A Step-By-Step Guide To Cross-Platform App Development
Building cross-platform mobile applications isn’t an easy job, especially when you don’t have knowledge about which will be the right app development framework for your app.
In today’s highly Darwinian and disruptive mobile app development world, nothing less than perfection is needed to succeed in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Every single person has an idea of getting an app developed and dreams of perfection, but what about the cost?
Yes, it may happen that you develop your app at triple the amount (unwantedly) using a given app development framework than what could have been the cost using another (and more suitable) framework.
In short, when it comes to application development, knowledge can make or break the game. Today, on behalf of our expert App development team of Virva Infotech, we’ll be sharing in-depth knowledge of whatever you need to know about cross-platform app development before getting your own app developed.
Advantages and disadvantages of cross-platform app development
Cross-platform app development is a popular approach for building mobile applications that can run on multiple platforms. It saves heaps of time and resources as the developers create a single codebase that works equally smoothly across different operating systems. So, if you want an app for iOS and Android, there is no need to spend extra. That’s the reason businesses love cross-platform app development.
What else is vital when it comes to a business app’s success? It’s the user experience across different platforms. By adopting Cross-platform app development, developers can ensure that the app looks and behaves the same on different devices, which can improve user satisfaction and reduce confusion. That’s something that helps avoid negative user reviews in the app stores.
What’s on the negative side? Well, don’t expect your app to match the performance and functionality of the outcomes of native app development. So, if your app isn’t that complex, cross-platform app development is great. However, if you want to integrate a lot of features and functionalities without compromising on performance, native app development should be your top choice.
Another important point – is never to trust less experienced developers for developing cross-platform apps. This can lead to longer development times and increased costs. Developers must be familiar with different languages, tools, and frameworks. You can clear your further doubts by clicking HERE.
How does cross-platform development differ from native app development?
Native app development involves creating an application that is specifically designed for a particular operating system, such as iOS or Android. These apps are built using platform-specific languages and tools, resulting in better performance and access to device-specific features. Now, that means you can rely on this method even if your app is feature-packed.
On the other hand, cross-platform development involves building an application capable of running on multiple platforms using just a single codebase, as we discussed above.
The level of control over the user interface is one of the core differences between cross-platform and native app development . Native apps offer greater control over the design and functionality of the UI. The reason here is that developers can use platform-specific tools and design guidelines to create a high-end user experience. And you must know, no matter how interesting and functionality rich your app is, if UX isn’t up to the mark, you’re close to failure.
Native apps are better in terms of overall performance as well, and you must already have an idea about the reason. Yes, they are optimized for a specific operating system and can access device-specific features more easily.
But the bottom line is that if you feel that your app has simple functionality, there is no need to spend extra on Native app development.
An overview of cross-platform app development tools and frameworks
In this section, we will provide a short overview of some of the most praised cross-platform app development tools and frameworks.
- Flutter: Flutter is a mobile app development framework developed by Google. Developers can create high-performance, visually attractive apps for iOS and Android using a single codebase like React Native only. It uses Dart (a proprietary programming language) and offers a rich set of pre-built widgets, due to which building complex UI elements becomes far easier.
- Xamarin: Microsoft developed Xamarin, a cross-platform app development tool that again allows developers to build apps for iOS, Android, and Windows using a single codebase. It uses C# and allows for the use of platform-specific APIs and UI components, and it’s an interesting choice for building enterprise-level apps.
- PhoneGap: PhoneGap is a mobile app development framework developed by Adobe, and the basic functions are the same as those of Ionic. However, PhoneGap offers a wider range of plugins and integrations, making it easy to access device-specific features such as the camera, contacts, geolocation, etc.
- Unity: Unity is a highly appreciated game development engine, but we can also use it for building cross-platform mobile apps. It uses C#, and even mid-level experienced developers can create visually rich and interactive apps, thanks to its advanced features such as augmented reality and virtual reality.
Choosing the Right Cross-Platform Development Framework: Factors to Consider
Choosing the perfect framework is essential when it comes to cross-platform app development. However, it can be tricky sometimes. You need to consider the complexity of the project, the budget, desired platform support, and many other things. We compared some of the most popular cross-platform development frameworks up there, and now, let’s put light on the most considerable factors.
