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What is web development and how it can benefit your business

Think of all the web apps you have used over the last week. Your favorite news page, Facebook, shopping pages – you probably can’t even count the number of websites you visited. If you want to find gifts, book a hotel room, or schedule a doctor’s appointment, the internet is most likely the first place you go to do that. 80% of major purchases start with online research, even if the purchase itself happens in a store. So isn’t it kind of shocking that 1 in 4 small businesses still don’t have a website or a web app? Especially looking at the wide variety of benefits web apps can offer businesses. The right web app can take your business to the next level by showing yourself as a trustworthy partner that cares about its customers. However, how do you create a fully-featured web app that your customers will love? If you don’t have the skills or time to make one yourself, that’s where web development services come in. 

What is Web Development?

Web development is the entire process of building, designing, testing, and maintaining websites and web apps. This refers to all the work that goes into making a web app look great, perform well, and have a seamless user experience – web design, web content development, client-side/server-side scripting, network security configuration, and sometimes SEO optimization. 

In most cases, full-stack web developers create these products by crafting long lines of code in a text editor, styling it using CSS, and then putting all elements together. But nowadays, they can also use programs such as Adobe Dreamweaver or Content Management systems to set up a new website without writing everything from scratch.  

Web developers are usually divided into front-end devs, back-end devs, and full-stack devs. Front-end development professionals are responsible for all the visual components of a website (layout, navigation bar, etc.). Front-end developers are also responsible for its functionality and interactivity. 

Backend developers handle less visible tasks and development topics such as managing the web app services, database, and applications. Backend developers might also need to use additional server-side languages, such as Python, Ruby, Java, and PHP to resolve server issues with back-end development. Full-stack developers meanwhile are able to do both front-end and back-end tasks.  

What tools do web developers use?

Typically, when people talk about web app development tools, they mean the apps and languages that allow developers to write and debug the code for web applications – HTML, Java, and CSS. But as the digital world evolves, so does the role of a web developer. 

Today, they have to know more than just writing code snippets. They have to be familiar with visual aspects, UI/UX responsive design, prototyping, wire-framing, cybersecurity, SEO, and much more. The good news is that there are plenty of web development tools available now that can help developers accomplish those tasks without having to start from scratch – from design platforms like Sketch and Invision to testing programs like Postman and collaboration software like Slack and Asana.

Obviously, the tools they use depend on the type of work they do. For example, Front-End Developers use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, as well as frameworks like React, Bootstrap, Backbone, AngularJS, and EmberJS. 

Meanwhile, Back-End Developers will typically use server-side languages, including PHP, Ruby, and Python, as well as tools like MySQL, Oracle, and Git.

How does the web app development process look like?

Building a fully-functional web app through a web development company is a little more complicated than creating one through WordPress or Joomla since developers need to complete a number of steps before your web app can go live. In return though, you can be sure that your web app will be visually appealing, fully optimized and user-friendly. What steps do developers need to take to build a fully-functional website? 

  • Information gathering: First, developers must gather all the information they will need for the project. So during this stage they will analyze the client’s needs, define the web apps’ main goals, and learn more about the target audience. Also, the designers should become familiar with the future content types as that will help them decide on the main layout for the web app.
  • Planning: Based on the information gathered in phase one, developers will create a detailed action plan and design a site map describing all major sections of the web app. A well-described and detailed plan based on this pre-development data can protect you from spending extra resources on solving unexpected issues such as design changing or adding important features that weren’t initially planned.
  • Design: During the design phase, your web app begins to take shape as the entire visual content, such as images, photos, and videos is created. The team will also draw one or more prototypes for the website in the form of a static image that will describe how the final website will look like and clarify the basic functionality of the web app.
  • Development: With the prep-work done, the developers can start creating the web app itself using the graphics designed during the previous stage. The main page is typically created first, then all sub-pages are added, according to the web app hierarchy. Finally, features and interactive elements are added.
  • Testing: Testing is probably the most routine but also one of the most important parts of web app development. Developers will check every link to ensure there aren’t any broken ones among them, and they will make sure that all scripts and features run correctly. They will also check the code with code validators to make sure it follows current web standards. 
  • Launch:  Once you are given final approval from the client, it is time for the web app to go live. But before that, the site should be a run-through for the last time to confirm that all files have been uploaded correctly, and the site is fully functional. 
  • Maintenance: Once the web app goes live, e.g. full-stack development team needs to keep an eye on it to make sure no new bugs appear and to perform server maintenance once in a while. 

