What to consider when architecting for mobile application development

by Bill Ross on 07/02/2014 11:59

Well over 50% of New Zealand adults own a smartphone, and this number is growing. As has been predicted for the last few years, mobile is increasingly the channel of choice for organisations looking to engage their communities in ways that are more accessible, convenient and efficient.

Mobile applications, done well, enable organisations to:

  • Get useful applications in front on customers, differentiating the brand and increasing loyalty
  • Increase effectiveness of the workforce through functionality and support for mobile workers
  • Better support 'bring your own device' to work initiatives

The current 'mobile first' research project being undertaken by the MIT Sloan Centre for Information Systems Research (CISR) is exploring how organisations are increasingly moving towards a strategy where all new offerings will be delivered through mobile first. Equinox IT is a sponsor of the MIT Sloan CISR.

While there are many positives there are also architectural issues and risks with mobile, including security, development costs, quality, and brand risks.

What does your organisation require?

There are a number of dimensions to consider when looking at mobile application development. Does your organisation require:

  • Simple website functionality available on mobile or a rich mobile application? (functionality)
  • An app just for employees or for a whole community? (user diversity)
  • An app that works just on one mobile platform or many platforms? (device diversity)
  • A couple of 'nice to have' apps or does it plan to follow a mobile first strategy? (enterprise context)

Mobile application development architectural options

What to consider when architecting for mobile application developmentThere are various architectural options for mobile application development, and the right option for your organisation will depend somewhat on your answers to the previous questions. Some mobile application development architectural options include:

  • Web - standard web development that runs on a mobile device's browser
  • Native - using the device specific language and software development kit, which provides richer functionality, but requires duplicate coding to work on different mobile platforms (such as iOS and Android)
  • Hybrid - using a mobile container or wrapper allows for the development of functions like native apps, but uses standard web development coding within the wrapper.

There are a few variations to these options too, including single app and multiple app containers and native applications that can be cross-compiled to work on different mobile platforms. There are benefits and constraints to each of the options. Apps developed using architectures at the web end of the spectrum are easy to develop, quick to market and are cross-platform portable. Apps developed using architectures at the native end of the spectrum are offline capable, perform better, and can leverage the many capabilities of the device. The hybrid options in the middle of the spectrum offer a mix of these features.

Available mobile application development platforms (MADP)

There are numerous mobile application development platforms, as with a serious amount of innovation going into this area, the options will only increase. The MADP options span across the spectrum of architectural options, including Apple and Google's standard platforms for native application development, Microsoft's Visual Studio, IBM, Antenna, jQuery Mobile, Kony and Apache Cordova. Gartner have published a paper 'Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms', which may help with accessing the best platform for your needs.

At the end of the day, your choice of mobile architectures and mobile application development platforms may also come down to the availability of skills to your organisation.

Free recorded webinar: Select the right architecture for mobile application development


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