Mobile App Development

Mobile App Development

Basics of app development

Whether it's a mobile, web, or multi-platform app, developing small applications is no magic. However, before an app is commissioned, some critical requirements must be clarified.

Are you programming an app? This can be very simple: Especially when using freelance developers, this can be done relatively quickly and inexpensively. In-house programming is also not a problem if you only have the right people.

When planning to create the apps for smartphones, tablets, Macs, and Windows PCs, some basics have to be considered in advance, and some things have to be clarified. Because app development is not magic - but also not child's play, the more substantial the basis is, the easier it will be later to support new systems/models or to set the app on a completely new operating system basis.

What content you want to deliver?

In the first instance, it should be clarified which content should be delivered with the app. The first question here is what kind of software it is. While complex programs - such as games or system-related tools  are usually comparatively complex to port, there are, of course, also many apps that primarily use an adapted version of their website apart from a few APIs of the system.

Many social media services such as Facebook and Twitter have such apps, and the various shopping platforms also work with this type of "simple" app.

These so-called hybrid apps are easy to program and easy to port; after all, the core of the development, the creation of the native app, has already taken place through the development environment of the mobile system in the form of the respective browser. Developers can access the functions of Safari (Mac / iOS), Webview, and Chrome (Android) or Edge (Windows 10) already implemented in the system.

The development effort primarily consists of adapting the website, which means that the development effort for the actual app is limited. At the same time, your application is represented in the app marketplaces, and you can actively promote them.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of native apps.

Of course, this type of hybrid app is not always ideal. If, for example, the app requires a lot of system functions but only delivers a little information, it is almost always advisable to use a native mobile app. This one is developed from scratch in the respective programming language or the software development kit (SDK) of the respective platform.

Under macOS and iOS, this is, for example, the free programming environment XCode from Apple. The Android SDK offers corresponding software for mobile devices with the in-house Android system. Microsoft makes it particularly easy for developers with the Software Development Kit for Windows 10 because apps can be developed with the same code base for all types of (Microsoft) systems: mobile and desktop apps are created in one wash.

The main advantage of such an app type is that it doesn't rely solely on the internet connection. It can simultaneously access multiple programming interfaces, related to the system, showing the optimal work in the meantime.

The disadvantage is the porting effort, which is much higher than in the web or hybrid apps if, for example, development has to be carried out for Windows, Android, and iOS in parallel.

This is also why, for example, Windows 10 is currently falling behind as a smartphone operating system: Developers often have no desire or budget to support this comparatively unimportant platform. Exotic systems like Ubuntu-Mobile or Firefox OS suffer from the same problems.

Web apps without a native base

A third way is the use of so-called web apps: This is software that works exclusively in the browser. Mostly made on HTML5 or Java, these apps are primarily independent of the operating system on which they are supposed to run. All that is needed is a reasonably modern browser, which is now part of every operating system's delivery scope.

The advantage of this solution is distinct: Instead of spending money and working time on planning and programming native apps, the app is created as a browser app. This means that it can work with almost any operating system. For example, Google heavily relies on this technology. Although the software giant also uses native or hybrid apps on iOS, Android, and Windows, most Google services also work efficiently in a web browser - regardless of whether they are under Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, or other systems.

So why not to always rely on web apps? Well: Web apps have some substantial disadvantages compared to native and hybrid apps. Data exchange between the operating system and the web app is often complicated, and access to system functions (such as the iPhone camera) is usually primarily prevented. Besides, web apps naturally depend on a functioning online connection.

However, this is still problematic. The Wi-Fi hotspots are still expensive in many hotels, during flight, or while traveling in other countries. In such situations, web apps are mostly useless.

3 questions to figure out before you start

If these three questions - what should the app deliver, how should it work, and where should it work - are clarified, it is much easier to put together a precise specification in project planning. This not only enables a developer's sufficient work, but also helps to prevent exploding costs and excessive expenditure of time.

When it comes to app development, precise submission dates are often important so as not to be outdone by the competition. With proper planning, these can be adhered to much better.