How long does it take to get your new development projects up and running? It’s difficult to say, as building a web app from scratch requires time, even for the simple ones. And if you are thinking about creating a customized web app with specific features, then you might be looking at a timeline of several months even. 

Where can you learn more about web app development?

Are you interested in learning more about coding and development? Online resources make it easier than ever before. Thousands of books, articles, webinars, guides, and tutorials are available straight away – just type in “Web development learning resources” into a search engine, and you’ll get 7,570,000,00 results!

But, when surfing the internet, it is important to be cautious, since not all courses or blogs are valuable – you can also find a lot of outdated or downright useless information from various so-called “experts”. What are some resources you can use to learn more about building a web app?

  • Course websites such as Udemy, Coursera, Codeacademy or TutorialsPoint
  • Online communities like freeCodeCamp, Stack Overflow, Roadmap, DevChallenges, or simply boards and social media groups focused around web development.
  • Online study platforms like Treehouse, Scrimba or W3School
  • Industry blogs like A List Apart, Codrops, CSS Author, or CrustLab blog.
  • Newsletters like JavaScript Weekly, HTML5 Weekly, SitePoint Versioning, or Code Project newsletter

Joining groups and forums can be an especially useful way to learn more about web app development. Inside those groups, you can meet people interested in the same things as you, find mentors who can assist you with a problem, or get access to many free resources only available to members. 

What types of web apps are there?

In the early days of the internet, web apps were purely “static.” The content was coded in HTML and could not be modified unless edited by a webmaster. Now while the static web apps are still in use, they have largely fallen out of favor within development projects though due to their inability to adapt to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. 

As more and more people use mobile devices to access the internet, businesses are trying to find ways in which they could offer a good user experience both on their desktop websites and mobile ones. This is where they start considering alternatives to static websites, like dynamic or responsive pages. How are they different? 

  • Static web apps: Static pages are among the simplest kinds of web apps as they consist of a fixed number of pre-rendered pages with hardcoded, pre-determined content and structure. This means that each user will see exactly the same content regardless of their location, browser, or device used. While this type of web app is cheaper and easier to create, they are not very convenient for modern users, especially those who use mobile devices. For companies that only need a simple web app with a few pages, a static one can still work well though.
  • Dynamic web apps: Unlike static web apps, the content shown on dynamic web app can be customized for each user based on the information stored in the web app’s database. This makes them far more popular with users because the web app can provide relevant content, responsive design, offers, and suggestions based on what the users did previously on the web app. Dynamic pages are also easier to update because the webmaster only has to make changes to the database record to alter the content.
  • Hybrid web apps: Hybrid web apps are the “best of both worlds” as they can include both static and dynamic elements on the web app to create a single uniform design for desktop development or other development projects.
  • Mobile web apps: Although a mobile web app might look like a smaller version of a desktop site, this isn’t exactly true. As mobile device screens are much smaller and our fingers aren’t as precise as mouse cursors, opening a desktop website on a mobile device can be tricky (if not impossible). A good mobile website adapts the content and navigation to suit the screen size so that mobile visitors can find the information or take action as quickly as possible. Additionally, images, videos, and animations are usually removed as well, due to bandwidth restrictions on people’s data plans, as well as their tendency to slow down the mobile web apps.
  • Responsive web apps: Most companies today opt for responsive web design as it can provide the best experience for users regardless of the device they use. Those pages are designed to adjust themselves to fit on any size screen and device, from the biggest desktops to the smallest smartphones, ensuring that the web app looks good and works fast both on mobile phones but also on tablets or desktops. 
  • Custom web apps: A custom web app is specifically created for your brand, product, or company and is tailored to your target audience. If you would like something that stands out from the rest of development basics or have a complex web app in mind with multiple features and content types, then custom design might be what you need.

Factors to take into account when outsourcing web app development

You can see that there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to creating your own web app – from the type of the web app to the design, security, content, and several other things. That’s why it’s so hard to estimate how much time it might take to set up your company’s main page or how much it might cost, even for experienced web app development companies. But having a ready list of needs and expectations for the website can greatly assist them in deciding how best to design your web app. What should you include inside such a list for an outsourcing web app development partner?

