In the Product Development world, there is a wide range of platforms for which you can create products, for example, iOS and Android. Traditionally, the apps created for each platform only work for the target platform as each Operating System (OS) use a different programming language that the other won't admit. But what if you could program in a universal language that different platforms could use? Well, you can! Now is when Cross-Platform Development enters the board.
In this article, you'll have the opportunity to learn about Cross-Platform Development, its tools, technologies, best practices, and how to apply them in Product Development. Let's get started!
What is Cross-Platform Development?
In simple terms, it means developing applications for multiple platforms, like Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, by harnessing code reusability instead of creating separate codes for each one. In this way, a developer can use the same code across platforms to develop software, enabling faster development times. Sometimes, it's about compiling different versions of the same software on Operating Systems, considering that developers can create code and make minor changes with platform-agnostic languages using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This approach to Product Development makes the app available to a broader audience in less time.
A Brief History of Cross-Platform Development
Cross-Platform App Development has greatly evolved over the years, shaped by technological advancements and the ever changing landscape of the software industry. It's time to dive through the historical context and evolution of Cross-Platform Development to know its importance in the app development domain today.
1. Platform-Specific Development (Pre-2000s)
In the early days of computing, Software Development focused on platform-specific features; for example, desktop applications designed for OS like Windows wouldn't run on other platforms like Linux or MacOS. So developers had to write code bases for each target platform instead of having a single code base, which was time-consuming and resource-intensive.
2. Multi-Platform Languages (Late 1990s - Early 2000s)
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, we started to experience Cross-Platform compatibility with the appearance of languages like Java, which introduced "Write Once, Run Anywhere" (WORA.) In this same epoch, Java's platform-independent bytecode and Virtual Machine (VM) allowed developers to write code once and run it on any device with a compatible Java Runtime Environment (JRE).
3. Adobe Flash and Web Technologies (Early 2000s - Late 2000s)
4. Mobile Revolution and Native Development (Mid-2000s - Early 2010s)
With the advent of smartphones, Native Mobile Development took center stage. iOS and Android emerged as dominant mobile platforms, each with programming languages and development environments. Developers faced the challenge of maintaining separate codebases for iOS (Objective-C and, later Swift) and Android (Java and later Kotlin).
5. Hybrid App Development (Late 2000s - Early 2010s)
6. Cross-Platform Development Frameworks (2010s - Present)
7. WebAssembly and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) (Late 2010s - Present)
WebAssembly (WASM) emerged as a game-changer, allowing optimal-performance languages like C and C++ to run in web browsers at near-native speed. It opened up new possibilities for Cross-Platform Development. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) combine the capabilities of web technologies with the User Experience of native apps. They offer an increasingly viable alternative for Cross-Platform Development.
8. Current Trends and Future Outlook (2020s and Beyond)
The Cross-Platform Development landscape continues evolving with frameworks, tools, and technological advancements. Technologies like WebAssembly, PWAs, and emerging frameworks are likely to play a crucial role in shaping the future of Cross-Platform Development.
In conclusion, Cross-Platform Development has come a long way from the early days of platform-specific coding. The evolution of technologies and the demand for versatile applications have driven the development of sophisticated Cross-Platform solutions, making it an essential approach for modern Software Development.
Tools and Frameworks for Cross-Platform Development
Companies use frameworks and tools to reduce time and development costs, guaranteeing a consistent UX on all platforms. Here, you can observe the best frameworks for developing Cross-Platform Mobile applications.
Ionic for Cross-Platform Development
Ionic is an open-source SDK that allows modifications in the code structure, adapts to each dev, and lets you, as a dev, save much time and generate a rude battle between Ionic and React Native. It uses a SaaS-based UI framework designed specifically for mobile Operating Systems. Plus, it provides many UI components to develop solid apps. Ionic is based on Angular.js, facilitating the offer of extensions to the HTML syntax and core functionalities to add useful but attractive features and components to the application.
It uses Cordova's complements that enable access to the built-in functions of the devices, including the camera, GPS, and audio recorder, presented as one of the main benefits of Cross-Platform Development tools.
React Native for Cross-Platform Development
Flutter for Cross-Platform Development
Flutter is an Open-Source framework based on Dart, an Object-Oriented programming language, designed to help rapidly grow mobile app projects thanks to features like the Hot Reload feature. Also, Flutter is the traditional and principal method to develop Google Fuschia apps. Plus, it offers easy-to-run apps on multiple platforms with uniformity and dynamism. Flutter framework is a perfect option for developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), considering that it enables a rapid and cost-effective mobile application development process. It has a built-in graphics engine, allowing developers not to have the headache of making separate interfaces for each platform.
Xamarin for Cross-Platform Development
Apps developed with this framework use C#, a modern Cross-Platform application development language that leverages Objective-C and Java. Xamarin largely solves hardware compatibility issues with the help of specific plugins and platform-specific APIs, which work with common device features. Promoting linking with native libraries, allowing customization and functionality with a native-like experience. Xamarin admits direct inclusion of Objective-C, Java, and C++ libraries, allowing devs to re-use many codebases third-party encrypted in Java, Objective-C, or C++. Xamarin offers robust compile-time checking, which enables developers to see fewer runtime errors and get good-quality apps.
These are just some popular frameworks you can use for a Cross-Platform approach. Choosing a framework depends on the project's specific needs, the development team's skillset, the target audience, and the desired User Experience. Developers should evaluate the features and capabilities of each framework and choose the one that best suits their needs.
How to Create an App with Cross-Platform Development?
