Cross-Platform App Development [Beginner’s Guide]

The popularity of mobile applications continues to rise with each passing year. Increased growth calls for the use of newer and more modern software development tools. Cross-Platform App Development tools, which many consider the holy grail of software development, allow developers to build a codebase only once.

It saves time as one doesn’t have to build natively for every single platform. Also, if you’re worried about the budget, Yalantis.com can provide you with a rough idea of what to expect.

Below, we have used simple words to provide a brief overview of the cross-platform app development process.

The Difference Between Native and Cross-Platform App Development

For years, the tech community has been involved in a never-ending debate on native vs cross-platform development.

Some experts prefer native applications over cross-platform ones. However, more companies are looking into developing cross-platform apps to help enhance user experience.

Others, such as Uber, are doing so as a way of rewriting the existing apps.

The one thing both platforms share is their ever-evolving nature. It’s an indication that there’s a need to keep revisiting both topics every so often to understand which option is winning.

cross platform vs native app
Cross-Platform vs Native App

In the case of native app development, the platform focuses on creating a capable design that sticks to the attributes of the intended target platform, i.e., iOS, Android, etc.

On the other hand, cross-platform development is focused on creating an application that can reach as many followers as possible. It seeks to use the creation and programming processes to cover as many end devices as it can.

Parameter Native Apps Cross-Platform Apps
Performance It guarantees seamless performance considering the app is developed for a given OS Excellent performance, but it tends to experience hardware compatibility issues. Lags are not uncommon
Device Access Access to device API is guaranteed by platform SDK There’s no guaranteed access to all the device APIs
Code Usability The code only works for one platform Developer can use one code on numerous platforms ensuring easy portability
UI Consistency Consistent with the user interface components of the target device Limiter or restricted consistency with the user interface components of the target device.
Cost High cost of software development Relatively low/affordable cost of software development

Challenges in Cross-Platform App Development Process

Although there are many benefits to cross-platform app development, it also comes with several challenges. These challenges include:

Limited Tool Support in a Framework

Developers should only build cross-platform apps if they already know the features they intend to include in the project.

Aside from this, they’ve to be sure that the development framework can easily handle the said features. Many organizations may not have access to the tools needed to customize the apps. Most developers prefer to use TypeScript, Java, and Ruby on Rails when building cross-platform apps. But these languages aren’t always ideal!

Lower Performance

High performance is one of the most sought-after attributes of any app. While performance often depends on many factors, native apps tend to perform better.

A cross-platform app may have the same functionalities as its native companion but still perform poorly. The good news is that performance differences tend to be minimal, mainly when dealing with smaller applications.

Code Loss During Platform Migration

A cross-development framework is by far the most efficient option when building any cross-platform app. The platform will tie you into the project in a similar fashion as site builders.

What do we mean? It means the framework will allow you to create usable content, but it will make it impossible for you to use the content on another framework.

cross-platform challenges
Cross-Platform Challenges

Developers, therefore, need to think of the bigger picture when choosing a framework. Their efforts may get lost if they decide to migrate to another framework in the future.

Poor UX/UI

As surprising as this may sound, the reality is that most cross-platform apps fail because of the hard-to-navigate designs and the inclusion of unnecessary features.

Native apps are built on the premise of a beautiful blend of graphics, 3D effects, and eye-catching animation effects enhanced by device hardware features.

Unfortunately, cross-platform apps are incapable of taking advantage of the functionality offered by mobile devices leading to a poor user experience. Each mobile device has a unique attribute. Hence, developers can’t use a single code to provide the same functionality to all users.

Developers are thus forced to simplify features to assure image and screen layout consistency across multiple devices.

Poor Customization and Navigation Integration

No single development framework can provide support for all the features you will need during code development, e.g.,

  • Options connected to hardware functionality
  • Inbuilt storage access
  • Integration with device local settings

Lack of access to essential features could result in the app operations being blocked in their entirety.

Pros and Cons of Cross-Platform App Development

Here are some pros and cons to help you understand better

Pros

1. Reusable Code

Developers don’t need to write unique codes for all platforms. They only need to write a single code and then customize it for all other desired platforms. Therefore, it’s possible to use the code in bits for other projects.

2. Faster Development

The cross-platform app development technique allows developers to eliminate the need to rewrite code from the ground up every time they create an app.

It allows them to reuse the codebase, thereby speeding up the whole development process. The process leads to faster delivery times compared to native development.

3. Reduced App Development Costs

One of the primary reasons some businesses are yet to invest in app development is the high cost. Luckily, cross-platform app development is affordable, allowing brands to get mobile apps without investing too much into their development.

Cons

1. Integration Problems

Developers have a hard time integrating their apps with local notifications, preferences, and settings. You may need to use third-party cloud services for storage purposes.

2. Poor UI and UX Design

Poor UX/UI design is by far the most significant disadvantage of cross-platform app development. Native apps are better focused on UX and UI designs. The use of a single codebase and insufficient access to inbuilt features means the user experience will be poor.

Languages Used in Cross-Platform Development

The following is a look at the most popular cross-platform languages to help in simplifying your decision-making journey:

Java

It’s a programming language that’s both simple and powerful. Java has a large community and offers a broader choice of different open-source tools, libraries, and frameworks.

The cross-platform language offers two execution environments:

• Dalvik (Android)

• Java Virtual Machine (Mac OS, Windows, and UNIX)

It provides developers with a great way to build Rich Client Applications for Android devices and desktops.

C++

It offers the best performance for your applications on any chosen platform. C++ provides direct access to controllers, RAM, GPU, and CPU.

It has long been the base language for complex computations for Big Data Analyses and Processing, Video and Image Processing, and Game Engines.

languages used in cross-platform development
Languages Used in Cross-Platform Development

C++ is more challenging than Java or C#.

C#

It works in the Mono (Android, Mac OS, UNIX) and .NET environments. Unlike Java, it doesn’t use Virtual Machine.

It’s the main competitor to Java and shares several similarities despite their frameworks being very different.

Major Cross-Platform Mobile Development Tools

These are some popular Cross Platform tools:

Xamarin

It’s a cross-platform .NET and C# based mobile app development tool. Xamarin is used in Windows, iOS, and Android app development, engineering, and deployment.

cross-platform development tools
Cross-Platform Development Tools

The toolkit supports type-checking and supports PCL for backend interactions.

React Native

It was launched by Facebook in 2015 and is based on JavaScript. It’s the ideal tool for developing enterprise-level mobile applications. Hence, Developers have an easier time designing apps using this toolkit due to its open-source nature.

Flutter

It’s an SDK that allows developers a rich set of material designs with better customization options. You can use it to build both iOS and Android apps using a single codebase.

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