  • Your main goal for the web app
  • Who is your target audience you want to reach
  • Hands-on experience or client-side coding / popular programming languages to be used
  • What type of content you will have on the site and what functionality do you need on it
  • How big your page should be (ideally if you had a rough structure of the page)
  • What are your ideas for the design and images (e.g. drop-down menus, style sheets, any fundamental building block, special back-end development tactics)
  • The level of compatibility and responsiveness you need for your website
  • What level of security do you need (and scripting languages)
  • Where should it be hosted – locally, in a data center, or through a cloud service provider like AWS or Microsoft Azure
  • What do you need in terms of front-end web app development, development skills, programming language skills, or even building blocks, as well as other development basics

The benefits of hiring a professional web developer

Although modern content management systems like WordPress allow almost anyone to create their digital products easily, they are usually quite limited in terms of features or customization options. That is why most companies choose either to work on the web apps themselves or hire a web development team to design and maintain their company web apps.

Creating the web app itself has the advantage that the company will have full control over the development process and be able to monitor its progress. However, doing it in-house might quickly become a burden to their team if they don’t have the necessary skills or time to work on designing and testing the website. 

Especially for more complex web apps, it may make more sense to speak with a full-stack web development company. What are some of the advantages of getting help from a professional?

  • By hiring a web development team, you can focus on running your business as usual while the development team will set up the web app for you.
  • You can employ a web developer either to assist you in designing your web app or to do it for you and deliver the finished product.
  • Web development companies have the skills and knowledge to get your web app up and running quickly, within your budget, and with a fantastic user experience. Plus, they also know what to do if something doesn’t work out as planned, so you don’t have to worry about your business.
  • They know how to enhance your web app’s speed, performance, and security with various plugins, so you can be sure it all is fully optimized.
  • Besides setting up your web app, they can help you with all the technical aspects of your site, such as hosting, security, maintenance, and SEO.
  • Their knowledge of the latest technologies and industry trends will help you create a more appealing, functional, and up-to-date web app.

Conclusion

Regardless of the industry, desktop development hands-on projects can have a tremendous impact on its success. Even in this day and age, some businesses are unaware that most of their customers may use their web app before making a purchase. What if there is no web app they can use, or no website they can visit? They might conclude that your business is untrustworthy.

That’s why having a strong online presence in the form of a web app is essential for success for your business. The good news is that getting a fast and clean web app for your business is now easier than ever before. With the help of a full-stack web development company, you will be able to set up your own web app in no time, even if you don’t know how to code. So maybe it would be worth it to start with a new web app?

Start working on your web development right away!

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Top Mobile App Development Services and Trends in 2022

With 2022 getting closer, all companies begin to plan their next move in the new year. Additionally, many of them are also keeping an eye on the latest trends – the marketing landscape changes almost every day, so if they want to stand out, they’ll need to know what is “in” and what is “out” these days. 

Mobile apps will be definitely one of the “in” things in the new year – 87% of smartphone users spend most of their mobile time on apps, with nearly half of them opening apps more than 10 times a day. But as the mobile app development industry is constantly evolving due to improved technology and growing consumer demands, it can be quite challenging to keep up with the industry trends.

You can get a head start, though, by looking at our list of 11 app trends services destined for success in 2022. 

Will mobile app development still be in demand in 2022?

Mobile apps and development services for mobile devices have never been so popular. The number of smartphone users grows from year to year, and the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated this trend.

Right now, we already have 6 billion smartphone users, which means 80.69% of the world’s population currently owns a smartphone. And with more users accessing the internet from their mobile devices than ever before, that naturally increases the demand for mobile apps – consumers are expected to download 258.2B mobile apps in 2022. And one of the apps they download might be yours. Want to have your share of the $808 billion in revenue mobile apps are expected to generate by 2022? Incorporating one of the below trends for 2022 might just give a competitive edge here, so look closely. 

What are the hottest mobile app development trends of the upcoming year?

Hottest mobile app development trends
The hottest mobile app development trends of 2022

AI/ML-based apps

Machine learning and artificial intelligence will play a significant role in many industries in 2022, including mobile development. As a result, the global AI market is predicted to snowball in the next few years, reaching a $190.61 billion market value in 2025. What might be even more interesting is that an average company is expected to have 35 AI projects in place during 2022.

What changes in AI and machine learning can we expect to see in 2022? Mostly, further improved search suggestions and product recommendations would allow users to complete their daily tasks faster and easier. In addition, many companies are also working on virtual assistants that would interpret the user’s mood based on his voice and react accordingly. 

