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9 Best Practices For Cross-Platform App Development

9 Best Practices For Cross Platform App Development

In today’s digital world, mobile devices are everywhere. As a result, businesses are investing heavily in mobile app development. Mobile apps are an effective way to communicate with your customers and build brand loyalty. However, today, there are different types of devices out there, and it’s essential that your apps run on all these devices, or at the very least, the most popular and widely-used devices. This is where you need to consider cross-platform app development. Cross-platform development is a cost-effective and way quick way to create apps for multiple platforms.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best practices for cross-platform app development.

What does cross-platform app development mean?

Cross-platform development simply means creating software or apps that are compatible with multiple platforms and devices. In the past, building a completely separate software version with its own code-base for every platform was a common practice. However, developers today can make a better choice by using a cross-platform mobile app development tool to quickly improve productivity and create apps for multiple platforms all from a single code-base. 

9 Best Practices For Cross-Platform App Development
Use things like RAD Studio’s excellent multi-device preview and its ability to work with the iOS and Android simulators to tailor your app’s design

When using the right kind of cross-platform app builder software, you only have to write code for an app once, and then you can compile it for different platforms. As a result, you can quickly create high-performance apps that can run on any smartphone (Android or iOS), PC, or tablet. These apps allow you to reach a wider audience base in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible.

Cross-platform apps are created with both native and device-independent (or device agnostic) code designed from the outset to work on different platforms. 

What are the best practices for cross-platform app development?

Here are the best tips for creating high-performance cross-platform apps:

Have you created an attractive and consistent UI?

Your apps should always look aesthetically appealing and attractive to users,  and the UI should be consistent across different platforms. Another important point to focus on while creating cross-platform apps is brand uniformity. This is crucial for maintaining a brand image across platforms. For example, popular apps like Twitter and Instagram provide a consistent user experience on any device you use them on and mirror the brand image across platforms and devices. 

One way to maintain the brand identity is to follow multi-platform or cross-platform UI guidelines while developing the apps.

This is more important than it might otherwise seem. Taking time to choose a consistent color scheme, a small but cohesive set of fonts and then setting out some rules on how your are going to use those assets is important. Microsoft and Apple – both hugely successful software behemoths – do this incredibly well. In particular look at Apple – their designs are very minimal but very bright and attractive, especially for their advertising. When you see an Apple product you know it’s an Apple product because it looks like one.

9 Best Practices For Cross-Platform App Development
Color swatches of complementary colors help make your app look modern and professional

Microsoft have entire websites dedicated to their branding and the very specific aesthetics of their products such as Windows 10 and Windows 11. The ‘design language’ of Windows’ Fluent UI was an incredibly strong factor. The Fluent UI design guidelines covered everything from font choices to the key elements such as giving UI elements a feeling of depth and dynamism with ‘motion’ which they took time to call out specifically; a sign it was important to them.

Obviously none of us have anything approaching the budget that Microsoft or Apple have at their disposal, but if you choose a system like Embarcadero’s RAD Studio you will find a huge amount of that work is done for you in the form of dozens of professionally-designed user interface styles or themes. This is worth thousands in professional designer fees already done for you, as part of the package.

Why should you keep your design minimal?

In the modern app design approach, ‘less is more.’ Minimal designs are popular because of their ease of use and simplicity. They also make it easy to quickly present the most relevant information to users. The great Dieter Rams, widely seen as a leading light in modern design has ‘the ten principles of good design’. I’ll let you read more on this yourself but one of them is “good design is unobtrusive”. In an interview with Rams for the Objectified movie he discusses at length that things like buttons or indicators clutter a design if they serve no purpose in the context of the current mode.

9 Best Practices For Cross-Platform App Development
Multi-row tabs and monolithic save/cancel buttons are now generally considered  passé, especially on mobile devices

For example, an indicator is only useful if it’s indicating something. A recent trend which encompasses this principle, perhaps in the past five years or so, is the ‘save’ button. If a user clicks on something to make a change then having a save button is unnecessary unless it’s necessary for you to validate the new information and this can’t easily be done in any other way such as the input control losing focus. Save and cancel buttons are becoming an endangered species for many settings pages or tabs. When the user changes a settings value it typically records the new setting immediately.

For mobile devices this kind of minimalistic approach is the normal design approach. For Windows apps this has not been the case until recently. Apple led the way to some degree thanks to their efforts to move macOS and iOS closer together so the “no save button” and no unnecessary screen ‘furniture’ thinking became more prevalent on that platform.

Are you patiently solving problems?

You may encounter several problems while developing software for multiple platforms, but the key to solving those issues is to be patient. For example,  say you’re moving from a monolithic architecture to microservices architecture, and you have to migrate your apps to new tools and systems. It’ll take time to get used to the new infrastructure and adopt it completely. 

9 Best Practices For Cross-Platform App Development

Did you test your apps?

9 Best Practices For Cross-Platform App Development
RAD Studio has unit tests with DUnit and DUnitX built into the interface

App testing is an essential step, no matter which type of app you’re developing. Cross-platform app development and testing can be a little more complicated and challenging than single-platform app testing. It involves multiple interfaces, resolution requirements, etc. For this reason, it’s crucial to utilize automated testing tools and see how the app will function in real user conditions.

Some of the main points to consider for cross-platform testing include:

  • Determining user needs
  • Identifying operating systems and platforms across which your app should work on
  • Creating a solid testing plan for different testing scenarios 

If you choose a good, comprehensive IDE like Embarcadero’s RAD Studio you’ll find an option to create industry-standard test projects as well as unit tests with DUnit and DUnitX built in. The right app designer IDE makes it a breeze to do this kind of ‘going the extra mile’ and it builds your confidence – and your user’s – that you’ve carried out the due diligence of ensuring things should perform the way they were meant to.

