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Developing Mobile Apps For Multiple Platforms: What Are The Best Practices?

Developing Mobile Apps For Multiple Platforms What Are The Best Practices

With the increasing use of smartphones, mobile apps are a primary source of social outreach, outward engagement, communication – personal and business – and even shopping. It’s hard to imagine a scenario now where mobile devices are not in some way playing a part. Their ubiquitous nature is both a boon and, in some ways an imposition. But, like them or love them, as a developer we definitely can’t ignore them. Developing mobile apps for multiple platforms is a central focus as users now engage with diverse platforms and devices both at work and play. This has paved the way for cross platform mobile app development.

For you, the developer, the benefits offered by efficient multi platform app development can be significant. Using a solution which makes use of a single codebase to create cross platform apps that operate with a consistent look and feel while retaining full compatibility with the operating system and device on which they are running is a definite winning pattern. They also maintain an excellent user interface and experience while reducing development costs. Additionally, they can help maintain your brand look and feel across all platforms.

With the right app development tools, developers can create solutions that do not compromise functionality, user interface (UI) or user experience (UX).

What are the best practices for developing mobile apps for multiple platforms?

Done right, multiple platform app development is a relatively simple process. Mastery of the hardware features is a low learning curve and despite their popularity and inexorable rise mobile devices still only support a relative uncomplicated set of features and functionality for apps. Even a relatively complex app still only comprises a handful of screens and a narrow use case. Supported by a reliable cross platform tool, there is a lot you can achieve by leveraging the power of the IDE – the development environment – the right user interface frameworks, and development toolset. Here are some reliable practices you can employ to create the best cross platform app.

How important is a reliable user interface framework for cross platform app development?

The cross platform framework you use really does make all the difference for the end product. The framework needs to offer a set of visual controls which are performant, easy to use (for the developer and end-user) and look like they ‘belong’ on the target device platforms.

The development framework you use needs to deliver on what you want to achieve with your app.

One of the most common challenges developers face in this regard is the limited number of options offered by many frameworks. The software development kit should provide tools that can cater to all the features you are looking to integrate in your cross platform app. IDE platforms such as RAD Studio with Delphi ensure you have the technical capabilities you will need to build your app.

Developing Mobile Apps For Multiple Platforms What Are The Best Practices A person with multiple devices

Test the app – then test it again?

A crucial step in any app development, cross platform testing is a little more nuanced. Larger and or more sophisticated development outfits employ continuous delivery systems. Multiple device OS combinations integrate multiple interfaces, resolution and source requirements. This makes it necessary that automated testing tools are fully utilized to determine app functionality in real user conditions.

Multi platform app testing involves a few basic steps, which include:

  1. Identifying user needs

    The effectiveness of app testing depends on its alignment with user needs. Identifying how users will engage with the app better equips developers to conduct relevant testing.
  2. Choose your platforms wisely

    In the development process of your cross platform mobile app, identifying the platforms and operating systems across which it should be operable is key. The testing phase should include all those platforms to ensure app functions remain consistent. But this choice is more key than it would appear. For example, targeting iOS and Android from inception is an easy decision – but which versions of iOS, which versions of Android? If you select a particular version and code your app to make use of specific features of that version, it can be very difficult to ‘dumb down’ to a prior version if you discover that a significant proportion of your potential user base are using devices which can only run that. The flip side is that embracing a lower version of a mobile platform’s SDK might mean you are forced to eschew newer features that users might consider desirable.
  3. Create a testing plan

    Cross platform app testing also needs to include various testing scenarios. You can replicate real-world conditions to ensure the app functions smoothly in those situations. These can include low mobile battery, incoming calls while the app is active and push notifications. For mobile devices the core vendors such as Apple provide comprehensive testing frameworks and tools such as Apple’s TestFlight and XCode tooling. The development IDE can go a long way to rooting out issues in your code but an overall holistic approach that also incorporates things like TestFlight is likely to be the gateway to success.

What is the principle of least privilege?

A general misconception regarding cross platform applications is that they pose greater security risks. However, cross-platform desktop and mobile applications can be secured just the same across different platforms.

When you create cross platform apps, one of the simplest ways to ensure security is to remain vigilant to the security trends and responsive to threats. Regular updates and maintenance are one way to ensure your app remains safe. In particular, targeting the most recent SDK you can helps ensure that your app incorporates the latest patches automatically. But this is only part of the battle. Even at the outset, during the initial design of your app, applying the principle of least privilege also limits the data and information shared between the app and the user. It is another simple technique to reduce security risks.

The principle of least privilege helps you comply with various privacy and data access legal requirements but also helps foster trust with your users since you do not ask for ‘weird’ or unexpected permissions in order for your app to function.

Brand uniformity and UI guidelines

Developing Mobile Apps For Multiple Platforms What Are The Best Practices Branding

Brand consistency is a hallmark feature of the brand identity your app presents. Cross platform uniformity is essential to maintaining the recognizable brand identity across various platforms. It is also a major element of the UI and UX and goes beyond color schemes and logos.

The entire app experience needs to follow the brand appeal. Consider the branding of the most popular apps from the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter. Whatever the device, the brand is a very strong, the ‘look and feel’ is cohesive, the user experience is consistent. This includes, where necessary, emulating the same experience across different OS, mirroring the brand image. Naturally, integrating multi-platform UI guidelines and using these to inform development is a part of maintaining brand identity.

UI guidelines vary across platforms, and they are not always compatible with each other. For example, Windows, Android and iOS vary in their minimum tap target size and navigation tabs. Sticking to a bottom nav with a smaller tap target may work great with iOS, but will alienate Android and Windows users. A good cross-platform framework will allow the developer to handle each of these situations unique to the specific platform.

What is minimalistic design and navigation in mobile app development?

Developing Mobile Apps For Multiple Platforms What Are The Best Practices Design

Today’s design approach is quite simply less is more. It may appear attractive to make use of exclusive features available to Android or iOS platforms, but it can quickly become an inundating UX. In addition to simply becoming excessive and over-the-top, such an approach quickly highlights possible multi platform app development limitations. In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci,

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” 

Minimalist designs are largely preferred for their simplicity, clarity and ease of use. They also keep away the clutter and only offer the most relevant information to the user at any given time.

What is the role of consistent and compatible updates across platforms?

App updates are a necessary feature to keep apps functioning, introduce new features, and patch any newly discovered security flaws. Multi mobile platform apps require some special considerations in this department. It is relatively easy to sync app updates using cross platform frameworks to ensure their consistent release.

Updates are sometimes delayed across mobile platforms with Android and iOS apps. For instance, they can also appear on Google Play Store before the App Store in iOS devices, causing frustration. Late releases, or updates that work only on Android platforms, for example, but cause glitches on another operating system will cause further issues. Updates also need to follow the same rigorous testing standards used in developing cross platform mobile apps.

How to get started with cross platform mobile development?

Cross platform development is a preferred approach, to build powerful mobile apps with exponentially greater user outreach. With reliable cross platform development tools and by following the aforementioned best practices, it is possible to easily develop the best cross platform mobile application.

Using RAD Studio to create your cross platform apps can be a key way to give you a rapid head-start. RAD Studio with Delphi, for example, has a number of powerful features to get you creating apps as rapidly as possible (the “RAD” stands for Rapid Application Development, after all) and includes real time-savers like the Low Code Wizard, a ton of utterly gorgeous professionally designed app styles and themes to make your apps look like you spent the budget of a small country on graphic design, and it’s all tied together with a programing language which is easy to learn backed by a fully comprehensive cross platform component library called FireMonkey FMX.

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