When you set out to develop custom software, one of the most significant decisions you will have to make involves the platforms on which your software will run, and how to go about integrating software applications across multiple platforms.
Native apps across multiple platforms
You may wish to create software native to only a given platform – iOS or Android, for example, if your application is mobile. In this case, your decision will likely be determined by the market research we discussed earlier – identify which platform is most commonly used by your target audience, or on which platform a market need exists, and proceed accordingly.
But what if you are seeking to reach or serve users across multiple platforms? Depending on the project, you may be able to use cross-platform development tools to create the same application on multiple platforms simultaneously. This approach is worth investigation, but it has limitations, and it’s important to recognize when it’s not practical given the project requirements or the capabilities of the tools.
Not all projects lend themselves to cross-platform development, and sometimes it is more efficient and less costly to split the project and develop for each platform separately. Discuss these options with your software development partner and assess which approach would be most appropriate for your project.
Applications that run within clients
So far, we’ve only considered what are sometimes called “native apps”: software written to run directly on a given operating system. But if your users will utilize the software on devices with regular access to a network connection, there is another –often preferable – opportunity.
In this approach, you can build a solution that runs inside common client software like a web browser. This way, users can access the application on virtually any device with a web browser, regardless of platform, integrating software applications across many devices. “Responsive design” allows these web-based applications to adapt to a variety of screen sizes, as well. Such software is generally not available on major app stores (unless you’ve created a custom piece of client software to render information from a server).
This has advantages and disadvantages: being in an app store can give you a degree of visibility among a certain audience, but there are more and more apps to compete with in the major stores every day. Furthermore, the Apple and Google stores impose certain content restrictions and may require you to update your app after operating system updates. Hosting your custom software on your own server, by contrast, puts you in control of your own updates and content.
These app store pros and cons illustrate how the right approach can differ from project to project. Ultimately, it’s essential to understand the specific needs of your project through close research and consideration and proceed accordingly, integrating software applications when it makes sense for you.