@rob_rich

Mobile Development Strategy

by Rob Richardson

@rob_rich

http://robrich.org/

November 9, 2013

About Me

Rob Richardson is a software craftsman building web properties in ASP.NET and Node. He's a frequent speaker at conferences, user groups, and community events, and a diligent teacher and student of high quality software development. You can find this and other talks on his blog at https://robrich.org/presentations and follow him on twitter at @rob_rich.

Native or Web?

"So I have this idea for an app.
Should I build it as a native app or in HTML5?"
-everybody

"You're asking the wrong question."
-me

Native or Web?

It's not a binary switch

Native or Web?

There are more options than just two

Mobile Development Continuum

  •     (more native-ish)
  • Native code in each platform
  • Cross-compile Frameworks (Xamarin)
  • "Browser in an App" Frameworks (Hybrid, PhoneGap)
  • Separate mobile site
  • "Responsive Design" site
  •     (more web-ish)

Why lean towards native?

  • Better access to sensors
  • Better performance
  • People don't pay for websites

Why lean towards web-based?

  • Single codebase works on more devices
  • Faster deployment time
  • Avoid App Store approval game

Mobile Development Continuum

Native

Description

Develop using native tools for each platform

Pros

  • Most performant
  • Most native look and feel
  • Segmented testing
    e.g. don't need to test the iPhone codebase against Android clients

Cons

  • Most expensive to develop (no shared codebase)
  • Typically need outsourced resources

Skills

Objective-C, Java, .NET, C++, etc, etc

Development

Mac, XCode, Android SDK, Eclipse

Debugging

within the native tools

Build

Mac for iOS client, Ant for Android client

Deployment

App Stores

Cross-compile Frameworks

Description

Code in your most fluent language, cross-compile into various platforms

Pros

  • Easy to share non UI code between platforms

Cons

  • Still need native build and debug resources
  • Typically need to know native methodology
  • Some argue this is the worst of both worlds

Cross-compile Frameworks

Skills

Mostly your native format, a little bit of native

Development

Install plugin into your IDE, link to Android SDK and XCode

Debugging

within your chosen IDE (hopefully)

Build

Mac for iOS client, Ant for Android client

Deployment

App Stores

Cross-compile Frameworks

Examples:

"Browser in an App" Frameworks (Hybrid apps)

Description

JavaScript shims to native SDKs, build to native apps, submit to app stores

Pros

  • Develop using JavaScript
  • Most debugging can be done in a browser

Cons

  • Interface isn't quite right
  • or we created so much code to
    make it right that it's really slow

"Browser in an App" Frameworks (Hybrid apps)

Skills

JavaScript

Development

TextEditor, SublimeText

Debugging

on phone(s) or phone emulators

Build

Various cloud build tools available

Deployment

App Stores

"Browser in an App" Frameworks (Hybrid apps)

Cordova (open-source) clones:

  • PhoneGap (Adobe): more tools, cloud build service
  • Nomad (RedGate): write in Visual Studio, cloud build
  • Icenium (Telerek): write in Visual Studio, cloud build
  • Ionic Framework: Angular + Cordova

Separate mobile site

Description

Duplicate necessary pages to provide mobile-optimized experience

Pros

  • Fast deployments
  • No app store approval
  • Copy/paste development is fast
  • Don't need to worry about desktop

Cons

  • Need to walk users through creating a home screen shortcut
  • Separate codebase from main site means build it twice
  • Browser detection (and redirecting) is fragile
  • Dificult to debug and test with desktop browsers

Separate mobile site

Skills

Your chosen server technology, HTML5, JavaScript

Development

Your chosen IDE

Debugging

Phones browsers

Build

Existing tools

Deployment

A web server

"Responsive Design" site

Description

CSS Media Queries and JavaScript feature detection alter page content to match target

Pros

  • Single codebase for mobile and non-mobile pages
  • Can test in a browser
  • Fast deployments
  • No app store approval

Cons

  • Developer needs to consider both desktop and mobile simultaniously
  • Need to walk users through creating a home screen shortcut

"Responsive Design" site

Skills

Your chosen server technology, HTML5, JavaScript

Development

Your chosen IDE

Debugging

Desktop and Phone browsers

Build

Existing tools

Deployment

A web server

Which is best? It depends

Consider your resources and needs:

  • Monitization strategy
  • Target market
  • Developer skills
  • Development time
  • Application depth
  • Application needs
    native apis not exposed? 3D acceleration needed?