As you go about implementing your web or mobile app development project, one of the decisions that you will have to take is which app development framework/architecture you should select to build your business app. There is a richness of choices with numerous app development frameworks serving\ a variety of needs. However, no single technology and/or architecture is good for everything.
Choosing the best app development framework needs to be a carefully thought-out decision depending on your business requirements, user spread (devices, connectivity, locations, etc.), and the resources available at your disposal. In this blog, we are going to share some of our experiences and Industry best practices to determine how to decide on a framework for creating your mobile or web application.
Factors to consider when selecting an App Development Framework:
- Platform Selection: One of the most important questions that you have to ask yourself is what devices your users are using or in other words which platforms should your business app target. Is this for iOS, Android, Windows 10, or Web? Is this for a combination of platforms or cross-platform? To decide the best-suited platform for your app, you need to keep in mind factors such as target audience, app functionalities, user experience, offline capabilities, and of course the budget for app development. Based on the platform selection, you can decide on development methodology- native, hybrid, compile to native, mobile web, or progressive web apps.
- Performance-: While most frameworks are good performers they are certainly not equals. If performance is your priority, choose a framework that directly translates the code to native elements.
- User Experience: Think about the user experience before choosing an app development framework. The user interface (UI) of your app defines how your app users utilize your services. While native is smooth and fast, customization is time-consuming and expensive. The web on the other hand has numerous open-source and paid frameworks that can give you the best possible outcome.
- Good community support: A developer community enables programmers to exchange insider knowledge, share codes, and discuss updates that are not always available in the official documentation. Poor community support strips away the ready expertise that your developers need to handle unknown errors.
The Big Debate: Native vs Hybrid vs Progressive Web Apps
There has always been a debate around selecting the right app development framework but there are no clear-cut answers. Each technology has its pros & cons, so the decision will be specific to your needs and requirements. Let’s deep dive into each of these frameworks/architecture to understand the advantages and disadvantages:
1. Native App Development:
Native apps are the best if you are focused on performance and reliability. They are built using platform supported native technologies and are inherently faster. However, they are built only for a single platform. For iOS App development there is the Apple SDK (Software Development Kit) in Swift or Objective-C languages with the XCode IDE. Similarly for Android App development, one can use Java or Kotlin with the Android studio.
However native apps are expensive and resource-consuming. If you want to reach a wider audience (multiple platforms) and budget constraints native apps may not be a good choice.
2. Cross-platform App Development:
The user experience and smooth performance of native apps may not be always matched by hybrid apps although native frameworks like Flutter are excellent. The code built for native apps are optimized for the environment and can maximize device hardware usage. However, recent developments have taken the performance of some hybrid apps on par with native apps.
Comparing Hybrid Frameworks for App Development:
There are a plethora of frameworks for supporting hybrid development. Each cross-platform framework has its strengths let’s deep dive into these industry-leading frameworks- React Native, Ionic, Flutter, and Xamarin to decide which framework works best for you.
- Provides the ability to write components in other languages (Swift, Java, or Objective-C)
- Most popular framework with well-documented community support.
- React Native directly translates your code for native UI elements boosting up performance and bringing user experience closer to native apps.
- Developers are not restricted to development in Xcode or Android Studio.
- Integrate React Native code with existing iOS or Android native applications.
- Memory intensive in some cases
- React Native codebase cannot be directly used for React.js web applications.
- Native app developers are required to build custom functionalities.
- Does not support the development of Windows applications.
- Uses popular web-based technologies (HTML, CSS and JS) and Typescript.
- With a lower learning curve, developers can start building applications in the new environment relatively quickly.
- Support for a large number of mobile platforms- Android, iOS, Windows, Ubuntu, KaiOS, and more.
- Mature support community.
- Heavily relies on plugins and add-ons to access device features.
- Slower than native apps. Large applications built on Cordova requires additional resource and data.
- Delayed updates. Sometimes developers have to scramble to achieve compatibility whenever a new Operating System version is released.
Flutter is the latest open source entrant in the mobile hybrid application development scene. Released in 2017 by Google, it is already being used by 39% of the app developers, making it the fastest-growing mobile UI framework.
- Comprehensive development support and toolkit with APIs, ready-to-use widgets, and in-built rendering engine.
- With Dart and (Ahead Of Time) AOT compilation, it gives the highest performance compared to all the other hybrid frameworks.
- Hot Reload feature allows you to visualize changes in real-time.
- Excellent Documentation provided by Google.
- Uses a relatively new coding language (Dart).
- Poor community support, and a small development community.
Microsoft provides Xamarin for cross-platform mobile application development. It is now open-source and free-to-use for individuals and small businesses but price-based models for enterprises. Xamarin exclusively uses C# language for development.
- Has an incredible component store to shorten development time.
- Xamarin is natively compiled and ideal to build high-performance hybrid applications
- .Net strong typing prevents unexpected errors.
- Strong support from Microsoft.
- Has hot reloading feature for real-time preview.
- Xamarin built apps have high overhead with large download times and storage space requirements.
- Low community support
- Code written in C# is non-shareable to other development languages.
- Lacks complete cross-platform support, some coding is required to use in different platforms.
3. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs):
Progressive Web Apps provide options to add an app icon to the home screen, send push notifications on some devices, and access native device features like a camera. PWAs can work offline and work fast on low bandwidth internet connections. They are smaller in size, enabling quick download, and better performance.
However, PWAs have some limitations, especially for the iOS Platform. PWAs on iPhones and iPads are not able to receive push notifications. Also, there is a limit of just 50MB of data for offline use. The UX will be the browser for offline also and zero-install which is good but remember this will mean different UX and different experiences for users on different devices.
The development landscape is ever-changing, and frameworks popular today will eventually be replaced tomorrow by something better. As a leading enterprise mobility solutions provider, we think that choosing an app development framework depends on your specific requirements, target customers/markets, and the prevailing bandwidth/mobile devices environment. Based on our experience, here is our point of view while not ruling out anything for others:
- iOS and Android only: React Native is a great choice.
- iOS, Android, and Web: React Native would mean rework for Web. Cordova could be a good choice with the same codebase for all three platforms.
- iOS, Android, Windows, and Web: React Native would mean rework for Web and make it available as a PWA for Windows. Cordova could be a good choice with the same codebase for all four.
We would love to hear your views on this topic—which app development framework do you like? Pl. write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts.