Cross-Platform App Development — Web vs Hybrid vs Native Mobile App Development

You are about to start an app development project. Your goal could be to build apps for iOS and Android stories or you want to take your web project to the mobile apps.

Now you might be stuck with the option of selecting the right tools and frameworks. You might be aware and wary of the fact that you need to make the right choice, to begin with, as making changes later will cost you a lot.

In this article, you will learn about the options available for Mobile App Development. I will go into the pro and cons of each option and will help you to decide and pick the right one. You will also get to hear about my personal favorite option too.

So the choices are many, but I am going to classify all those into 4 type.

  • Web
  • Native
  • Hybrid
  • ReactNative Or Xaramin (My personal favorite — kind of hybrid ..)

Web Apps

With Web Apps, you are working with the simplest and basic tools available HTML/CSS. Working with this option is like building a simple web app but that app will run into the browsers like Chrome and Safari.

In essence, this kind of development is like building a website or web app but making it work with mobile browsers. For basic functionality website, this might work as mobile browsers are capable of presenting info in the best usable manner for your end user.

Advantages of Web Apps

Cheapest! It costs you next to nothing to build such an app.

You will need to work with HTML and CSS, the simplest of all web development technologies. Not only building web apps it's the cheapest, but it’s also easiest and cheapest to maintain too.

You can hire resources easily and those will not cost much. The resources and help available to build web apps are abundant.

You can use any tech stack underneath and your HTML/CSS will work with each. So, you have plenty of options to choose to build your backend. Also, you will have a single app for all platforms. This means massive cost reduction in terms of updates and maintenance.

Oh and one more thing! Web Apps will take care of those few crazy people who still use Blueberry and Windows phones :)

Cons of Web Apps

Bad bad user experience! Since your app will run on the browser, so you will never be able to give it the feel an app. With no icon and the need to type in the URL for accessing the app, will make your app less intuitive.

Your app can never be found via the App Store, so you might miss out on discovery via those platforms.

Your app will not be able to interact with the device utilities. So for complex features, this approach might not the best.

Also in terms of user experience, your app will always be slower than the native apps.

Native Apps

The next option for you is to work with the native programming languages to build iOS and Android apps. This is usually the most common approach to build apps.

You will need iOS (Objective C, Swift) coder and Android (Java, with Android SDK) coders to build your apps for each store.

Advantages of Native Apps

Performance! In case you are seeking performance, speed, interactivity this is the best approach for you.

You can handle all kinds of complexities using this approach. Each app is built for that specific platform and can utilize all the device utilities, so you can build the best possible user experience.

Each app can be discovered via its own App Store, so your discovery and download issues are resolved here too.

Cons of Native Apps

Expensive!!! Each platform, either iOS or Android, will need specific coders. In addition, those languages might not be the easiest to learn and the resources might be very expensive to hire.

In addition, with updates and so many different variants of Android devices, building, maintaining and updating your app will be very very hard and expensive. So, don’t get to it before your Series A.

Oh, and in case you want to build apps for those 7 crazy people (using Windows and BlackBerries) you need to work with those platforms and hire developers.

Hybrid Apps

Now, let's talk about the realistic options and better ones in terms of costs and performance.

To enjoy the best of both world, native and web apps, you can choose to build a Hybrid Mobile App. The App runs inside a container or a web view through a framework. Essentially it will be using the basics like HTML/CSS/Javascript but your app will be perceived as a native app.

With essentially one codebase to maintain, you can have native lookalike apps.

Most of the performance and interactivity with device utilities is dependent upon the frameworks you use. As frameworks get better, interactivity and performance also get better. So, choose a framework that’s getting better and getting good traction and have proper support.

Advantages of Hybrid Apps

Easier and cheaper. You are not restricted to the browser and you will have user experience of a single independent app for each platform.

One of the benefits of this approach is that you can utilize device utilities and can build fairly complex apps. With single codebase to maintain, this is the fastest approach to developing complex native look-alike apps.

In terms of coders and HR, you will need to choose a framework and hire/learn for that platform. As most of the functionalities and interactivity is dependent upon the choice of the framework.

Cons of Hybrid Apps

Performance. With this approach, you can never match the performance and interactivity of the Native Apps. So, for really complex projects you might want to look for other options.

Again it is more expensive than web apps.

React Native / Xamarin

Closet to the native apps. My personal Favourite. You essentially get a native app at the end. Each framework that you use, you get the output in the actual native environment. The user interface is rendered using actual native views.

Any web developer that can use React can work with React Native. So this helps you with keeping the costs down.

Also, your tech stack remains the same. By using Ionic with Angular or ReactNative with React you can extend your web applications to mobile apps.

Summing Up

You might be valuing each option against variables like cost, time, available resources, and the complexity of the project. Remember, no one has been able to optimize for all valuables and still build something meaningful.

Pick two factors out of four and choose wisely!

Originally published on App2Dev.com.

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