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Hybrid applications – a DESIGN-IT opinion

von Arne Brammertz am 22. Aug. 2018

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Development and especially mobile development have reached a stage where there is constantly a new operating system and new easy ways to develop features. There is no perfect solution neither a winner when it comes to choosing one path in developing a mobile app. Instead, discussion should be directed to advantages and disadvantages of the types of apps available.

 

There are three different types of applications: native, web and hybrid applications. Native apps are developed for a specific platform and web apps are generalized for multiple platforms. While native and web applications represent two different types, hybrid applications combine elements from both former types.  Think of them as container apps.

 

In this post we dedicate our attention specifically to hybrid apps with its advantages and disadvantages. We have been using this option for some time. Among others we developed MoRe studies, FMS mobile as hybrid apps.

 

If you’d like to read more about our opinion, continue below.

 

Here are some advantages and disadvantages when it comes to hybrid apps:

 

Advantages:

  • It’s cheaper and faster to develop one app rather than two or three. Hybrid app development should take less time and resources than native, as there is a single code base for all targeted platforms.
  • End users don’t really care how an app is developed, only that it does what it’s supposed to and that it does it well.
  • Native app development is designed to follow rules and patterns in a certain way, whereas for hybrid apps there is more design and architectural freedom for the developer to bring his vision to completion.
  • Native development is far from easy. Despite the great number of resources that can be found, it may not be understandable to everyone, as code must be written specifically for each platform. Hybrid tools (or frameworks) are easier to get a grasp of with a bit of previous knowledge of HTML, CSS and most importantly JavaScript.

Disadvantages:

  • Well written hybrid apps should look and feel exactly like their native equivalents. However, depending on the targeted platform, the apps scale and the developer’s skills as well as performance such as fast and fluid animations of a hybrid app could be affected.
  • Customization is therefore not the strongest suit. The more an app is customized, the more it makes sense to lean towards developing a native app.
  • As stated before, hybrid development offers more freedom for the developers than native development. For beginners or poorly skilled developers, this can result in not-so-good-written apps, performance issues, not scalable applications, etc.

 

OUR EXPERIENCE

There are several frameworks to choose from when developing a hybrid app, some of the most popular ones being Ionic and Quasar.

 

When choosing one of these to work with, it’s important to consider many factors: the previous knowledge that you have regarding the technologies that the tool uses (e.g. Ionic and Angular rely heavily on Typescript), the learning curve, scale of online community behind the tool, clarity of documentation, etc.

 

Our team at DESIGN-IT started with Ionic. The learning curve was very steep. We would constantly run into obstacles when we needed to share information across components, install 3rd party’s plugins, deployment. For the scenarios we used it for, the framework made it hard to maintain a clean project structure.

 

So, we decided to switch and try Vue out. As Ionic and Angular, Vue too utilizes Cordova to wrap the project in a native application, so it wasn’t all entirely new territory, as many of the plugins and configurations of the targeted platforms remained very similar. However, we found that developing with Vue was much smoother: the learning curve was a lot less steep. In our opinion it’s very well and clearly documented. It is much easier for us to maintain a stable, readable and scalable source code architecture so that multiple developers can come and go from various projects and know exactly how they are written.

 

The community behind it is not as big as Ionics’s and Angular’s, but due to its gaining traction and growing, more and more developers are switching to Vue for the reasons we are mentioning and because of technical features like the fact that Vue is more lightweight than these other frameworks.

 

In the end the decision relies upon your own team and your team members skills as well as learning speed. It can be easy as well as tricky to develop a hybrid app.

 

We hope we could give more insider info regarding this new trend in development.

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