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Cross Platform Mobile Apps Development – ‘One size fits all’ does not fit

‘One size fits all’ rarely fits in the real world and the same is true when selecting the right platform to develop mobile applications.  Mobile cross platform development tools are well beyond the traditional hype cycle and actively being leveraged all over the world to deliver real business value.  As new mobile form factors emerge, the ability to quickly, easily and inexpensively extend your brand, your applications, your business processes, and your systems onto the new form factors makes these tools key to enterprises going forward.

 

‘Know thy User’

Understanding who you are trying to reach and what business objective you are trying to achieve with your app is all part of the decision-making process.  As a general guideline, the closer your business process gets to the end customer the more likely you will need to leverage native applications.  These platforms are continuing to evolve as illustrated by the evolution of the Android platform over the past 4 years (see graphic below).  Tool vendors for cross platform development will be eternally playing catch up in terms of features and providing access to the latest device capabilities.  Anything that requires intense demand upon the platform in terms of user experience, interaction, or graphical rendering (i.e. games and augmented reality) will always require pieces of native development to complement the cross platform SDKs.

 

Android Infographic 3.jpg 

 

‘One Size Fits All’ Does Not Fit

Assuming that one platform will meet all your enterprise requirements is a fallacy.  We in IT have tried to do this for years - to control costs and provide stronger governance around applications.   With consumerization, the user expectations around the platforms have set the bar extremely high. The amount of hyper-personalization that is expected within our applications has grown to the point where I have seen very few enterprises being able to effectively leverage this model to its advantage.  Additionally, mobility and democratization of IT has enabled a level of decentralization to spur innovation around processes and business models. Most organizations are seeing this as a competitive advantage going forward and their goal is to enable this.  Very few tools can be all things to all people and we need to keep that in mind with our development platforms as well.

 

If Content is King, User Experience is Queen

Too many times, I see people trying to select the cross platform tool before they have figured out how they intend to address the problem at hand.  I believe more people should focus on figuring out 1) what functionality/content to render and 2) how they will enable the functionality through a powerful user experience that resonates with their intended audience and drives user adoption.  I have never seen an app fail to gain user adoption because of platform or toolset (unless it had functional/performance tools). But I have seen many apps fail because the users did not find the application intuitive and easy to use.  And where is the business value in that? 

 

Key Point:  Must consider Form Factor, Hardware, and Gestures

I cannot stress enough: Designing an app for the iPhone is different than designing one for Android or Windows and expecting interaction design to extend to other form factors (tablets and televisions) is a bad assumption; UI and UX metaphors for operating systems and form factors are different.   Good cross-platform applications look at home on whatever platform; bad cross-platform applications try to look identical regardless of platform,  i.e. if your Android app has a back button on the screen or if you think extending the app to a tablet is a feature; you’re probably missing the point.

 

Based on research, we have seen a high level of experimentation with developers on tools/platform that far outpaces what we have seen historically in PC development.  Cost is clearly a boundary that we all must manage to, but as long as the business focus is maintained – I have rarely seen this to be the limiting factor. Repeatedly, with the clients we serve globally, the business case is what drives the mobility initiative.

 

Mobility is breaking many of the traditional ‘mainstays’ of technology and cross platform is no exception.  Business focus on serving your customers should be the primary focus in tools selection. The assumption that all uses cases will fit within that framework will result in developers focused on technology and not on designing and developing applications that people will want to use.  Check out more on our thoughts in this video by Andrew Mitchell

or at  hp.com/services/es-mobile-apps .

 

This is our second blog as part of the Knowledge Matters program for mobility. You can check out our Mobile Madness. What is my strategy? blog by Darren McGrath on developing your mobile enterprise strategy.  We’re covering key mobile topics such as mobile apps strategy, government and mobility, controlling costs, mobile device management, mobile cloud, and other key topics designed to help you be successful in the mobile enterprise market.

 

I have shared my perspective - I would love to hear yours.

Comments
Cross Platform Mobile Apps (anon) | ‎07-02-2012 10:41 AM

 Fantastic blog! I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your blog is outstanding; the issue is something that not a lot of people are talking intelligently about it. I’m really happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

This blog helps well in understanding the complexity in cross platform mobile apps development. As a beginner in  app development i'm very much excited to know 'One Size Fits All' Does not fit, and now came to know the actual cross platform mobile apps developement. Thanks for Sharing !

AwesomeBytes(anon) | ‎08-13-2012 08:51 PM

Great article, it explains things well.  I'm so glad others are starting to discuss these things in this manner because so many people think cross platform tools are always the best way to go when building mobile applications.  Maybe someday they will be, but right now they're still rough around the edges and don't fit every situation.

 

I've experienced this issue first hand at my prior company.  Before coming over to the awesome side (HP) I was a developer within a small development group doing mainly web application development but I also programmed for iOS on the side just for fun.  Once upper management started bringing their iOS devices into the office (alongside their already existing BlackBerry devices), they began requesting access to the wireless network, then requested some of our enterprise applications be made to work with their devices in a more user friendly manner and also requested new, custom made apps be created for those devices.  I had already researched some of the 3rd party, cross platform development tools such as PhoneGap, RhoMobile, Corona SDK, and Sencha Touch on my own so I was excited to help them out.  I tried to use some of the third party SDK's and tools but found they were more trouble than they were worth in many cases.  We ended up working on native apps instead to offer a much better user experience with much better features for each platform.

 

Some of the cross platform tools and methodologies work great for some situations, but they certainly don't fit all of them.

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About the Author
Bryan Coapstick is the Director of Mobile Innovation at HP. In this role, he is responsible for driving strategic mobility initiatives and k...
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