Over the last decade or so, mobile app development has become an essential part of the global economy and a vital part of many organization’s strategies. As long as mobile apps have been around, there has been discussion of the best way to do things. Android vs. iOS, Hybrid vs. Native apps, it’s clear that there are many different approaches to this task. One such approach that has become the standard for many is cross platform development.

In this article, we have put together a beginner’s guide to cross platform development. Since this subject is still growing and expanding, we have put together the basics of developing for multiple platforms, pros and cons of developing this way, as well as the best tools available for getting the most out of the process.

We hope that this will help guide you in not only deciding whether cross platform development is right for you, but in launching your own development project should you choose this route. With big brands like Google getting involved, there’s never been a better time to get involved. Without further ado, let’s take a look.

cross platform development

Advantages of cross platform development

In order to begin, let’s first take a look at the advantages of cross platform development. Although there are some challenges (that we will get to next), there are some distinct advantages as well. Such as:

Controls cost: One of the best ways to lower the costs of the mobile app development process is by developing across multiple platforms.

Quicker development time: Since you are creating one app for multiple platforms, the development time is much quicker with cross platform development.

Uniformity: Having a consistent code and design no matter what platform your users utilize will create a better experience for them.

Each of these advantages may be just what you are looking for in a development project. However, with each of these advantages comes a few challenges you will have to overcome in order to meet the same standards as native app development.

Challenges of cross platform development

As mobile app designers, it is our duty to inform you of the challenges that cross platform development presents. Unless you are adequately prepared for these challenges, they can come back to bite you. These challenges include:

Differing design specifications: Android and iOS have radically different design specifications, meaning you will need to spend time to ensure that your user interface still operates well across both platforms.

Rough transfer: Similar to differing design, the code languages used to create apps on different platforms do not directly transfer from one to the other. If you are porting an Android app to iOS for example, it will take some time to work out all of the code discrepancies.

On top of this, it will take time to alter each of the apps to take advantage of the different options available specifically for each platform. Keep this in mind when you are getting started.

Choosing an IDE for the job

Thankfully, there is a way to curb some of these challenges, and that is through the use of an IDE or Integrated Development Environment. While Android and iOS app development uses an IDE to write code and create apps, there are other IDEs that are built specifically for cross platform development.

We highly recommend using an IDE for this job, so next we will look at the 4 best IDEs that you can use. Each IDE has different advantages, but just by using one from this list you will have an advantage. Let’s take a look.

Flutter

As we mentioned earlier, Google has recently gotten involved in cross platform development with their new UI framework tool Flutter. While Google still has their Android SDK for native development, they have now created Flutter for both iOS and Android, making cross platform apps simpler than ever to create.

While this is a Google product, it should be said that it is still in early development. However, it’s clear that as this IDE progresses, it will become the standard for cross platform development and should be your first choice for creating a well put together app.

Xamarin

While Flutter might soon take over, the reigning popular choice for cross platform development is found in Xamarin. Not only does Xamarin have lots of support and a large community, but it comes bundled with Visual Studio and lets developers work in C#. On top of that, you can test your app right within Xamarin’s Test Cloud.

If you aren’t interest in diving right into a beta product like Flutter, Xamarin is definitely the way to go. While it may take some developers time to get used to the layout and functionality of this IDE, it will take far less time to create your app due to Xamarin’s cross platform abilities.

Codename One

Going in a slightly different direction, Codenam3 One is another cross-device platform that supports rapid application development. Like Xamarin, Codename One allows developers to test and verify their code right within the platform. The best part of this framework is that you can create native iOS apps and windows apps without using a Windows or PC machine.

The one area where Codename One falters is with mobile app design. This is due to UI graphics that haven’t been updated as well as not being able to support large projects due to everything being developed in a single file. As long as you are prepared for these weaknesses, you should have no problem creating your app within Codename One.  

Appcelerator

The final IDE we will look at is Appcelerator, a tool that makes cross platform development at speed possible. The stand-out aspect of Appcelerator that we like is that it allows you to develop outside of just iOS and Android, extending to hybrid apps, Blackberry, and HTML5. In fact, the Appcelerator tool supports over 5,000 devices.

All that said, there are some disadvantages to developing with Appcelerator. Due to the fact that they have such a wide approach to cross-platform, finding specific use cases is difficult to do. Along with that, DZone reports that it is difficult to get in touch with their support team. That being said, if you need something made outside of iOS and Android, Appcelerator is probably your best bet.

Creating cross platform apps with a native approach

Thus concludes our beginner’s guide. We hope that you were able to learn about mobile app development, cross platform development, and decide what the best approach is for your project. The final thing we will leave you with is a thought on creating cross platform apps with a native approach.

As you begin to develop your cross-platform app, keep in mind the advantages of each platform and approach each as you would a native app. Avoid the discrepancies and take advantage of the benefits whenever you can. By doing this, you can create the app that not only works, but best serves your end-users.