Mobile App Development Architecture - Everything You Need To Know

As today’s digital landscape grows increasingly dependent on mobile applications, there’s no escaping the need to establish a business presence with one too. With millions of users (ahem, potential customers) connected online via mobile apps, it’s imperative to reach them exactly where they are – or else lose out to the competition.

Here’s a disclaimer: being a business owner who is looking to build a mobile app, you aren’t obliged to learn about the technicalities involved in developing one. While that is something for your development team to worry about, all you need to clearly provide is a set of requirements/objectives that your venture needs to fulfil, via the launch of a mobile app.

If that’s the case, why do you, as a business owner, need to get to the nitty-gritty of Mobile App Development Architecture?

Although not a must, knowing the intricacies of mobile app development architecture will leverage your scope in building an app that precisely meets, if not exceeds your expectations. As you scrutinize the outcomes of your mobile app from a business perspective, you will also be able to deduce what technologies will complement your business ideas.

In turn, this knowledge shall help you communicate with your IT team more effectively, and resonate to technological potential/limitations. If you’re due to go Agile when developing your mobile app, this shall drastically help streamline processes – even though Agile development processes are open to welcoming infinite amounts of change.

What’s more, both parties are bound to save time, effort and money, all thanks to a better level of understanding – which will ultimately help your company’s bottom line.

Without further ado: what is Mobile App Development Architecture?

Prior to beginning design and development, it is important to construct a skeletal framework of any mobile app. This consists of all the elements that need to be involved for serving both the form and function of the app, along with a strategy on how each of these elements shall communicate with one another, in order to execute a task.

Additionally, the architecture revolving around mobile app development is based on three key ‘layers –

1. Presentation – the front-end layer which is visible to the user,

2. Business – the back-end layer which consists of all the components needed to maintain the Presentation (front-end) layer, such as the CMS,

3. Data – another back-end component that stores, processes and retrieves data for analysis and strategic decision-making.

Other components such as Configuration and Security are included throughout the framework too, to facilitate deliverables in a safe and efficient manner.

In a nutshell, Mobile App Development Architecture is a framework of all the elements required to build a mobile app. Together with its three layers, it is possible to deduce the overall scope of the project, along with any hindrances - well ahead in advance. Last but not the least, the development architecture fosters the creation of an app that is customer-centric – one of the cornerstones of a successful mobile app.

Mobile App Development Architecture – factors to consider

While this list of factors is by no means exhaustive, these are some of the most common (and important ones) -

1. Operating System

Determining your app’s architecture largely depends on the operating system that your user base shall have on their devices. Although numerous mobile OS providers exist, Android and iOS dominate the market. This means that your design and development primarily needs to adhere to the guidelines stated by each of these providers.

2. Screen size and resolution

Another fairly challenging factor, the sizes and resolutions of screens in smartphones and tablets vastly influence which components make it (or don’t make it) into the Presentation layer. Owing to the limited amount of space available, designers are tasked with the responsibility to include only the mere essentials.

3. Device-specific hardware and software requirements

While the factors mentioned above also fall under this umbrella, the sheer level of intricacy involved when considering mobile OS providers and screen real estate makes each a factor of its own. In addition to these two, several other software and hardware-focused variables are added to the mix, such as computing speeds and storage space.

4. Internet connectivity

What if a user loses connection to the internet? Will they be able to use your app like normal, or will it be a hindrance? Internet connectivity issues such as lack of access (especially in remote areas) or bandwidth can impact how productive your app is – no matter how user-friendly and sophisticated it is.

Native, Cross-Platform or Hybrid – how does this affect Mobile App Development Architecture?

Depending on what you wish to achieve through your mobile app, your IT team needs to select the right technology for developing it. All the factors mentioned above weigh in on this decision, along with constraints that are more specific to your business – such as budget and time.

Each method has its pros and cons, but you can strike the right balance by ensuring that your app is being developed not only with your company objectives in mind, but also based on consumer behaviour.

1. Native

Native mobile app development uses the programming languages and UI guidelines of each OS provider, to create an app that is specific to that OS. This means that an app is created for every OS; one for Android and another for iOS, in most cases. Just like custom software development, Native mobile app development requires more time, effort and money as each software version needs to be developed from scratch, and according to the regulations of each provider.

Owing to the high level of customisation, it also reaps results of the best quality. Designs feature less glitches due to differences in screen size, and access to supplementary features such as camera and GPS are seamless. Since Native apps are made according to the rules and regulations set by their respective mobile OS providers, they have a better chance of not just being approved, but prioritised on for receiving exposure at the App Store/Play Store.

What’s more, since the programming languages designated by each operating system are used to formulate the app, there is assurance of the fact that the operating system will be willing to offer support should the need arise.

