When an architect designs a new skyscraper, their goal is to make it functional, structured, and safe. And it’s no different when it comes to developing mobile apps.
Mobile app architecture provides a robust container for your code to operate within, and it influences every development choice you make. But as software developers, we don’t always get to choose the architecture we work with. Sometimes, we’ll enter a project and the groundwork is already done. When we do offer architectural recommendations, we work through a core set of considerations first.
Choosing the right architecture: 3 questions to ask yourself
Ideally, you want to know what’s in your mobile app roadmap before you embark on your development plan or make any architecture decisions. Think of these questions like a discovery process. The answers to any of these could fundamentally change your mobile app architecture. Working through them will put you in a better position to start planning.
1. What devices will your mobile app run on?
Architecture starts with devices. If you only need your app to run on Apple devices, you’ll probably choose to develop specifically for iOS. You can go full native, or take a single source route and choose to only release the app on the Apple store. However, you’ll still have more factors to consider, such as:
- Different operating system versions
- Screen sizes and DPI
- Performance specifications (such as CPU and RAM)
- Network versions (such as 4G or 5G)
- Integrated security measures
Developing natively has its benefits. It centralizes and optimizes your code for one operating system, therefore reducing bugs and improving performance. But it only provides limited scope.
Single source development, on the other hand, is far more extensive. You cover more devices and reach a wider user base, but you’ll have to write more code to support it. And more code means more bugs. This means your QA/QC teams will have to scale up their test coverage and include more permutations to ensure the same quality.
But, it’s not always just a case of one or the other. What if you wanted to develop using a combination of native and single source? This is where you’d probably use an app development framework.
2. Will you use a development framework?
Development frameworks, such as React Native or Flutter, use built-in libraries to interact with the native APIs on each platform. Most mobile apps built today use frameworks to streamline the development and testing processes, as well as reduce time-to-market.
The biggest strength here is their adaptability to the specifics of each platform. Once you compile your code, the framework adapts it to fit the platform’s unique differences. This can save you a lot of development time.
In addition to this, development frameworks allow you to:
- Reuse code. As you don’t need to use different code for different platforms, you can reuse the code to reduce time-to-market.
- Ensure flexibility. If you’re developing for multiple distinct platforms and a singular compile doesn’t work, you don’t have to abandon the approach altogether. You can simply adjust the line between single source and native and continue developing.
That said, development frameworks have their limits. Yes, they allow you to take advantage of the common features between the platforms. But, if you’ve got some specific technologies in mind that might hinder compatibility, you may need to take a different route.
3. What technologies will your app make use of?
Mobile app development is in an exciting period of change right now. New technologies are opening up new possibilities. But, these only add to the list of architectural questions you need to consider.
We covered these new technologies in this blog, but here’s how they might affect your architecture choices:
- AI & ML. Artificial intelligence engines require powerful hardware. Think about the spectrum of devices that’ll run your application. Many Android devices in particular use lower-end hardware which can’t integrate AI.
- AR & VR. These visual technologies highlight the differences between iOS and Android systems. Similar to AI technology, some platforms and devices may not have sufficient graphical capabilities to support them. If you want to incorporate AR/VR in a game app, you’ll probably want to use a framework like Unity.
- Blockchain and Fintech. Digital wallets, cryptocurrencies, and distributed ledger technology pose new challenges for devices, such as hardware capabilities and security risks. Android and iOS have different security measures, so you’ll need to understand how this could compromise the functionality of your app.
Again, these technologies will influence your architectural decisions. If you choose to go native, you’ll need to consider how well they’ll mesh with the operating system. Using single-source might streamline development, but it’ll make it hard to predict how well the app will run across different platforms.
Solid architectural choices make solid apps
Choosing the right mobile app architecture requires a lot of foresight, and you probably don’t have a crystal ball lying around. These questions will help you understand your starting position. Rather than 1,2,3 and done, think of them as 1,2,3 and plan.
Consider the capabilities of your app, the desires of your customer, and the needs of your end user. In the end, the answer to whether you should go for native, single-source, or a combination of the two will come down to your project requirements.
If you’re still unsure at that point, reach out for some expert advice. Our specialists are on hand to support you with your trickiest software challenges. Get in contact today.