The Ultimate Guide to Web and Mobile App Development Planning

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Android App development
By: Sagar Sharma

The Ultimate Guide to Planning and Development of Web and Mobile Apps

Since its inception, the mobile app development market has been growing like a vine. And so is the market of mobile app technologies, frameworks, and tools. There are hundreds of tools and frameworks available in the market. Any business owner who wishes to develop mobile apps can get confused. But, before jumping into mobile app development, it is crucial that you choose the right technology or framework for your app.

In this article, you’ll get answers to various questions such as,

1. Which mobile app development techniques to use for what sort of requirements?
2. When and why you must develop a Progressive Web App (PWA)?
3. What is the difference between PWA and Hybrid apps, and which one is best for you?
4. Should you go with native app development for Android and iPhone or cross-platform app development?
5. Which is the most cost-effective and reliable approach to mobile app development?

Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

Progressive web apps are websites that feel and look similar to mobile apps. PWA is more a web technology than mobile technology. You might have come across a website that has a banner at the bottom asking you to ‘Add to home screen.’ These are not real apps, but websites that behave like an installed app.

To build progressive web apps, you don’t need any new technology or framework. PWAs can be developed using web technologies. They work similar to a desktop app and look identical to a mobile app, which makes it difficult for users to spot the difference between a native app and a PWA.

The reason why Progressive Web Apps are called “progressive” is that they deliver user experience via progressive enhancements. PWAs function same on every mobile device regardless of its screen size or operating system or its version.

Why do we need Progressive Web Apps?

Website loading time

According to a survey, 53% of the users abandon a website if the loading time is greater than a few seconds. So, if you’re building a website you not only have to make sure that it’s responsive but also have to make sure that the loading time is less.

Key benefit

PWAs have a great advantage over just responsive websites. They are super fast. From the moment you download an app to the moment you start using it and interacting with it, everything is super fast and super smooth. Since it has the capability to cache the data every time you open a PWA it opens faster than earlier.

Internet availability and speed

There are parts of the world where the Internet is not accessible to many people. Even in countries like USA, a few people are using dial-up modems to connect to the Internet.

Key benefit

PWAs consume very less internet compared to mobile apps. It skips the downloading part which is sometimes pretty annoying in the case of mobile apps. Users can directly add PWA to their mobile home screens bypassing the “downloading” from the app store or play store which saves the data.

PWAs, also have offline capabilities which allow a user to access some of the online features of the app offline.

User experience

People often get the misconception that a PWA can never replace the user experience of a mobile app. Otherwise, why wouldn’t people stop after they develop PWA? Why do they go with a dedicated mobile app?

Key benefits

PWA look and feel like a native app. Users can add them to their home screens similar to native apps. They can send push notifications to users similar to native apps. And, they have a user interface like a native app. To conclude, PWA provides a native-like user experience.

If you have an existing website and want to create a mobile view then it is recommended to go with PWA. However, if you want some additional features for mobile users it is recommended to go with a native mobile app.

User engagement

Native apps are considered to be more engaging as there are more native app users than a PWA. Some might also argue that a PWA cannot provide as many features like a native app.

Key benefits

To some extent it is true. A PWA might not have all the features of a native app. However, it offers some features to engage users such as push notifications. It will help your user to get notified and engaged with your PWA.

Apart from this, the user interface of a PWA is super smooth. Sometimes it can even beat the user interface of native apps. Also at times, the opening speed of a progressive web app is higher than native apps.

PWA v/s Mobile Apps

PWAs offer a lot of benefits to users as well as businesses. Although progressive web apps have been delivering seamless user experience, we can’t compare them with native apps. Progressive web apps require browsers to open, which makes their features dependent on browsers.