A Native case study – Pokémon GO

A game that is based on a user’s actual surroundings, Pokémon GO features virtual characters that are set using Augmented Reality. Due to this, the game needs to rely heavily on multiple components, such as the GPS and camera. Developing the app Natively was the most sensible option here, as any glitches while trying to access hardware within the device could’ve resulted in the app simply not working.

The decision to choose Native mobile app development by Pokémon GO has been a wise one; the app’s roaring success is proof of that. Bearing the objective to provide a rich and immersive gaming experience, the app demands intense processing to be carried out by the CPU. Add to that the necessity for optimum user experience; failure to do so would’ve been a deal-breaker, especially since the game wouldn’t have been possible lest the camera didn’t work or your location couldn’t be detected.

2. Cross-Platform

Unlike its Native counterpart, Cross-Platform mobile app development creates a singular app version that is meant for use across multiple operating systems. Albeit being easier to develop and implement since only one version is required, Cross-Platform apps can sometimes generate faults within the user interface, and have trouble connecting to hardware components that are necessary for optimum user experience.

They are, however, ideal for simpler endeavours which need minimal features. Examples include content-based platforms such as news apps. On a side note, the Cross-Platform method of developing mobile apps is ideal for web apps too. This is because web apps are not dependent on an operating system for performance. As a result, responsiveness and navigation is guaranteed, as planned.

A Cross-Platform case study – Pinterest

A content-heavy platform, Pinterest’s aim is to allow users to find, and ‘pin’ items that they like. Working with bulky content databases to facilitate their core objective, the company has often encountered bugs, which need to be fixed immediately.

Owing to its content-centric features and the requirement to constantly release updates for improving their app, choosing a Cross-Platform means of development is ideal. After all, Cross-Platform development is best for app concepts that primarily focus on the display of information, and require only one round of changing code for troubleshooting/updates.

3. Hybrid

Tentative to start from scratch to build a Native mobile app, but also unhappy about noticing too many bugs through a Cross-Platform product? Enter Hybrid mobile app development, which consists of a mix of both Native and Cross-Platform tendencies.

Specifically, Hybrid mobile apps use Native development methodologies – but use an operating system’s WebView function to display the app. This way, it is possible to access device features, while rendering user interfaces in accordance to the standards of the operating system at the same time. What’s more, since Hybrid apps include a single version of the app, it is easier to scale and update it, as the amendment needs to only be carried out once.

What sets Hybrid mobile app development from the rest is that it is ideal for creating an MVP (short for Minimum Viable Product, an app version that presents the bare minimum for a business idea to be lifted off the ground and be presented to the masses). In general, this is especially true for software development in Sri Lanka, as many entrepreneurs are excited to ‘test the waters’ for a novel idea – and improve (or recall) the app as the situation deems fit.

Although Cross-Platform mobile app development (and web development) also produce a single app version, a Hybrid methodology is a far better option to create a test app with minimal resources. This is because a Hybrid app can be contained within a Native component, in spite of its singular nature – which thereby distinguishes it from the other two.

A Hybrid case study – Uber

During its inception, Uber was a Native app that was meticulously formulated for Android and iOS each. As time passed by, its concept gained popularity and more features were added, the company realised that it needed to shift to a Hybrid solution in order to facilitate scalability.

This was mainly because Uber was keen to roll out updates more often, and to do so just once; a Native app would’ve required multiple updates to be carried out twice, on the other hand. This also allowed their two teams, each dedicated to Android and iOS, to let go of previous silos and work in collaboration. In turn, this allowed both teams to learn from one another, and improve the quality of service Uber provided through its app overall.

Summing it all up…

Mobile app development architecture is a topic of discussion that revolves around so many technicalities – from operating systems to scalability, and from user experience to bandwidth. There is seldom a right or wrong solution, when it comes to determining which course of action to take while developing a mobile app.

As a rule of thumb, complex apps that require high CPU usage are advised to be developed Natively, while simpler platforms are shown the Cross-Platform or Hybrid route. However, several modern brands are changing this perception, by choosing lean development processes (Hybrid and if not, Cross-Platform) over painstaking ones (Native, of course).

As some of today’s leading businesses challenge this status quo, it makes sense to scrutinize the needs of your mobile app based on its individual circumstances, nonetheless.

Here are 3 simple steps that can help you build a mobile app that precisely executes your business ideas (with the assistance of an app architecture, of course):

1. First things first, you need to clearly outline what your mobile app should be capable of, in order to make your business concept a reality.

2. This can then be used to create a skeletal framework (complete with the three layers) which shall serve as your app’s architecture.

3. Finally, this architecture can then be used to discuss which app development methodology is ideal for creating your mobile app.

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