What’s in it for businesses when it comes to using AI and machine learning? A good example of how useful this technology might be for the company are virtual assistants and chatbots.  Using an AI-powered chatbot, your customers could get the answer to their issue or question straight away, without waiting on hold to be connected to an agent. As the chatbots can also gather and analyze plenty of data about the users, it would make it far easier for businesses to predict the users’ future behavior and provide more personalized services to them. What’s more, as chatbots can keep working all day and night, adding one could make it easier for your customers to contact you at any time of the day or week.

Smart chatbots and virtual assistants with voice recognition could also make the user experience even smoother. The app user would simply need to tell the assistant what they need, and the assistant would give them the answer immediately. And that’s without involving anyone from the support departments. 

When asked which technologies most improve customer experience, 34% of sales and marketing leaders believe AI is the biggest game-changer – so we will only see the demand for AI uses growing.

Cloud-based applications

Our mobile devices’ capabilities and storage size may keep growing, but so do the demands of modern mobile apps. That’s why one of the challenges of mobile development has been to create apps that don’t need as much computing power but can still work efficiently. Cloud-based applications might exactly be the solution here.  

As they use virtual servers to store everything they need to function, they don’t need to rely as much on the device’s hardware. That means that the application can be downloaded and used without affecting your device’s internal memory. Users can also use the apps on any device they want and easily switch between them, as they only need to log in to a server rather than install the app.

But cloud apps can also mean visible savings for businesses. First, it can give businesses the option to access customer information from smartphones and tablets at home or while traveling, as well as quickly share that information with other parties anywhere in the world. And if you need extra bandwidth for your app, a cloud-based service can meet that demand instantly without forcing you to go 

through the painful process of updating your IT infrastructure.

Thanks to the various benefits of cloud services and the spread of new and improved wireless communications such as 5G R16 and R17, Gartner’s spending on public cloud services will exceed $480 Billion in 2022. 

M-Commerce 

With regular stores closing overnight because of worldwide lockdowns, customers flocked to the web and mobile apps for all their shopping needs. In 2020, over two billion people purchased goods or services online, and during the same year, e-retail sales surpassed 4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide.

Shopping through their mobile phone turned out to be especially convenient for smartphone users. More than half of consumers who say they shop online every day rely on their smartphones to do so. And if you look closely at the stats, you’ll see that users actually pick their smartphones as their preferred shopping device more than all other devices combined!

Why are m-commerce apps so popular? As they make it much easier to browse and search for products, users can quickly find what they need. In addition, since the application collects information about a customer, it can later show them personalized offers that the customer is more likely to click on. Dedicated shopping apps also allow businesses to offer a fast and convenient service for their customers whenever they need it. One-click ordering, omnichannel retail, cryptocurrency payments, and voice search are just some of the features that we will likely see growing in popularity next year.

Mobile wallets

With the rise of e-commerce and m-commerce shopping, the demand for quick and contactless payments grew as well. In fact, frictionless payment methods are one of the major things that today’s customers would love to see in the mobile apps that they use. That’s why mobile wallets (smartphone apps where you can store all of your payment methods) are growing in popularity worldwide. Thanks to their convenience, speed, and increased security, nearly three billion people are expected to use Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay by 2022.

The main benefit of these apps is that customers do not have to enter any personal information while shopping. To pay for their bills purchases, all they need to do is take out their phone and open their mobile app. And you don’t even have to touch a keypad or use cash. Just showing your phone to the merchant allows the transaction to go through, and you can leave the store with your purchases.

IoT-enabled mobile apps

In their 2021 survey, Deloitte found that an average American household had more than 25 smart devices.  Looking at how many devices are “smart” now, the numbers shouldn’t be anything surprising. In today’s world, everything can be equipped with sensors to collect information about its environment – from everyday objects like coffee makers to industrial sensors and controllers, to even cars. 

But the true power of IoT lies in the dedicated smartphone app for each device. By connecting IoT devices to our smartphones, we can easily control how those devices work even remotely. This could not only solve several small but everyday problems (like forgetting to turn off the central heating) but will also save regular users and businesses huge amounts of money.

Based on this growing demand, Bosch predicts there will be approximately 14 billion connected devices* worldwide by the end of the year 2022, from a starting point of more than 2 billion at the end of 2013. 

Cross-Platform App Development

When building mobile apps, native apps are still a top choice for many businesses. But as there is a vast range of operating systems available now, optimizing and coding applications for each platform is becoming tougher and time-consuming for developers. Not to mention, the cost of creating two or three native apps is astronomical. 

