platforms. This makes cross-platform development much more time-efficient because developers don’t have to write code twice or more times for each platform they want their apps to run on. Let’s find out even more benefits of mobile cross-platform development in the next section.
Benefits of cross-platform mobile app development
The benefits of developing cross-platform mobile applications include:
- Increased user base. By having your app available on more than one platform, you’re expanding your potential audience by many thousands or millions of users.
- Reduced operational costs. With just one source code base, maintenance costs are reduced since there’s only one version of the app.
- Faster time to market. With fewer platforms to support, developers can release apps much faster. This also reduces the risk associated with launching new products or features by eliminating delays caused by waiting on updates or new releases.
- Reduced testing time. Cross-platform mobile app development also helps to reduce the amount of time required for testing an application before releasing it into production since all versions of the app share common functionality and code libraries.
- Improve user experience (UX). Multi-OS mobile apps allow users to access your service from any device without needing to download another app or lose data when switching between devices. This improves UX because it encourages engagement with customers over a longer period of time.
Knowing the benefits, let’s move to the next section which tells you how to develop such an app.
How to build a cross-platform mobile app
Here are some common steps to follow when starting with building a cross-platform mobile application.
Step 1. Research and analyze your market to learn the behavior and needs of your target audience. Plus, you should find out how your competitors are solving typical challenges to get some lessons learned even before your actual development starts.
Step 2. Develop a plan for app development, including the type of app you want and the marketing strategy for the mobile platforms you develop for.
Step 3. Choose a suitable cross-platform development framework, such as React Native mobile development toolkit or Xamarin (more on how to make this choice comes later).
Step 4. Create a minimum viable product (MVP) so that not to pour in lots of money right away but still get a tangible outcome for first-round analysis.
Step 5. Test the application on multiple devices before launching it on the market.
This was a rough outline but we hope you’ve grasped the gist and can at least form a general understanding of what cross-platform mobile development flow involves. Now, let’s discover what possible obstacles you can face during development.
Challenges in the cross-platform app development process
Even though building a cross-platform application is a great solution for businesses, challenges can appear quite frequently. Here are some of them:
Differences in user interfaces. One of the major challenges in the cross-platform mobile app development process is that there are several differences between the user interface of each platform, namely iOS and Android. Developers need to understand these differences and create an excellent user experience across all platforms.
Lack of native components. Another challenge faced by cross-platform developers is that they do not have access to native components on all platforms. Additionally, entirely native applications tend to perform better than cross-platform applications. And you should remember that when you build such a one-size-fits-all solution, you’re bound to make certain sacrifices.
App size. Cross-platform apps tend to be larger than native apps due to the code that needs to be shared across platforms. This may not be an issue if you’re building a simple app, but it can cause problems if you need to download large amounts of data or have content that varies between platforms.
Before developing a cross-platform application you should carefully consider all the odds and make sure it’s exactly what you need performance- and feature-wise.
Major cross-platform mobile development frameworks
Here are short descriptions of several most popular cross-platform app frameworks:
Flutter is a cross-platform mobile development framework, used to create high-quality mobile apps on Android and iOS. Flutter uses a reactive programming style and a stateful widget system while providing a rich set of material design widgets. Flutter can be used for building both business and consumer apps. It has been used to develop applications in a wide range of categories including retail, e-commerce, banking, travel and transportation, utilities, media and entertainment, healthcare, education, and ad tech.
Xamarin is a C#-based framework that enables developers to create native apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone using Microsoft’s .NET languages such as C# and F#. Xamarin enables developers to share around 90% of code across all three platforms (Android, iOS, Windows), which makes development faster and easier than coding from scratch on each platform individually.
According to Kotlin’s rating of top cross-platform development frameworks, React Native and Flutter have been the most popular ones for almost five years already.
Whether you’re starting cross-platform mobile development from scratch or looking for ways to improve your existing project, it’s clear that there are a number of options for developers looking to create cross-platform mobile applications. The specific needs of a given project will weigh heavily on the best choice of platform and direction to take. In either case, though, none of the tools are inherently superior in providing the best user experience, so developers need to do their research and choose the solution that best suits their project.