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Your Personal Guide to Cross-Platform Development

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If you’re considering rolling out your app or software across multiple platforms, you may have heard of something called cross-platform development.

But what is cross-platform development, how does it work, and most importantly, should you use it to create your product?

Let’s take a closer look.

What is cross-platform development?

Cross-platform development means creating apps or software that work on multiple operating systems. For example, if you’re using cross-platform development for a mobile app, you would be simultaneously creating the app to function on both Android and iOS systems. If you’re creating software, you’d make it compatible with different devices like a Windows PC, a smartphone, and a tablet.

How does cross-platform development work?

In the past, cross-platform development was extremely tedious. Developers had to create a separate application for each platform, and doing so was expensive and time-consuming.

Luckily, we’ve now come up with easier approaches to cross-platform development. The most common include:

  • Hybrid app development
  • Rapid mobile app development (RMAD)
  • Progressive web apps (PWAs)
  • Universal Windows Platform (UWP)
Hybrid app development

Hybrid app development is typically the best—and fastest—route to creating an app that will work across platforms. In fact, when developers use the term “cross-platform development,” this is generally what they’re referring to.

In this approach, developers create an app that’s compatible with different operating systems. To achieve this, they use what we call “intermediate programming languages.” These include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Then, they can re-use the same code for each platform or operating system, simply repackaging it to integrate with the individual platform.

Rapid mobile app development (RMAD)

RMAD is the non-coder’s way to create code. Plenty of programs offer code-free programming tools so people who aren’t familiar with coding can just plug in what they want.

Since the finished product isn’t going to be amazing, this approach is really just meant for internal apps needed to fill a specific company need, and even then, it won’t always fit the bill.

Progressive web apps (PWA)

Progressive web apps aren’t actually apps. They’re websites that can be used as mobile apps. Because they’re websites and not apps, PWAs tend to work across platforms and devices.

Universal Windows Platform (UWP)

This approach won’t work for iOS and Android, but if you need a product that functions across all Windows devices, you can use the free tool Visual Studio to create an app using Windows-compatible code.

What’s the difference between native and cross-platform development?

Native development means you’re creating an app for just one platform or operating system. Because of this, you use tools and languages designed for that platform. For example, Java and C/C++ are used specifically for Android apps, while Swift and Objective-C are used for iOS apps.

This is a great approach if you only need your app to work on that platform, but if you want to spread across multiple operating systems, native development can be more trouble than it’s worth. Say you’ve developed an app for Android but now you want to create the same thing for iOS. You’ll have to create the whole thing over again from scratch using tools and languages that work with iOS.

So is cross-platform development the right approach for your app? Let’s look at the pros and cons of cross-platform development as opposed to native development.

Pros of cross-platform development
  • Allows you to expand your reach
  • Cuts down on cost
  • Gets to market faster
  • Often provides a great user experience
Cons of cross-platform development
  • Code can be complicated
  • Doesn’t always support features like 3D and advanced graphics
  • Updates to the app take longer
Is cross-platform the right approach for my app?

Cross-platform is probably the best approach if your app or software:

  • Needs to work across multiple platforms or operating systems
  • Needs a unified feel across platforms and systems
  • Won’t need advanced graphics or designs

In short, cross-platform development can be a great solution for apps that need to work across multiple operating systems.

Not only is it faster and more cost-effective than native development, but it strengthens branding by supporting a unified user experience no matter the device, platform, or operating system.

If you need to develop a successful cross-platform app, give us a call.

By Band of Coders