how to choose mobile app dev platform

How to Choose the Right Mobile App Development Platform?

Andrew Zola
Andrew Zola on Linkedin

Choosing a mobile application development platform is a critical part of the whole development process. When you start planning, you will also have to figure out if you should focus on a native application or cross-platform solutions.

It’s an important decision that you will need to make because it will be closely tied to your strategy and business goals. It will also dictate what tools you will need to utilize to build a successful mobile application.

Whether you go with mobile development platforms like Android or iOS, they will each come with their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. So it will also be important to go over these before you make a decision.

Furthermore, as the mobile application development market is crowded with innovative tools, selecting the right one can quickly become a daunting experience. As a result, there are a number of factors to consider (like cloud-based platforms to handle the build and plugins for integrated development environments) before you make a commitment.

So what should businesses consider when evaluating application development tools and a platform for their mobile application? Let’s dive right in with some questions that can work as a guide to help you make a decision that’s right for your business.

1. Who is the target audience?

Before you invest anything into your project development, you have to start by doing some research about your target audience. This will enable you to develop a customer profile along with a clear understanding of what devices they like and use.

You will have to pay close attention to the geographic criteria as platforms vary considerably by region. For example, if your target audience is based in Europe, then you will have to consider the fact that most Europeans prefer Android devices to iPhones (while Americans use both).

According to research, out of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter of 2016, 352 million or 81.7% ran Android. In contrast, just 77 million or 17.9% ran iOS and Windows Phone only managed to grab 0.3% of the market.

2. What are the users’ expectations?

The end user will have certain expectations from their devices and their apps. So if you want to provide a great user experience (UX), you have to consider what they want to get out of it.

For example, Apple is known for its innovation and upscale quality, so fans of the brand have also grown to expect enhanced UX with high usability and trendy designs. Their customer base is also known to pay far more for the latest innovation, but the same can’t be said for Android users (who don’t like to pay for apps or make in-app purchases).

3. What about usability?

It’s important for the app development platform’s interface to be highly intuitive and user-friendly. It should work the way the developers expect it to and should be enhanced to enable collaboration if a development team has to work concurrently during the build cycle.

Developers will also need to focus on how the tool actually functions when they evaluate the product. At this stage, it’s also important to vigorously review all potential tools before making any kind of commitment.

4. What are the development costs?

Building the required infrastructures, licensing development tools, development cycles, and deployment can be very expensive. However, there are some cloud-based services that offer mobile development platforms that can be attractive to some businesses as they take care of most of the workload (which can make it look cost-effective).

But you have to look beyond upfront costs and take the total cost of ownership into consideration. As a result, the long-term costs should always be at the forefront of the developer’s mind.

In reality, the services that cost less in the short term actually cost a lot more in the long run. For example, they might not integrate well with other existing systems and may not also be able to handle the functionality required by the business.

Furthermore, open source tools can also be attractive because of cost savings, but if you have to spend hours integrating them and supporting them, then your saving will basically disappear.

There are also some additional costs to consider. For example, to submit an app to an app store, you will need to purchase a developer account. Apple charges $100 for a developer account and about $299 for their Enterprise Program. Google Play, on the other hand, charges $25 for this service.

What’s more, if you’re thinking of developing a hybrid or cross-platform app, you will have to pay both companies to get it released.

5. What about lifecycle management?

Mobile app development doesn’t stop when the application is completed. In fact, they have to test, host, deploy, maintain, and analyze usage for as long as the app’s available in the marketplace.

Developers also need to figure out how to do the following:

  • Store data
  • Secure data
  • Integrate it with other systems

What’s more, developers will also need to consider all the different types of devices where the app will be deployed. They will also need to think about different delivery mechanisms and upgrade strategies for each type of device that they intend to support.

Whether it’s going to be in-house or outsourced, you have to make sure that all the mobile app development tools can work efficiently together throughout the app’s lifecycle. The same is true if a business uses internal tools in conjunction with external services.

The same rules apply even if developers decide to go with a full-platform service that is usually cloud-based. Although they often offer a comprehensive set of tools to address every problem that can come up, developers have to note that not all these services are made equal.

The best approach here is to get the developers determine exactly what services will be needed and find out if it can actually be delivered. You also have to ensure that it can be seamlessly integrated with other systems while providing a robust foundation to scale.

6. What are the security implications?

Ideally, mobile application development platforms should seamlessly allow administrators to utilize the device’s built-in security controls. iOS devices probably have a better system for saving the user’s private data and fingerprint scanning will make access to user files even harder.

Storing data on a cloud also makes it more difficult to hack (although it’s known to happen). Android allows you to customize the security on the device any way you want it.

But when it comes to apps, you also have to take government regulations into consideration (regardless of the development tools that are used).

This means that if the developers want to use a cloud service, they have to be absolutely sure that it complies with government regulations that apply to their data. As a result, developers will have to consider the fact that while a service might make it much easier to engage in cross-platform development, you might not be able to get the highest level of security.

7. How well will the mobile application development platform integrate with other tools, systems, and services throughout its lifecycle?

Integration is something you always have to consider throughout the lifecycle of the mobile app. This means that the tool should enable seamless integration with other systems and also allow developers to build applications with the required integration.

Furthermore, the development tools should also enable them to build apps and integrate it with existing backend systems. The tools themselves should also be able to integrate with other key systems and their continuous delivery  infrastructure.

8. What skills would it require?

Even if the company decides to jump on the low-code bandwagon, some code will have to be written, eventually.

Cross-platform services might rely heavily on HTML and JavaScript instead of C# or Java. As a result, an audit of the development team’s expertise needs to be conducted to ensure that it matches the preferred language of the platform.

If the business is in a hurry to get the app to market, developers might be inclined to choose services that offer code samples or templates or customizable components.

9. What about pros and cons?

Each app you build will have its own set of advantages and disadvantages. For example, native apps are usually far superior when it comes UX and performance, but they also cost a lot more and take much longer to build (especially if you’re looking to build across multiple platforms).

Web apps are much faster and easier to build and deploy while hybrid apps come somewhere in between. So there are plenty of factors to take into consideration before committing to app development tools.

10. What about moderation and delivery?

When it comes to iOS apps, you have to deal with strict moderation. If the app doesn’t comply with Apple’s rules on app behavior, it will probably get rejected.

The best way to ensure that you don’t violate any rules is to follow the App Store Guidelines. This approach can help developers avoid rejection by ensuring that the app doesn’t crash or contain any iAd banners.

Apple is thorough with their app review process, but the same can’t be said for Google Play as they are known for their weak moderation system and piracy apps. Furthermore, any user can easily download the .apk file of any app and install it onto their device (but you can’t do this with Apple).

At the same time, developers should also account for availability, performance, and scalability. It’s also important for them to know how to implement upgrades and perform maintenance.

If the company chooses to go with a service, it’s important to fully understand the service-level agreement of what the vendor can deliver as developers will have little control beyond the basic adjustments.

What else would you add to this list? Feel free to share your mobile app development stories in the Comments section below.