It’s important to work with designers – what happens if you don’t have access to one?

One way to ensure your app is usable and has good UI across platforms is to work closely with your design team. This also helps identify pattern differences for different platforms and achieve different app design and user experience goals. But what if your design team is…you?

9 Best Practices For Cross-Platform App Development

Sites like Fiverr and Upwork blossomed during the restrictions of the global pandemic. For a time they were viewed with the suspicion that “cheap means nasty” but the wide adoption of remote working and outsourcing has helped them become an excellent source of cost-effective resources such as graphic designers, technical writers and web design talent. Also consider sites such as Pexels.com and Unsplash, both of whom offer no cost (or low cost) royalty-free images of superb quality.

Leverage also the free resources such as Icons8 which is available via the GetIt package manager in Embarcadero’s RAD Studio.

9 Best Practices For Cross-Platform App Development

Have you made code readable?

Sometimes your code is maintained by other developers, and you also may need to modify your code in the future for app updates. So it’s crucial to write clean code that is maintainable and readable.

Some of the best practices for writing clean code include:

  • Be consistent in naming all the variables, classes, fields, and methods
  • Use comments throughout the code but don’t overdo it
  • Indent your code and keep the style consistent
  • Group your code
  • Avoid too many levels of testing

Remember also to treat yourself as “another developer” too. In three years time after 150 weeks of lunches and late night TV you’ll look at today’s code and wonder what on Earth it all means. Trust me. Comment for yourself – as if you never wrote the code in the first place.

Is writing clear documentation for apps still necessary? 

While writing software documentation isn’t easy, it’s an essential step. The documentation should contain all the details about the app and its environment. Having detailed documentation is helpful for maintaining the existing environments and setting up new ones. 

Consider also that the app stores have requirements for you to provide accurate ‘box imagery’ and descriptions of the functions of the app. One development company I worked with a years back had a policy that all support calls for a public utility client were chargeable – as long as the answer was not in the user manual. It was a smart idea which kept the developers on their toes; they had really comprehensive documentation which got expanded every time they had to answer a question for free and a user base who had been encouraged to read the manual. You, of course, will not have that luxury, I’m sure, but the same principle applies – good, clear, concise documentation can help your users discover the full functionality of your apps and helps with customer satisfaction.

Video tutorials, either in the form of a YouTube style movie or animated GIFs, can help bridge language barriers. Some people are visual learners and for those users pictures and videos can go a long way to keeping them happy.

9 Best Practices For Cross-Platform App Development
An update which changes too much too quickly is a very good way to lose the loyalty of your users

Are you creating compatible and consistent updates across platforms?

App updates are crucial for the proper functioning of your apps. They also help introduce new features and fix security issues. When it comes to multiple platform app development, you need to ensure your updates are compatible and consistent across devices. Sometimes, an app update is released on the Google Play store for Android users before the App Store for iOS devices. This can cause frustration. You can use cross-platform development frameworks to sync app updates and ensure consistent releases.

If your branding, color schemes and theming are consistent between the various device platforms and also between versions you create a form of ‘muscle memory’. Everybody recognizes Meta’s Facebook brand color scheme whether they use it or not, but they have in past attracted attention for deprecating, moving, or even removing functionality and this definitely gave rise to dissatisfaction. Both Facebook and Twitter have suffered from complaints about “the time line” apparently changing behavior between updates. So, app update consistency is not just about retention of branding – nobody wants the app to suddenly look so radically different it becomes confusing to use – but it’s also about not breaking the user’s investment in learning how to use your app. Break that bond and you might start to lose users. If you need to update your app regularly then, if possible, update it on a regular, predictable schedule. This is what Microsoft does with their regular Windows feature updates. It’s become so well-known that it’s even got a name: “Patch Tuesday”.

Are you using the right cross-platform development framework?

Using the right cross-platform app builder helps make highly functional apps for multiple platforms and speeds up the development process. A good framework offers a set of easy-to-use visual controls that work with different types of devices. You should use a development framework that comes with all the features you need to create cross-platform apps.

Which tool should you use for cross-platform app development?

Embarcadero RAD Studio for cross-platform app development

Embarcadero’s RAD Studio is the best IDE for creating high-performance cross-platform apps for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and iOS with one codebase. It supports both modern C++ and Delphi and has a comprehensive set of features and tools for cross-platform app development. These include a code editor, a powerful compiler, a debugger, a VCL framework,  a C++ code formatter, and more.

RAD Studio ticks all the cross-platform app development boxes

Everything we’ve mentioned here: consistency between updates across platforms, beautiful themes and color schemes, and testing plus the many other things we didn’t have time for such as modern responsive design components, full native access to all the device’s hardware features such as the camera and GPS sensor, are all ready to go out of the box with RAD Studio. It’s an all-round powerhouse for cross-platform app development with a super-fast optimizing compiler where the focus has always been on low-code or no code development right from the very first release.

Single code base: RAD Studio provides a single code base for developing apps for multiple operating systems. This means you only have to write code once and then compile it on any major OS. 

Low-code app development: RAD Studio also offers a low-code development environment via its low-code wizard.

Full Language Support: RAD Studio Delphi comes with helpful features like anonymous methods, powerful runtime type information, generics, a parallel programming library, and more. 

Download a copy of RAD Studio and try its impressive features for cross-platform app development today!


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