That’s why the industry is now slowly moving towards creating cross-platform apps. What are those? Cross-platform SDKs such as React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin help developers build mobile apps which can run seamlessly across multiple platforms. In this way, app developers can develop mobile apps that work on iOS, Android, Windows, and even the web without needing to write new code for each. 

Since most of the app code is reusable, that also means that cross-platform apps can be created much faster and cheaper than native ones while offering similar performance. This has led to an increase in companies interested in building cross-platform apps.

Product Discovery services

With thousands of apps coming out every month in the app store, it’s becoming harder and harder to catch users’ attention. So what can you do to ensure your app is as successful as it can be? In addition to coming up with a great idea, you should also do some research on your potential user base – here’s where Product Discovery can come in handy.

Product Discovery is the first stage of mobile app development, during which you identify your target audience and ensure that the app you’re going to build fills a void in the market. This allows you to pinpoint the features of your app that would make it appealing to more users, find out how exactly they would use your app and test your idea and see how well it will perform in the marketplace. 

Once you clearly understand what your audience wants, you’re much more likely to develop an app that meets their needs.

Improving mobile app security

Investing in cybersecurity used to be seen as something only for large companies. That’s sadly no longer true. The ransomware global attack volume increased by 151% for the first six months of 2021 compared to the first six months of 2020.

According to various reports, cyber threats in 2021 alone caused $6 trillion in damages, making it the biggest economic disaster in history. In fact, if growth continues at its current rate, cybercrime could reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. 

With so much at stake, it’s no wonder businesses of all sizes look for ways to protect themselves and their customers.

One of the solutions that could help companies fight the number of attacks is using voice biometrics. By verifying a person’s identity using the unique characteristics of their voice, voice biometrics could eliminate the need for passwords and PINs. Moreover, as each human voice is unique, it’s nearly impossible to fool voice biometrics, making it currently one of the most secure methods of authentication.

Wearables

We can also expect to see a rise in wearable mobile app development. Since these devices have a user-friendly interface, are easy to carry, and offer personalized insights to their users, the number of people using them only keeps growing. By 2022, the number of people using wearables connected to a 4G network will reach 900 million.

But the modern wearables aren’t only limited to just monitoring your heart rate or measuring the number of steps you take. The current hectic & fast lifestyle has made people more conscious of their health & fitness, and as a result, smart clothes and footwear are gaining popularity. 

Basically, intelligent clothes are garments like shirts, socks, and shoes fitted with sensors and computing devices that track body activity and health statistics like heart rate, skin temperature, oxygen saturation, etc. The data is then gathered and sent to an app on your smartphone. These intelligent clothes make it possible for users to track their health even more effectively than with a regular health app, so for many people, this is a technology of the future.

Instant Apps                    

Instant apps are a mobile development trend everyone should watch for in the coming year as it’s likely they will become standard in the future. The Android Instant feature allows developers to offer a slimmed-down version of their apps on the Play Store or their website and let the users decide whether or not to download and install the full version. 

After selecting an instant app, Google Play will automatically send only the files needed for that particular feature to your device and launch it immediately. No downloads, no installers, and, most importantly, no waiting. Thus, you could test several apps before deciding on the one that works best for you.

This type of apps would be especially useful for companies that have applications with large file sizes since it would allow the users to preview the product before installing and try out all the available options. 

Betting apps

Betting is the fastest-growing segment in the global gaming industry, according to Statista. Sports betting is expected to reach $92.9 billion by 2023 and that number will only grow as more regions legalize sports betting.

There are several reasons why people use their smartphones to place bets instead of using the typical betting places. First, betting online is simply much faster and easier than traditional sports betting as they can get anywhere and at any time.

Various online betting apps allow players to test their betting skills first by offering free or low-cost practice games. It is a great way to learn about new games, bet types, and betting markets without risking anything. 

Traditional brick-and-mortar betting places accept only cash to fund your account when you place a bet, but most online sportsbooks accept a number of payment methods, adding flexibility to your account.

App development trends
The hottest mobile app development trends of 2022

Conclusion

Staying up-to-date with the latest trends as well as technologies will help you to keep up with ever-changing customer demands as well as competitors. After reading this article, you should gain a good understanding of mobile app development trends for 2022 and find something that might work for your brand.

If you need help deciding which of all those mobile app development services might be right for your business, why not reach out to us?