The browsers aren’t yet fully equipped to handle features such as,

– Access to contacts, calendars, and alarms
– Intercept calls or SMSes
– Read voice mails or make phone calls
– Access to sensors hardware such as flashlight and sensors such as atmospheric pressure sensor
– System access: logs, task management, and modify system settings

If you want the features mentioned above in your application then it is recommended you go with a mobile app and not a PWA. Apart from these for a majority of use-cases, PWA works just fine. However, if your app requires heavy graphics for applications such as AR and VR you should consult a mobile app development services provider before you release your PWA.

Why Mobile Apps?

Mobile App is a container of its own and has features like its own such as local storage and database which can persist data. A mobile app intends to provide mobile-specific features of a larger application to the user.

React Native v/s Native App Development

So far, you must be clear about whether to build a PWA or go with mobile app development. If you’ve decided to build a mobile app, then there are two choices in front of you: cross-platform apps v/s native apps.

React native is one of the most popular cross-platform app development frameworks. The difference between cross-platform and native is that an app developed in a cross-platform environment such as React Native runs on both the platforms, i.e., Android and iOS whereas an app developed in Native environment such as Android Studio or Swift runs either on Android or on iOS respectively.

The UI, components, and API logic of these apps are written in a JavaScript-like language and compiled to Java code in case of Android and Swift/Objective-C for iOS. These packages know the translation or the respective native counterpart of the components used. Components made in Native environment(Swift/Java) can be integrated with these apps.

Which one to choose?

Choose cross-platform app development if,
– your app is more content driven rather than visuals and graphics.
– you want to save money as well as time to develop an app.
– you want to cover a broader audience.

Choose native app development if,
– you want an high-performing app with flawless user interface and seamless user experience.
– you want your app to be on top of every app store to gain higher visibility to your customers.

Although React Native might not deliver a great user experience or performance like Native apps, it is recommended to consult an expert and tell them your requirements before finalizing your way-to-go strategy towards mobile app development.

Wait…What about Hybrid Apps?

Hybrid apps are nothing but web apps that provide users native-like experience. A hybrid app can be created using technologies like Cordova or IONIC by simply packaging a web application in a web view on mobile devices. Native components used inside a hybrid app can communicate with native device platform as well as the web view. Similar to cross-platform apps, hybrid apps are also OS independent.

The only difference between hybrid and cross-platform apps is that hybrid app utilizes only web technologies and frameworks, whereas cross-platform app utilizes web technologies, non-web technologies such as .NET, and other standalone tools.

Since the difference between cross-platform apps and hybrid apps is clear, the question arises that if hybrid apps and PWA are necessarily web views, then what is the difference between them? And which one is better?

PWA v/s Hybrid Apps

Like a typical website, PWAs are hosted on a server and distributed using URLs instead of app stores. Hybrid apps are listed on various app stores where they have to pass their guidelines. Moreover, PWA has less accessibility to native device features (e.g., Gyroscope, Accelerometer, etc.) compared to hybrid apps. Speaking of accessibility, Native apps have maximum accessibility to native device features. Then comes the number of cross-platform apps, hybrid apps, and progressive web apps, respectively.

To Conclude, we can say that a hybrid app acts as a shortcut to convert responsive websites into mobile apps. Tools like Cordova and Ionic acts as a wrapper around a JavaScript or HTML code and provides a bridge to access native device features. Which means that if you have a full-fledge responsive website ready, then you can wrap that website within Ionic or Cordova and ta-da! Your mobile app is ready to launch.

The Con

As they say, “there is no shortcut to success,” similarly there is no shortcut to mobile app development. Hybrid apps have a massive con that they are low performing and can provide limited features.

So, if you want to build a feature-rich mobile app that provides a seamless experience to users, then Hybrid apps aren’t the best solution.

To Conclude

If you have a bugfree website ready and you want to give your mobile users a seamless experience of the website, then PWA is the way-to-go. However, if you want to give users the same experience in an app with no or a few additional mobile-specific features, then go with Hybrid app development.

If your business requires native-like high performance and flexibility of a hybrid app, then cross-platform tools such as React Native should be used. One of the ideal ways to build a feature-rich mobile app would be to use React Native as the main mobile app development framework and integrate various native components within that.

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