Considering some vital aspects of building an application using Cross-Platform is important. You must follow many essential steps to achieve this type of development.
Before using this approach, you must know your goals, what you want to achieve, and your desires. Consider what platforms you desire to come in, what features you wish to include in your app, and which are your limitations related to your budget and time.
There are many options when discussing development tools and frameworks, highlighting React Native, Xamarin, Flutter, etc. Each has its strengths and weaknesses; hence, choosing the best option that adapts to your needs is important. You must consider development language, community support, and ease of use.
Once you have chosen a development tool, you must configure your development environment. It can include installing software such as an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), a code editor like Visual Code, and any necessary libraries or tools. Don't forget to include compatible tools for your chosen environment.
Before coding, to plan your app architecture, identify the features and functionalities you desire to include in your app architecture. Consider factors such as data store, UI, and platform-specific functionalities.
Once you have a clear plan, start writing your code using the chosen framework and write a specific platform code as necessary. Make sure your code is well organized, legible, and efficient.
Once you have written your code, you must test it on each platform you want to address, ensuring it works correctly. You must consider using automated testing tools to help optimize the testing process.
After testing your application, you may need to optimize it to ensure it runs as it should without problems on all platforms. It can imply app performance optimization, memory usage, and User Experience; consider using profiling tools to identify areas of your code that need improvement.
Once your application is ready, you must publish your app on different app stores for each platform you wish to address. Remember to follow the guidelines of each app store and optimize your app for each platform.
Following these steps, you can start with Cross-Platform Development and create apps running on multiple devices and platforms through the right tools and efficient approaches. In this same sequence, the experience would be rewarding and successful.
Pros and Cons of Cross-Platform Development
Time and expenses are reduced on a large scale, considering that coding in different languages is unnecessary. The uniformity increases between Operating Systems, creating a more fluid and consistent experience. Companies can reach many more customers, enhancing their brand identity and the investment return in the future. At the same time, Cross-Platform Development contemplates common tools, considering that they use familiar programming languages. It's ideal for creating prototypes because it allows a faster time to market on multiple platforms and allows the owner to collect user feedback, establish a good market position.
On the other hand, you must consider some of its disadvantages. First, the programs may be less efficient due to a lack of hardware features to perform smooth HTML5 animations or advanced graphics on low or mid-range devices, including redundant processes for different platform requirements. Additionally, the program could be more generalized and less sophisticated than the ones created for specific platforms. Finally, Cross-Platform Development can require more advanced functions, specifically more battery power and many more resources than with a native application.
Challenges of Cross-platform Development
Cross-platform development can include many challenges, but you can solve them by using the right strategies. Here, you can find some solutions to tackle these challenges.
Problem: Cross-Platform apps may not offer the same performance level as native apps, especially in the case of hybrid applications.
Solution: You must choose the right framework or tool that performs well for the required Operating Systems, such as Xamarin, React Native, and Flutter. Optimize your code and concentrate on the performance improvements to guarantee that your app works well in all target platforms.
Problem: Implementing unique functions for each platform is a challenge, specifically when you use solely a codebase.
Solution: Leverage specific libraries, complements, and modules of the chosen Cross-Platform framework. This solution allows you to implement unique features while maintaining a shared database.
3. Cohesive Design
Problem: Guaranteeing a cohesive User Experience across platforms is complex, especially with layout guidelines and varying screen sizes is essential.
Solution: Adopt Responsive Design techniques and use platform-specific UI components when necessary. Test your app on different platforms and mobile devices' screen sizes ensures the layout is consistent and easy to use.
4. Limited Access
Problem. Cross-platform frameworks may not always provide full access to native APIs, components, or third-party plugins, which could lead to extra efforts.
Solution: Choose a Cross-Platform framework offering regular updates and an active community that supports its development. As advice, you should use modules or native complements to access native APIs and functions that the framework does not directly support.
The Future of Cross-Platform Development
It's necessary to maintain coherence in all platforms, considering a design system or a User Interface library. Also, the abstraction layer can slow down application performance; you must optimize the code for performance to solve it. Use caching, minimize network requests, and write clean code that is clear, readable, and easy to maintain. Test on multiple devices and platforms, constantly monitoring and observing how the User Experience differs between different platforms. Considering that technology continually advances, it's necessary that Cross-Platform Development also move forward with these changes. Here are some trends for the future that you need to consider when using it.
● AI. Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools can be powerful in creating effective solutions with a Cross-Platform Development approach. It can help you to do tests, personalization, and app tests.
● IoT. Internet of Things (IoT) integration with Cross-Platforms can develop a seamless User Experience, helping you create complex applications with remarkable features that connect with various devices.
● Low- and No-Code. Low-code and no-code platforms allow you to develop apps with minimal coding, making development faster and more accessible.
●Cloud Tech. Cross-platform Development based on cloud technologies helps you with scalability, security, and maintenance, allowing you to center on the features and app functionalities.
In the future, Cross-Platform Development must contemplate greater adoption and integration of more tools and platforms to provide consistent User Experiences and more productive development processes to reach a broader audience.
Cross-platform applications are popular, as they eliminate efforts to develop different apps for many platforms. A Cross-Platform application can run on other devices without problems. In the same way, using a Cross-Platform framework is essential to develop a universally compatible application. The question is: Which of the mentioned Cross-Platform App Development framework is the right choice? The simple answer is that it depends on the business type and the application requirements. For this reason, you should consult a trained and experienced Custom Product Development Company that can help you make a well-informed decision to ensure you're well-equipped with all the necessary information about application development frameworks.