- Project Complexity: The complexity of your project will undoubtedly play a huge role in selecting the right framework. Nobody wants to end up wasting a lot of time on an app that is far away from what you planned. Consider the desired features and functionality of your app, besides UI’s complexity. For technical know-how, you can even contact the EXPERTS. Some frameworks may be better for simple apps with basic functionality, while for complex apps with more advanced features, you’ll need something equally advanced.
- Budget: You can’t ignore the budget factor. Some frameworks may require a huge investment, while others may be more cost-effective. Sometimes, you may expect your app-building to be too expensive, but in reality, it may cost you pretty low. Consider the cost of licensing the framework, as well as any additional costs for development and support. After that, check out your budget, and then decide further.
- Platform Support: When choosing a framework, consider the platforms you want to support. Some frameworks may offer support for a huge range of platforms, while others may not. With some frameworks, you enjoy better access to platform-specific features, such as APIs and UI components. In short, the suitable framework should have enough to offer to meet your app’s requirements.
- Community and Support: The size and quality of the community around a framework is also a big consideration. A large and active community can provide valuable support and resources for developers, making it easier to solve problems and stay up-to-date with the latest developments. However, if you’ve planned to choose a highly professional app development service, you don’t need to bother about this factor, as the experts will be there for your help!
Setting up Your Development Environment
STEP 1: System requirements for cross-platform app development
System requirements for cross-platform app development vary according to the framework you choose to work with. However, there are some general requirements that most frameworks have in common.
- Operating System: Most cross-platform development frameworks are compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.
- Processor: Most cross-platform development frameworks require a processor with a clock speed of a minimum of 1.8 GHz.
- RAM: A minimum of 4 GB of RAM is essential for cross-platform app development. However, some high-end frameworks require more.
- Hard Drive: If you’ve chosen cross-platform development, stay ready to arrange a huge amount of disk space to store development tools and project files. 5 GB of free disk space is a minimum requirement of most of the frameworks.
STEP 2: Setting up the development environment for your chosen framework
After confirming that your system meets the minimum requirements for the framework you chose, it’s time to start setting up your development environment.
This involves downloading and installing the necessary software and tools.
To configure your development tools, follow the installation instructions provided by your chosen framework, and try not to experiment much. These instructions involve installing a specific version of a programming language, such as Java or Python, as well as installing additional libraries or packages.
STEP 3: Configuring your development tools
After installing the necessary tools and libraries, you can start configuring your development environment. You’ll need to undertake tasks like:
- Setting up your IDE or text editor
- Configuring build tools
- Connecting your development environment to a device emulator or physical device.
Carefully follow the installation and configuration instructions as you did in the previous step. This will ensure that your development environment is set up correctly if you truly want to avoid common errors and want your app to run smoothly on all supported platforms.
Building Your First Cross-Platform App
STEP 1: Creating a new project
You need to start by creating a new project in your chosen framework. This involves:
- Setting up the project structure
- Configuring build settings
- Creating initial files.
Depending on the framework you are working with, you may need to:
- Specify the platforms you want to support
- Set up project dependencies
- Configure other settings.
STEP 2: Adding user interface elements
After initially setting up your project, start adding user interface elements. This task includes:
- Creating screens
- Adding UI components such as buttons, text fields, and images
- Arranging them on the screen.
Most cross-platform development frameworks provide a range of UI components that the developers can use to create a rich and supremely engaging user experience.
STEP 3: Implementing basic functionality
Implementing basic functionality in your app is the final step. This involves:
- Adding event handlers to UI components,
- Handling user input,
- Responding to user actions.
For instance, you may add code to handle button clicks, validate user input in text fields, and display messages or alerts to the user.
Hence, even if you need to implement a bunch of functionalities, you’ll need a lesser amount of code.
Implementing platform-specific features
Implementing platform-specific features is something that can’t be skipped during the cross-platform app development process. While cross-platform frameworks offer a unified codebase for multiple platforms, various features or functionality are limited to individual platforms, such as iOS or Android. Let’s check out some steps and smart practices for implementing platform-specific features in your cross-platform app:
Identify the platform-specific features:
Identifying the features that are specific to individual platforms should always be your first step in implementing platform-specific features. This includes device-specific APIs, UI components, or features that are unique to a specific platform only.
You can plan for how these features will be implemented in your app after identifying them early in the development process.
Use platform-specific APIs and libraries:
You may need to use platform-specific APIs and libraries in order to implement platform-specific features.
Let us explain, why?
Use conditional statements:
You may need to use conditional statements in your code to handle platform-specific features. For instance, you may need to use if-else statements in order to check the current platform and perform various actions depending on the platform. Majority cross-platform development frameworks allow you to detect the current platform and offer platform-specific code.
Follow platform-specific guidelines:
Each platform has its own design guidelines and best practices. Hence, it is important to follow these guidelines to ensure that your app looks and behaves appropriately on each platform before implementing platform-specific features
For example, we know that iOS and Android have different UI guidelines. So you may need to customize your UI elements to match the guidelines of each platform.
Test on all platforms:
How would you ensure that platform-specific features are working as per your expectations or not? Well, simply test your app on all supported platforms. This may involve testing on physical devices or using device emulators to simulate different platforms deploying without testing is truly a no brainer.
Testing and Debugging Your App
Testing on Multiple Devices:
Your app should work perfectly across all devices, and for ensuring the same, you need your app on multiple devices. You can use physical devices or emulators to simulate different platforms and screen sizes.
By testing in this style, you can identify any compatibility issues and ensure that your app looks handsome in all app platforms.
Using Automated Testing Tools:
Automated testing tools prove it to be highly helpful while testing your app. This is a quick and efficient way of identifying any errors or bugs.
Most cross-platform development frameworks do offer built-in tools for automated testing, such as React Native’s Jest testing framework or Flutter’s built-in testing library. These tools highly help you test various aspects of your app, let it be UI components, functionality, or performance.
Debuggers are useful tools for identifying and fixing errors in your code more easily. Most cross-platform development frameworks offer you built-in debuggers, allowing you to step through your code and catch issues before deploying your app. Debuggers help you recognize issues with code logic, performance, and various other aspects of your app, and checking all these without debuggers is actually a pretty tedious process.
Getting Feedback from Users:
User feedback is undoubtedly very valuable for identifying issues and improving your app. Developers ensure perfection before deploying the app, but users may find out something or the other that isn’t perfect. Encourage your app users to provide feedback via app store reviews, social media, or various other channels. These feedbacks can help you identify issues that you may have skipped during the app-launching process and prioritize bug fixes and improvements.
You can be fully certain that your app runs smoothly and efficiently without monitoring the performance of your app. Most cross-platform development frameworks provide built-in tools for monitoring performance. React Native’s performance monitor and Flutter’s performance overlay are great examples here. These tools help identify performance issues and optimize your app for far better performance.
Deploying Your App
Once the development and testing of your cross-platform app is over, you’ll have to deploy it to the app stores or make it available to users.
There are a few steps for ensuring smooth and perfect deployment of your app effectively. Start by creating developer accounts with the app stores where you want to distribute your apps, such as Apple’s App Store, Google Play, or Microsoft Store.
Keep in mind that Each app store has its own set of guidelines and requirements. So, never skip reading and follow them carefully. You’ll also need to prepare your app for distribution by creating an app listing, setting pricing and distribution options, and uploading your app package.
Every app store has its own process for app submission, so check the instructions closely. Before making your app available to users, test it again to ensure it works correctly in the app store environment because you don’t want to set a bad impression right in the beginning.
This may involve testing on physical devices or using app store testing tools.
Now, it’s time to promote your app to your target audience through social media, paid advertising, or other marketing channels to reach potential users.
There are many highly powerful app store optimization (ASO) techniques worth adopting, such as using relevant keywords, an appealing app icon, and screenshots to improve your app’s visibility on the app store.
The job isn’t completed yet. If you really want your app to crush the competition, monitor your app’s performance and user feedback after it’s deployed to identify any issues or areas for improvement and ensure it stays relevant and up-to-date.