9 Tips for Managing Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

You’ve done this before … hired outside app developers to build your software.

But it didn’t go so well.

And now you have to do it again. Only this time it’s completely different, because this time it’s with mobile applications. You know that mobile development isn’t the same animal you’re used to and you’re not sure how to manage it. Not sure how to avoid getting burned again.

There are entirely new questions, too. Should you be on iOS or Android? And what’s this “cross-platform development” you keep hearing about?

You know micromanaging is a bad term, but … you need to do it. Just a little. At least enough to understand what’s going on and make sure everything sails smoothly. Make sure some of those disasters of the past don’t happen again.

The good news is, mobile app development has some tools you’re going to like. Tools like Agile methodologies and Scrum management that let you keep your finger on the project’s pulse at all times. They let you micromanage without micromanaging … because you remain part of the process. You can stay as involved as you want to be, every step of the way.

But only if your mobile app development team follows the rules, of course. If they really know what they’re doing. Below are 9 tips to help you manage cross-platform mobile developments. These are tips that top application developers, like Ascendle, use to deliver exceptional results.

Knowing these 9 tips will help you manage and monitor your cross-platform development teams.

1. Begin With a Cross-Platform App Mentality

There’s no reason to choose A or B when it comes to deciding where your app will launch. The best choice is always “both.” In this case, I mean iOS and Android. According to IDC research on worldwide market share, Android controls a dominating share of 82.8% of all smartphones. Here in the United States, the split is much closer to 50/50, according to this comScore report.

Yet many companies continue building their mobile apps for iOS first, and then wonder why they fail. But you’re not going to do that. You’re going to connect with both markets simultaneously. The best cross-platform development teams can do that, no problem. Insist on it.

2. Define the User Experience You Want

A good application design is not about specs and features, but about user experience and results. What is the flow of your UI? How does it differ between platforms?

Less skilled cross-platform developers will create their UI independent of the platform. This makes the app look exactly the same in either market, but doesn’t take advantage of platform-specific interface standards. There are some cool things you can do in Android, and some cool things you can do in iOS. Poor cross-platform development will avoid these non-generic features.

But the best cross-platform developers will find ways to utilize those interface standards to your advantage. They’ll know what iOS users expect from their apps, and they’ll know what Android users expect, too.  So you’ll deliver the right user experience to the right users. Our free webinar on writing user stories explains exactly how to do this, up front.

3. Choose a Reliable Cross-Platform Development Tool

Native app developers will sell you the advantages of building expressly for one platform or the other. They’ll tell you their apps will take advantage of more unique features and run smoother and faster when compiled in native code.

Compared to most cross-platform development tools, these statements would be accurate. Because most cross-platform frameworks simply wrap their code with an HTML user interface – one that’s not specific to either platform.

But I have a secret to tell you. At Ascendle, we use a cross-platform framework called Xamarin.

Xamarin is a game-changer. Why? Because taking advantage of those platform-specific standards I mentioned above is where Xamarin shines. According to the Xamarin website, you “get the best of both worlds: write your data storage and business logic code once, and present native UIs on each platform.”

That’s a win for you and a win for your customers.

4. Leverage Pre-Built Components

Make sure you’re not paying your app developers to re-invent the wheel. Reliable, pre-tested components of code are available. Plugging one of these modules into your app development project can reduce production times and improve both quality and performance – assuming you pick the right ones.

Also, the more experienced your mobile app developer, the more of these pre-built components they’ll have already created. Ask your mobile development team where they intend to use pre-built components, and how much of the project they intend to build from scratch.

5. Create Universal Aesthetic Appeal

The look and feel of your app can play as big a role in its success as the quality of your code. First and foremost, you want imagery that supports your brand. So create a platform independent vision of how you want your app to look.

What comes next will separate the best mobile development teams from the rest. Best-in-class developers will modify and tweak that vision to match the interface standards and user expectations for each platform. The core branding will be the same, but the look and layouts might be slightly different. A less talented app developer will force that single vision onto both platforms. So neither your iOS nor your Android users will feel like your app is truly meant for them.

6. Use Agile Methodologies and Scrum Management

Most mobile app development projects rely heavily on Agile development methodologies. If you need to manage a mobile project – or micromanage one – then you’ll need to learn about Agile. Here’s a brief intro of Agile development and its values on the Scrum Alliance website.

Scrum, on the other hand, is the most popular way to manage Agile development projects. You can learn it from your certified Scrum Master, or take some time to peruse The Scrum Guide on your own. Either way, the more you know about Scrum, the better you’ll be able to monitor what your app development team is doing right … and where they might be missing the mark.

7. Monitor Feedback Closely

You always want to pay attention to your customer feedback, of course. But with cross-platform development, there’s another dimension to it. You not only want to know what users think of your app’s performance and benefits, but you also want to know how that feedback differs by platform.

Comparing feedback received between each platform can help you identify any problems, issues, and quirks that need to be addressed.

8. Test Thoroughly for Every Platform

One small problem with cross-platform development is that it multiplies the amount of testing you need to do. You – or the developers – may want to cut corners there. Don’t do it. Your iOS app and your Android app might look very similar, but the way the underlying code is compiled for each is completely different. Make sure you thoroughly test each platform-based version as if it were its own independent app. Never make assumptions from testing the other platform.

9. Expect Regular Patch Releases

Another issue cross-platform developers need to plan for is a lot of platform-specific fixes, upgrades, and patches. As Android and iOS modify their platforms, you’ll need to test and keep up with those changes. Your mobile development plan should include provisions to stay on top of those updates.

Planning a series of regular patch releases will keep your app current and operational.  So make sure your app development project addresses these long term needs.

Follow These Tips for a Successful Cross-Platform Project

As you can see, the best cross-platform development requires agile methods and teamwork, vision, and an attention to details. Not lots of extra coding. Use these tips to improve your next mobile app development project. The results will be faster, cheaper, and more reliable apps for your customers.

Finding mobile app developers who believe in these values, as we do here at Ascendle, will make managing these projects much easier for you.

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