Overcoming the Challenges of Mobile App Architecture with Hybrid Development
How hybrid app development can help you overcome common mobile app architecture challenges to build better apps faster than ever.
Altogether, there are more than 5.5 million Android and iOS mobile apps on the market. To stand out in this competitive market, mobile app developers need to produce high-quality applications that not only meet the latest industry standards but also exceed user expectations.
Achieving both objectives while staying on budget and meeting stakeholders’ deadlines is a tall order. The challenges associated with this undertaking are exacerbated due to the underlying shortcomings of traditional mobile app architecture.
Fortunately, your organization can streamline its software development processes and produce superior mobile apps by adopting a hybrid development approach.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can leverage hybrid mobile app architecture and development processes to distinguish your products and thrive in the ultra-competitive Apple and Google Play stores.
Hybrid vs. Traditional Mobile App Development
Before we shift our attention to mobile apps, architecture-related challenges, and the benefits of the hybrid approach, let’s first compare the two main styles of app development.
Traditional mobile apps, or native apps, as they’re more commonly known, are written in a language and format specific to the platform or device they are to be installed on.
To create native apps for both Android and iOS devices, for instance, developers must create two different sets of code. This makes supporting multiple devices and operating systems a labor-intensive and time-consuming endeavor.
Native apps typically include three layers:
- Data layer
- Business layer
- Presentation layer
Like native apps, hybrid apps are installed directly on the user’s device. However, with hybrid apps, the codebase is essentially the same across all devices.
To support cross-compatibility, developers will “wrap” the underlying code and architecture in a native container. Like traditional applications, hybrid apps also feature a data layer, business layer, and presentation layer.
Hybrid mobile applications have a clean architecture that can function with or without an internet connection. As such, they function more reliably than web applications while mimicking the front-end appearance of a native app. This results in a streamlined mobile development process and optimal user experience.
Common Challenges of Traditional Mobile App Architecture
To fully demonstrate the advantages of a hybrid approach for mobile app architecture design, it’s important to thoroughly explore the shortcomings of native apps and traditional development strategies.
Some of the most notable challenges associated with standard development practices include the following:
Native API Integration
Application programming interfaces (APIs) are responsible for connecting one piece of software with another.
Native API integrations — or a lack thereof — will directly impact the data layer of an application, which is tasked with storing, retrieving, and managing data. When APIs are lacking or underperform, app stability is negatively impacted.
Integrating with a single API is labor-intensive and often tedious. Leveraging multiple APIs is even more so.
Traditional mobile app architectures magnify this challenge, as developers must lay the groundwork to “talk” with APIs for each variant of an app. For instance, the Android and iOS versions of an app will require custom code to communicate effectively with the APIs on the respective devices on which they’re designed to run.
One of the biggest impediments to native app development for mobile devices is a lack of code reusability. This lack of reusability most directly impacts the presentation layer, which serves as the face of an app.
After all, when developers have to create new code for each version of the app, there is a high likelihood of variations in the app's feel, look, and function. In the past, the expectation was that the user interface followed strict design system guidelines laid forth by each platform’s operating system. Today, there is some debate on the necessity of following these guidelines and organizations can be found making a shift toward a unified design across their iOS and Android apps.
Reusing or repurposing existing code can promote application scalability and expedite the development process. Instead of starting from scratch when developing a variation of an app for a new target audience, developers can reuse code from their first project. Unfortunately, native apps often lack reusable code.
For instance, imagine that a team develops a native iOS application, but their target audience includes Android device and iPad users.
To accommodate other device types and operating systems, developers often need to create a whole new set of code.
While there are many factors that hinder reusability within native mobile apps’ architecture, the biggest issue is that the code is specific to one platform.
For example, a native Android app will likely use Kotlin, Google’s preferred programming language. While Kotlin can interoperate with Java, neither are the preferred language of Apple’s iOS. Instead, iOS developers need to leverage Swift, which also interoperates with the legacy language of choice, Objective-C. If you're relying on one developer, or maybe a small team of developers, to build out these apps, it would require them to have knowledge of potentially four separate languages.
For the best user experience, performance must be optimized for each device and operating system combination.
For example, if developers want to support the iPhone XR, 11, 12, 13, and 14, they must create a separate set of optimizations for each device, even if they’re running the same OS.
Conversely, hybrid apps are inherently optimized for any supported device or operating system. Because the expectation is that the app will be used across a variety of permutations in screen size and operating system versions, it is designed to be responsive from the beginning. This significantly speeds up the development process, saves time, and enables DevOps teams to support a broader target audience.
While hybrid apps may fall just short in comparison to native apps on some metrics, such as boot time, this isn’t the case in every scenario. Hybrid apps are designed to be non differentiable by the naked eye with high-performance scrolling and screen transitions.
Modern mobile apps contain an abundance of valuable and sought-after user data. Any type of mobile app can be susceptible to hacking or other malicious activity. Neither choosing to build a hybrid app or native app makes it inherently more safe. Rather, security is built through sound development practices.