Start working on your mobile app development right away!

Let’s talk
Top 11 Challenges for Mobile Application Development

Not so long time ago, mobile phones were used mainly for phoning or sending text messages. Of course, we did have a few applications on our phones already, but those were very simple ones, like a calculator, contact app, or a Snake game. Now though, it seems like there’s an app for every single thing you might – from productivity apps to finance managers and from health trackers to games. 

The number of people who own a smartphone is already at 6.37 billion as of 2021, and this number is only expected to increase. By 2025, there may even be well over 7 billion mobile devices in the world.

And with $935 billion in revenue expected from mobile apps by 2023, it’s no wonder every business wants a piece of that pie. That’s including yours.

But designing and launching a hit app isn’t that easy. The Google Play Store already has over 3 million apps available, while the Apple App Store has nearly 2 million apps. Since new apps appear virtually every day,  the battle for consumers’ attention and user experiences is becoming increasingly intense in a sector that is already very competitive. 

In order to attract mobile users, you must create a user-friendly app that will solve their current problems, make their lives easier, or simply give them fun. However, before your new mobile app solutions can be released, you will have to overcome a number of challenges and obstacles you are likely to come across during mobile application development.

The way in which you will deal with those can determine whether your mobile app is a success, or maybe it will disappear from the stores shortly after the launch. What are the main problems you will need to solve for your app to be launched successfully? What to be aware of when running a mobile app development process? Let’s find out.

Top 11 Challenges for Mobile Application Development

#1 Understanding the Scope of the Project

Have you heard that 56% of users uninstall apps within 7 days of installation? Low retention rate is one of the biggest problems in the mobile app industry – especially with so many other apps available straight away. 

If you don’t want to waste your time, resources, and energy on creating an app for which there’s no demand or is quickly uninstalled from your customers’ mobile devices, you need to start by doing proper research on your future app. Having a list of your needs for the app will also make it far easier for you later to choose a mobile app development company if you will be searching for one.  

On what should you focus?

  • How much demand there is for your app idea, and who are you targeting with it 
  • What is your desired code base and business model
  • How do you imagine your users using the app
  • What goals do you want to achieve with your new app
  • What features you would like to include in mobile development
  • What are mobile devices that are to handle the app
  • What is your current budget for mobile app development process
  • How do you plan to promote your app after the release

It might look like a lot of things to consider and research but believe us, it will save you a lot of time in the long run Not only will this make it easier for you to decide if you should even pursue developing your mobile app, but it will also simplify communication between you and the developers. 

#2 Determining What is Important to the User

Failing to understand what their app users might want to do is actually one of the most common mistakes companies make while running their mobile app development process. They have created a spectacular app, released it on the app store, and… there’s silence. 

Barely anyone downloads the app, and if they do, they are quickly removing it from their phone. Here’s the second place where thorough research will come in handy. Simply, it will be much easier for you to focus on making the app work as your users want it if you first think about what your users might need the app and how they might be using it.

Knowing what your users might expect from the app will also help you decide what features to add and which may not be as valuable. In this way, you can give them the features they need without overwhelming them with too many choices. 

#3 Coding for Multiple Platforms

Choosing between native and cross-platform code apps will also be a key decision to make. Native apps are faster, more stable, and support all in-built features of the phones (like a camera), while cross-platform apps are easier and faster to build and can help you reach a wider audience. So which one should you pick for your mobile application development process? A clever way to find out would be to check whether your audience prefers one platform over another. 

If most of your future users are on mobile operating systems such as Android and IoS, then it might be a good idea to first focus on creating a digital product for that one platform and then add support for the other one. However, if they use both platforms or if you want to reach both platforms’ users at the same time, then you should carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks of native development versus cross-platform app development. 

This is especially important as you will need different specialists for each option. For example, if you want a native application, you will need to look for developers who can work with programming languages such as Java or Swift, whereas for cross-platform code, you should reach out to people who are both adept at designing cross-platform development but also understand the differences between Android and iOS. Picking the right set of programming languages and software development kits is crucial in this step. 

#4 Designing a Functional Interface 

Take a look at some of the most popular apps today. What do all of them have in common? They all have a simple and straightforward user interface. 

A user’s first impression of an app is largely determined by its design guidelines and how easy the mobile app is to use. With an intuitive and easy-to-use interface, users have no problem finding and learning how to use the app’s various features, so they keep using the app more often. That’s the purest form of user engagement.  

