Dec 23, 2020 Written by David Barlev

Breaking Down Hybrid App Development and What It Means for You

A man writing some kind of blueprints

If you’re at where you’re considering a mobile app for your business, you’ve probably come across the term hybrid app development.

(If not, don’t worry, we’ll explain.)

The thing is, app development can be can be both costly and time-consuming, and prior to the creation of hybrid app development, there was native development. This form of development basically called for the creation of unique apps that were form-fitted to frameworks like Android’s operating system and iOS.

The two frameworks were effectively incompatible with each other which meant that if you were a business or organization that wanted to create an app for both platforms, you had to create two separate apps.

If you were a small or medium-sized business this often meant choosing ONE platform to focus on and missing out on half your potential audience. (No Bueno)

That is, until hybrid app development came along, allowing users to create apps that could be dual-use for both Android and Apple.

So, to the most important question of this article:

What does this mean for you?

Let’s find out.

Exploring App Development Methods

A woman at a computerIt’s easy to think of apps as digital programs or tools that either have a specific function or connect to the Internet to communicate with other devices (your calendar or social media for example).

However, it’s important to note that apps connect to more than just the Internet. They also integrate with other apps on your phone—camera, calendar, etc.

What we’ve just described is the difference between web apps and native apps.

A web app exists on the Internet. A native app uses features of the device accessing it (i.e. your smartphone).

While web apps offer great security and more utility, native apps can be used offline with the phone’s basic devices (flashlight, for example). The question is, would you rather focus on a multitude of features or keep it stable?

Fortunately, with hybrid app development, you can have the best of both worlds.

What’s the Big Deal with Hybrid App Development?

Let’s the most important things out of the way first:

Native apps are expensive to build.

Not only do they require unique code for both iOS and Android, but again, these codes are not compatible. This means you can’t even use one as a source for the other. Both are built completely from scratch with native app development.

As a result, you’ll need a team that’s specialized for iOS and another for Android if you want to build an app using native development.

You can imagine that collaboration to ensure both apps are exactly the same in look and function across frameworks requires a helluva project manager.

Now, on the other hand, web applications are cheap to build.

Straightforward in their design, they can be written in universal code languages—for example, Javascript—which allows them to be accessible in later implementation.

Unfortunately, these apps are accessible on the web only. This means if your user isn’t connected to the Internet, the app is useless.

And therein lies the trade-off. Easy and cheap web applications that are limited in function, or native apps that are costly and time-consuming but tailor-made for superior performance.

Well, until hybrid app development came along.

Build Native, Launch Hybrid

To combine the best of both approaches, hybrid app development does something pretty smart.

It starts off the development process using native app development as the base, it then branches off from there using a universal language like Javascript to build up.

By doing this, hybrid apps use plugins for native functionality to deploy the app from the phone itself. Think of it like downloading another web browser for your phone.

Generally speaking, hybrid apps are basically plugins that are built to work with your phone with limited features.

Everything else is pulled from the Internet and relayed back to the app’s interface.

Should I Use Hybrid Apps?

It depends on your needs. While there are notable differences between hybrid apps and native apps—for example, hybrid apps are generally buggier—there are a number of famous hybrid app examples such as Facebook, Instagram, and Airbnb.

Can Anyone Build a Hybrid App?

When most people hire a developer, they expect them to be all-around all-stars; fully equipped to take on any project or task with the power of code.

Not quite.

In reality, developers are often highly specialized in a small subset of programming languages that are designed to play to their strengths. Outside of that, many programming languages take a long amount of time to properly learn.

As a result, before you hire a developer to build your next app, ask them their approach to building. While some will tell you that they’re well-versed in the type of project you’re looking for, others may push back. In those instances, it’s best to find someone in complete alignment with your needs.

When you know their development style, it’s easy to determine who’s a good match for you and who isn’t. While there are hurdles in every project, establishing this level of overlap should be among your first steps.

Use, Use, Use APIs

We really can’t stress this enough, using APIs properly is essential to the development of a quality project.

But first, what is an API?

Application programming interface (API) is effectively a key that connects one application to another (or more).

For a more accessible example, think of Instagram. Instagram allows users to cross-post their content to other social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. The method behind this is the use of an API.

And by allowing users to post their content across a variety of platforms, they effectively encourage the use of Instagram as a whole.

This makes their app more attractive, versatile, and far-reaching than its counterparts by offering greater utility.

Can You Just Buy a Hybrid App Template?

Technically, yes.

In fact, one way people choose to develop their own apps is with Cookiecutter app templates. These are software that allows users to create apps under a very limited scope of options (think templates).

Depending on the level of customization, you may want to approach a proper developer to help you build it out (think but doing it yourself is an option, as well. Since templates usually contain everything you need for minimum functionality within the app, leveraging what’s already there can be a fast way to get a functional app at a low cost and quick turnaround speed.

Getting the Most Out of Hybrid App Development

Thankfully, hybrid app development is a little more expensive than it gets credit for. With the ability to make your app execute native and web app functionality, you can experience the best of both worlds at a reasonable cost.

If you want to build a mobile app for your business, hybrid app development is worth considering.

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