A phone next to a laptop

What Is Hybrid App Development & Does It Affect You?

Dallin Nelson

December 11, 2020 · 6 minutes

If you’ve decided that it’s time to push your brand into the app world, you may have seen hybrid app development as one potential option. Because app development is so costly and time-consuming, it’s worth asking what hybrid app development is and what it means for your project.

Over half of all web traffic today takes place via smartphone. It’s becoming less and less likely that someone will access your app on a desktop computer, making it important to consider the requirements and limitations of a smartphone.

For your app to be successful, users have to find it easy to navigate. If it becomes an inconvenience to them, they won’t use it anymore and you will have wasted your money.

Types of App Development Available

A man sitting at his desktopEach device that accesses an app will be different. On the internet, an app is mostly self-contained, limited to the inputs a user gives it. On a smartphone, however, apps are more integrated and can communicate with features like its calendar, camera, or contacts.

This is a good example of web apps versus native apps. A web app exists on the internet, while a native app uses the features of the device accessing it (i.e. your smartphone).

As you can probably imagine, there are pros and cons to both. Web apps provide more security and can often just do more, but native apps can be used offline with the phone’s own devices. Should your app prioritize a multitude of features or just keep it stable? Thankfully, you can have a little of both.

Why Choose Hybrid App Development?

Native apps are generally the most expensive to build. Because they require unique code for both iOS and Android (and any other devices out there), developers have to build two different apps—one for Apple devices and one for Androids. This is the only way to get native apps into app stores where they can be downloaded and used.

Building something like this takes more time and money, and it’s the reason that the native app world feels dominated by companies big enough to earn funding and pay for the expensive development.

Web applications, on the other hand, are cheaper to build. They are straightforward and can be written in universal code languages irrespective of device. The problem is that they are accessible by web only, unable to make an impact on the user’s life unless they are connected to it.

So, which should you pick? A web application that is easier and cheaper to build, or a native app that can access a phone’s software?

Hybrid app development is the solution.

Creating a Native Frame for a Web App

The way hybrid apps work around the two sides of this issue is by using plugins for native functionality that deploy the app from within the smartphone. You can think of it like downloading another web browser—it is an app itself, but the content within it is not hosted by your phone’s software.

Hybrid apps are mainly plugins. They are built to work with your phone but only by using a handful of features. The rest of it is accessed online and sent back to the app.

Do Hybrid Apps Work?

There are some differences when it comes to hybrid apps versus native apps. A program that can access all of a phone’s features isn’t as likely to have bugs, making hybrid apps a little riskier. Not to worry though—some of the most popular apps of all time are built on hybrid frameworks. Facebook, Instagram, and Airbnb all fall under this category.

So yes, hybrid apps work very well, as long as you have the right developer to work with.

Can’t Any Developer Build a Hybrid App?

A dual monitor set upWhen you hire a developer, you expect them to be able to handle any kind of programming language in order to best serve your needs. However, this isn’t usually the case. Most developers have a few languages they can work with, and outside of that sphere, it takes a little while to learn.

Before hiring a developer to begin work on your app, you should talk to them about their approach to building them. Some will tell you they can do it while others will say it’s not their field. In all cases, you should double-check their work to get a good look at the kinds of apps they build.

Knowing their development style is important. If you work with someone whose style doesn’t match yours, there will be hurdles all throughout the project. Navigation, features, design, and other traits of an app are all choices that must be made, so projects flow more easily when your developer already shares your preferences.

Another issue with some developers arises when they don’t know how to utilize the tools other apps provide. Integrating with other software will help you save money on your project while giving your users better features and functionality.

APIs for a Perfect 10

Every time your phone asks to access your location, contacts, or camera, it is using an API. This is when a program interfaces with your phone’s information to provide better services. However, your phone isn’t the only thing APIs can access.

The best apps take advantage of these interfaces to add features created by other companies. Say you want to start a pizza delivery app. APIs allow you to get location data to calculate delivery fees and use other software as a merchant service.

Why use APIs? Because it’s cheaper and it works better. Companies like PayPal and Venmo already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) on ensuring their products work well. Why would you reinvent the wheel? By incorporating their software into your product, you’re more likely to have a successful app.

Can I Buy a Hybrid App Template?

A laptop on a deskOne way people develop their own apps is with Cookiecutter app templates. While you’ll still have to work with a developer to build it out, this can be a good way to save money on your project. These templates already contain the nuts and bolts of good hybrid functionality, leaving you free to only mess with the optional features like styling and navigation.

Still, you’ll want to work with an experienced developer here. However simple Cookiecutter apps may be, they aren’t for beginners. Ideally, your app design team can help you realize the vision you have of what to do next, but you should do as much planning on your own first.

Plan Ahead for the Best Experience

Building an app is an exciting adventure, but it’s a costly one. Unless your budget has no ceiling, it’s important to take a walk through your own app idea before paying someone to begin work on it.

How?

The initial design, focus groups, and consulting. Start with your own idea. You can take a look at a wireframe template and add your own branding from there. Even a cursory look at the initial design puts you a few steps ahead of your competition. Most people leave it to their developers.

You should then talk to people about your idea. Find out if it seems viable to them, and accept their feedback with gratitude. They are your users, after all.

Also, take a look at your favorite apps and make detailed notes about your favorite features. Your developer needs to know what you like and how you want things to work, so a good overview of your preferences will help to make the process run smoothly.

Find a Developer You Can Trust

Building a hybrid app will take time and patience. It’s important to work with a developer whose philosophy aligns with your own. Otherwise, you could find yourself dissatisfied with things but unsure how to express them.

Start with a kickoff call about how to approach your project. This is a good time for you to better understand your developer and what it will be like to work with them. Once you have some pricing and timelines ironed out, make sure you leave with clearly defined expectations.

Making the Most of Your Hybrid App

The beauty of a hybrid app is that it is restricted by very little. You’ll have the ability to make your app do things that native and web apps simply can’t, but that doesn’t mean you should broaden its scope too far.

By keeping a narrow focus on your app, it will be easier to market and sell. As an app is an investment, having people download and use it must remain your top priority. Good luck!

Get started planning your app with one of LA’s top hybrid app developers.
Click here to schedule your free consultation.

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