Many of these issues can be addressed by adhering to cybersecurity guidelines and conducting extensive testing. However, challenges such as lack of time and resources can impede testing protocols and cause development teams to cut corners.
For example, developers must conduct testing among both the business and presentation layers for each variant. This means that both the Android and iOS variants must be tested extensively, essentially doubling the amount of work to be done.
By comparison, hybrid mobile app architectures can be tested faster and more efficiently by reusing business logic tests and only having disparate tests for the nuances of the presentation layer. Since all iterations of the app use the same underlying framework, development teams can adopt a unified testing approach. They can thoroughly test applications, identify potential vulnerabilities, and keep user data safe. What’s more, a hybrid approach can also utilize prebuilt plugins to simplify securing your app and accelerate development time.
Time and Resource Costs
One of the most significant challenges associated with traditional mobile app architectures is the time, labor, and resource costs associated with creating them. To develop a user-friendly app that meets expectations, developers must perfect the business layer.
The business layer orchestrates the flow of data between the data layer and the presentation layer. Typically, the business layer is responsible for performing any calculations or applying business-level logic decisions to raw data before it's presented to the end user. This logic is essentially the 'secret sauce' unique to each app or organization.
So why is this a problem? When using traditional architectures, developers must recreate the business layer and associated sublayers for each version of the app. This process exponentially increases the time and resource costs of app development.
Since hybrid mobile app architectures offer paralleled performance and security, as well as improved code reusability, developers can streamline the process of creating the business layer and sublayers.
How Hybrid Mobile App Architecture Can Help You Overcome These Hurdles
Both web and native apps have their fair share of strengths and weaknesses, but hybrid mobile app architecture combines the strengths of both approaches.
The hybrid app can use an internet connection via a web browser, which is embedded directly inside the app. The plugins used to integrate native device features and functions, as well as the underlying web browser in which the app operates, remain unrecognizable to the naked eye.
With hybrid apps, development teams can write code once but still accommodate several devices and operating systems. Hybrid apps can deliver performance on par with optimized native apps while simultaneously offering enhanced security and connectivity like web apps.
Benefits of Ionic + Capacitor
Developing hybrid or robust web apps requires the right set of tools. Capacitor and Ionic are those tools.
Capacitor is a free, open-source platform that enables developers to build cross-platform applications using standard web technologies. It includes a plugin API, pre-made plugins, a command line tool, and native platform SDKs for both Android and iOS.
Capacitor delivers even more value when combined with the Ionic Framework, Ionic’s mobile UI toolkit. The toolkit integrates seamlessly with all the best frontend frameworks, including Angular, React, Vue, or even no framework at all.
Ionic Framework runs within Capacitor’s web view and provides development teams with a multitude of UI components that make web apps look, feel, and perform like native applications. Some of the components of Ionic include model view controllers, modals, navigation bar tools, camera integration, and more.
By leveraging Ionic and Capacitor for your hybrid app development processes, you can circumvent the challenges associated with native mobile app architectures while also achieving the following benefits:
Spend More Time Building Features
If you want to provide an engaging user experience that makes your app stand out in a crowded marketplace, you need a feature-rich solution that addresses your target audience’s unique needs.
However, when you use native app development processes, you spend much of your time reimplementing business logic rather than writing the unique feature code. Or one platform development team is building out a feature to bring their app to parity with the other platform’s app.
Ionic and Capacitor allow you to expedite development processes so your team can spend more time creating and refining useful features rather than reimplementing logic and worrying about feature parity.
Respond Rapidly to User Feedback
Even the most carefully planned apps won’t be perfect come launch time. Ionic and Capacitor give you the power to maximize development agility. You can respond to user feedback, make changes, and push those updates to your code. Since all apps use the same underlying architecture, you only have to make changes once and can conduct more thorough testing before releasing your updates.
Optimize Performance, Speed, and Functionality
Ionic and Capacitor give your team the necessary tools and freedom to conduct extensive performance and function testing. You can quickly and easily pinpoint potential issues within your application, make adjustments, and optimize performance prior to release. The result is a faster, more responsive mobile app.
Keep Costs in Check
Each iteration of a native mobile app you create multiplies your development costs and requires additional team bandwidth as you move forward maintaining each experience. That’s why many DevOps teams launch only a few variations of an application.
Ionic and Capacitor enable your team to reach a broader target audience and keep costs in check by facilitating hybrid app development. You can write one unified set of underlying code and use that original mobile app architecture to support several different devices and operating systems.
Elevate Your Mobile Application Architecture with a Hybrid Approach
When it comes to mobile apps, architecture is foundational to the success of your project. While you can certainly build mobile apps within the restrictions of the traditional Android or iOS framework, using a hybrid approach gives your team the freedom to flex their creativity and deliver a better experience for your end users.
With that in mind, it’s wise to reconsider your mobile app architecture design strategy and incorporate hybrid development tools like Ionic Framework and Capacitor into your workflow.
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