Getting To Know Mobile Development Best Practices

Closeup of hands of young man in checkered shirt using mobile phone while his partners arguingMobile Development: Best Practices You Should Know

It wasn't long ago that people primarily used desktops and laptops to surf the web; however, that has changed significantly over the past few years. More and more people are using mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to go online. According to the Pew Research Center, around 81 percent of all Americans own a smartphone, while almost half own tablets. So smart businesses have begun targeting mobile users more aggressively. You might want to consider developing a mobile app for your business. However, designing your own mobile app is a lot easier said than done.

What Is Mobile Development?

Mobile development is the development of software specifically for use on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. Although mobile app development certainly shares some similarities with traditional software development, mobile apps take advantage of the unique features that a smartphone and tablet have. For example, most modern mobile devices have Bluetooth, GPS, cameras, gyroscopic sensors, and more. While desktops have some of these features as well, users take advantage of these functions much more on their smartphones or tablets. 

Mobile apps also tend to be more streamlined and focused on particular functions, whereas traditional desktop software is often much more complex. Mobile apps can help you to achieve various marketing goals as well. For example, a well-designed mobile app can help strengthen customer engagement, improve the customer experience, generate more brand awareness, and increase customer loyalty. Apps can be used for all sorts of things, such as making it easier to purchase products, scheduling appointments, digitizing a loyalty program, sending customers updates, and more. 

The iOS Platform

The iOS platform is developed by Apple exclusively for its devices, which include their iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple TV, and Apple Watches. The platform is based on Darwin and OS X. IOS has many of the same framework elements as OS X. The user interface is also based on the Cocoa UI, which is an Apple interface used in OS X apps. The main difference is that the iOS interface is modified for touch screens capabilities. 

If you decide to develop an app for iOS, you will have access to numerous native tools and libraries. Apps developed natively for iOS are typically programmed using Objective-C or Swift. And although you don't necessarily need to use the development tools that Apple provides to develop an iOS app, you do have to use OS X to build your app.

The Android Platform

Android has the largest share of the mobile OS market, with around 80 percent, compared to iOS, which is under 20 percent. However, these numbers are slightly deceiving since the iOS platform is exclusive to Apple products, whereas Android is available on many different devices built by different manufacturers. The fact that iOS is exclusive to Apple products is the main difference between the two. Android is an open platform backed by Google (the Android source code was released as open-source by Google). Of course, there are a few other differences as well; for example, Android is based on the Linux Kernel. When developing for Android, you will have access to several native tools; however, you're not required to use them.

Options Are Limited To Android And iOS

Android and iOS have pretty much cornered the market. While you could develop mobile apps for Windows or Blackberry, there's no real point in doing so. Microsoft has pretty much abandoned its mobile platform. They even publicly encourage consumers to purchase iOS and Android devices and to install Microsoft apps on those devices instead. Additionally, Blackberry's TCL license to make Blackberries is ending at the end of August in 2020, which means that there won't be any new Blackberries available in the future.

Different Methods Used In Mobile Development 

As you may already know, traditional software programs use a wide range of different programming languages. Like traditional software development, mobile app development can also be built in several different ways. Although iOS and Android have standardized mobile app development to a degree, you still have other options. These are the three main types of mobile development that you can choose when designing an app: 

Native Development

Native development is the use of tools and languages supported by the operating system you're designing the app for. If you're developing a native app specifically for IoS, then you would need to use Xcode, Objective-C, or Swift (the IoS language of choice), all of which are languages that are specific to IoS development. If you develop an app specifically for Android, then you cannot use those programming languages. You would have to use a language native to Android, such as Eclipse or Java.

Although building a native app does limit you to a single platform, many developers still prefer native development. Native development allows them to take advantage of any unique features or functionality that the device has. Native development will result in a better performing app, making them much faster, and giving developers access to better-debugging tools. The drawback to native development is that it can end up becoming a more costly and time-consuming process. If you're planning to create one native app for both platforms, you’ll have to develop two versions in two different programming languages. 

Cross-Platform Development

Cross-platform development is the use of a native rendering engine that lets developers build apps that work on both IoS and Android platforms. There are several different programming languages that you can use for cross-platform development. For example, Javascript code can be shared across iOS and Android platforms since it's not native to either. Tools like NativeScript and Xamarin are often used for cross-platform development.

The main advantage of using cross-platform development is that you can work with a single codebase to build your app for both IoS and Android platforms. A large part of the code you develop can be used for both platforms. Not only will you have reusable code, but your app will be more consistent across platforms. Not to mention that development will be faster and less expensive. 

However, there are a few drawbacks. Not all code can be shared, which means that you may still need to write some native code. You will need to adapt your design to the differences between platforms and devices, which will result in more difficult code design. This challenge will also make it take longer to update your app to take advantage of new features. Finally, cross-platform developed apps are just not as fast as native apps. 

Hybrid-Web Development

Hybrid-web apps are similar to cross-platform apps in that they are compatible with all platforms and devices. However, the difference lies in the development process. Hybrid apps are one part native app and one part web app. Technically, they are web apps that are installed on devices like native apps. A hybrid app uses a language like JavaScript, HTML, or CSS to write the backend code. You must then place the app into a native shell or container developed in the native system. Then it's possible to embed the app within the native system.

