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On the last day of the ProgressNEXT 2019 Global User Conference, I took advantage of the slightly calmer atmosphere (likely due to the combination of attendees leaving early to catch a flight and attendees taking it slow after the post-conference festivities) to attend three talks I’d been looking forward to all conference. These talks, each given by a Progress employee, were:

  1. “Xamarin.Forms Takes You Places” by Sam Basu
  2. “Best Practices For Modern App Architectures” by Michael Salinger
  3. “One Project. One Language. Three Apps” by TJ Van Toll
TJ VanToll speaking in front of a presentation at the Progress Next conference
TJ VanToll speaking on the potential of cross-platform mobile development.

The first and third were both on the subject of cross-platform mobile development, and the second, while not exclusively on that topic, touched on its importance as an essential part of a broader digital strategy. These talks have set me off on a mobile app learning binge – so let’s dive into what I learned, shall we?

Why bother with native apps?

Like many of my colleagues in the industry, I have often been content to write web applications. Accessible, responsive web apps can be used uniformly across all platforms with Internet access, so why spend the time, money, and developer resources on also creating a native mobile app?

Well, according to TJ Van Toll, native apps—not websites—account for over 90% of Internet time spent on smartphones, and over 77% of Internet time spent on tablets. This means that the majority of mobile traffic coming to you, regardless of your business model, is not going to come through a browser. If you don’t have a native mobile app, you may be missing out on valuable business.

But which language should you write your mobile app in? Depending on your target audience, you have a few options:

  1. Objective-C or Swift: If you’re looking to target the Mac world, Objective-C or Swift is your best bet for iOS development—perfect for iPhones and iPads.
  2. Java or Kotlin: For Android development, Java or Kotlin is going to be your go-to. Java is probably the strongest choice, since it has muchbroader adoption in the developer community. That will make it significantly easier to troubleshoot and hire talent for.
  3. C#: If you want to write UWP apps for Windows tablets (or for the next generation of Windows phones, if they decide to try that again), C# is your way to go.

Choosing Cross-Platform Options

But what if you don’t what to write three separate apps in three different languages? There’s good news: you don’t have to. Three powerful frameworks exist for cross-platform native mobile app development, and each of them interfaces seamlessly with the native UI of disparate devices and operating systems, so your app’s buttons will look and feel like iPhone buttons on an iPhone and Android buttons on a Samsung. These tools are:

Sam Basu standing in front of a projection screen speaking about cross-platform development.
Sam Basu presenting on the three tools that can be used for cross-platform development.

It is much to the credit of Progress that, while this is their conference, their speakers covered each of these tools objectively, even though Progress owns NativeScript (Xamarin and React Native are owned by Microsoft and Facebook, respectively). After his talk, I asked Sam Basu how Xamarin.Forms measured up to its competitors, and his response surprised me: “It’s not really about which is best—they’re all great. It’s about which language you’re most comfortable coding in.”

If you prefer to write JavaScript you’d most likely opt for NativeScript, which compiles to Angular, or React Native, which compiles, of course, to React. If you prefer to write C#, Xamarin.Forms will be perfect. I started out as a .NET developer. and Cludo is largely a .NET shop, so Xamarin is what I’m leaning towards right now. (Although I did score a sweet NativeScript t-shirt at ProgressNEXT19, so I might be open to changing my mind.) If you want to learn more about any of these frameworks, I recommend checking out their documentation at the links listed above.

Zack Velcoff in a Native Script t-shirt holding a kayak paddle in front of a lake.
Zack Velcoff, the author, in the above mentioned sweet NativeScript t-shirt.

Empower Your Search

Cludo does not yet have a native mobile app for iOS or Android, but that shouldn’t stop you from requesting a demo. Or you could contact us, whether for more info on how to unmute your visitors and empower your site search today, or to let us know what features you would want in a Cludo app.

Many thanks to our technology partner Progress for an inspiring and informative conference! See you next year in Boston!