Although developed similarly to a web app, a hybrid app does not require a web browser to function. You'll also only need one codebase to build your hybrid app for all devices and platforms. Additionally, you will have access to the internal APIs and device hardware of whatever devices you're building your hybrid app for. The drawbacks are somewhat similar to those of a cross-development app. For example, a hybrid-web app will be slower than a native app. And if you need to customize the app for a specific platform or device, it will be more costly and complicated than if you were to develop a native app. Finally, to deploy the app's wrapper (which acts as a bridge between different platforms), you will have to depend on a third-party platform.

Best Practices

Understanding the different types of development and platforms you can develop for is critical to any plans you have for building your own mobile app. However, certain practices are best to implement so you’ll have a successful mobile app that achieves your goals. Here are some of the best practices to adopt that will ensure a successful mobile app development process:

Do Your Research

Developing a mobile app does require a lot of time and resources. You need to have programmers building your app, testing it, deploying it, and monitoring its performance. Apps need to be periodically updated as well. Because of all the work required, do your research so you’ll know exactly what your app should be. If you create an app that your audience does not need, then nobody will use it, and your efforts will have been a waste. Discover first precisely what your audience wants and needs and design an app that provides an effective solution to those wants or needs.

Choose A Development Method Suitable For You

Choosing a development method depends significantly on what resources you have at your disposal. For example, how many programmers do you have, and what languages are they proficient in? You'll have trouble developing a native app for iOS if your programmers aren't familiar with languages such as Swift or Objective-C. Consider whether you have the capabilities to develop two versions of the same app, whether you need to use different programming languages, and whether cross-platform or hybrid development might suit you better. Examine the pros and cons of each, taking into account the resources at your disposal.

Pick A Platform

Researching your audience should also help you determine which platform to develop for. If the majority of your audience is using iPhones, it's probably a good idea to develop for iOS. If your audience uses both platforms, you may want to consider developing an app that will work for both by either building two versions of the same app using native development or a single hybrid or cross-platform app.

Make Security Your Priority

You cannot overstate the importance of mobile app security. Because mobile apps may upload or download data wirelessly in an environment that's not secure, they can be more vulnerable to security threats. Inadequate security can cause significant problems. If sensitive information is exposed, it could be used for credit card fraud or identity theft. Such an occurrence would damage your company's reputation.

You will need to implement the security capabilities of the platform you're developing and use encryption to protect sensitive data you're collecting. For example, if your app requires credit card information, that data is sensitive and needs to be encrypted. You also need to have the ability to wipe data remotely from a lost device. You should also implement an automatic backup mechanism to ensure that your users don't have to worry about backing up their data.

Test And Retest

Your mobile app is a product. Releasing an inferior product will turn customers away. The last thing you want to do is to release an app that's buggy, doesn't work like it's supposed to, is challenging to use, or keeps crashing. It’s imperative that you test your app before release. You need to test your app at every stage of development. You should also test the final product. If you find any issues, address them before making your app publicly available.

Build A Strong Core

You might be excited about all the minor features or bells and whistles that you hope to implement into your app; however, focus on building a strong core first and foremost. Your core is the most important feature and functionality of your app. You can always make additional features available through plug-ins. By focusing on the core instead of weighing down the app with supplemental features, you will keep your app lightweight.

Make User Experience A Priority

The success of your app relies on whether or not your users have a good experience with it. Always make your app's user experience a priority during the development process. The user experience relies on three major elements: the convenience of using the app, how fast the app can perform, and the overall experience of the app's features and functionality. If your user experience is poor, your users will likely uninstall your app.

Get Feedback & Get To Work

User feedback will help you identify and fix bugs or other problems as well as find ways to improve your app. Because user experience is vital to your app's success, you'll want to know what your users think about your app. Implement a way that users can provide feedback about your app, whether through social channels, email, or a phone number. By paying attention to your users, you'll improve your app's user experience over time while also reducing technical support issues that you'll have to deal with.

Keep The App Store Development Guidelines In Mind

Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store have strict guidelines to ensure that the apps they offer are of high quality. If your app doesn't meet those guidelines, then they will not list your app. Familiarize yourself with their guidelines before you begin the development process. Otherwise, app stores will reject your final product, requiring you to spend more time and money addressing whatever issue caused the rejection.

Give Additional Accessibility Features

Keep in mind that some of your users may have disabilities. You'll want to make sure that anyone with a disability can use your app. Consider implementing accessibility features such as captions, voice assist, and the ability to increase the size of the text. Such features not only ensure that you don't lose users but also helps to improve the overall user experience of your app.

Make A Plan For Follow-Ups

Once your app goes up for download, don't assume that you're done. Even if you've tested your app thoroughly, your users may find issues that you will need to address such as technical problems or functionality problems. Just plan on the fact that your app will need continuous maintenance. You'll also make improvements over the years as well, either by adding new features, improving security, or adding more integrations. 

Choose Your Approach And Implement

Developing a mobile app can have a significant impact on your marketing and sales efforts. However, you must choose the right approach. Be thorough in your research so your app will provide value to your target audience, and so that you choose the right development type and platform. Once you've done your research, implement the best development practices. Only then will you end up with a successful app.

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