But sometimes, businesses or mobile developers are going in a bit different direction – adding as many features into the app as possible, hoping to create an “all-in-one” app. But instead of wooing their users, they only irritate them with a confusing, laggy interface that makes finding anything on it a pain. 

Results? It’s as simple as that: people will not use the app for too long. With so many other apps in the market, users can simply delete the app they don’t like using and look for another one. In fact, 52%  of users said a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company! That means that the poor user interface design of your app might directly lead to a high abandonment rate, lower retention rate, and a low conversion rate as well.

How can you design a good interface for your app? One thing you can do is to read about other apps like yours and see how they work and what you like and what you would like to improve. Take notes, create a mood board, and organize all your ideas. As a result, you’ll be able to provide the developers with plenty of information about how you want the app to look.

#5 Testing and Debugging 

Do you know that fixing an error after development is even up to 100x as expensive as it would have been before development? We didn’t make this up – dealing with an error after a project is already finished takes far more time than during the development stage, especially if the error is related to one of the main features.

What’s more, releasing an app with a severe bug inside that causes the app to crash regularly or not work as intended will result in you having to deal with a flood of negative comments from your users. Even if you fix the bugs in the applications straight away, you might not convince those users to return to your app – and those negative reviews might put off other people from trying out your app as well. 

So before releasing your mobile app, you should thoroughly go through mobile app testing and debug it. From checking the app’s main features to its performance, compatibility, speed, usability, security, and how it performs under load. The more time you spend testing the app in various conditions, the higher the chance you will find things that don’t work as they should. 

Here are a few examples of mobile app testing you can run:

  • beta testing (before the launch)
  • platform testing
  • performance testing
  • configuration testing
  • certification testing
  • functional testing
  • manual testing

Going through precise testing can help your viable product reach your development milestones and business goals quicker, and adjust application programming interfaces to what users actually need. 

#6 Working with Users, Testers, and Developers 

Whether you create the mobile app in-house, with an independent mobile app developer, or hire a mobile app development company, you have to make sure that all parties know exactly how the app should function and look. Otherwise, you might find out after the app is finished that it doesn’t work the way you wanted or that the design is entirely different from what you discussed with the developers.

If only minor adjustments are required, that’s one thing, but what if the entire app needs to be reworked? That will take time and will most likely also require extra funds for further mobile application development process. To avoid these sorts of misunderstandings, you should explain your ideas and expectations to the development team in detail – a flowchart or sketches might come in handy here. Taking the time to discuss details during the project is always better than doing so once the app is launched since fixing bugs and implementing new features will be much more difficult at that point in the mobile development process.

Don’t neglect to gather feedback from your future users, either. By releasing functional testing of beta or manual testing of MVP of your app, you can determine how they feel about the app and what parts need to be improved. That way, you’ll know exactly what to change in the app to make it more user-friendly and have better chances of a successful launch. Don’t be afraid to ask your early adopters for platform testing for their own benefit. 

#7 Maintaining Code Quality Over Time 

As you keep adding new features or updates to your application, the amount of data on it grows, and you might find it getting tough to keep the code clean and free of errors. But leaving it “as it is” is out of the question – everything, from your app’s compatibility to its security and performance, depends on its codebase. 

One of the best ways to have high-quality code in your app is by using coding standards. Through those, every developer will use the same coding style, which will improve both the consistency and the readability of the app’s code. Ideally, your code should also be checked as soon as it’s written.

By writing clean and well-organized code, you can ensure that any updates you add to the app won’t cause more issues later. Plus, it will make it much easier and quicker for your developers to perform regular app maintenance and fix unexpected bugs.

#8 Ensuring Security Throughout Development Processes 

In their survey, White Hat Security found that roughly 50% of applications in industries like manufacturing, public services, healthcare, retail, education, and utilities are vulnerable to a cyberattack because of one or more serious bugs in the code. And the consequences can be dire. Not only could hackers steal data from inside your app, but they could also infect your app with malicious software that later installs itself on your users’ phones.

To ensure your app is as secure as possible, you should use as many methods to secure your software application as possible, such as:

  • Using encryption for user data
  • Encouraging your users to use multi-factor authentication
  • Triple-checking all third-party modules you want to use in your app
  • Securing all data transmission

What’s equally important is that your app is tested regularly for any security issues or vulnerabilities in the code. As cyber criminals develop new ways of attacking almost every day, your app’s security features should also be regularly updated to prevent hackers from exploiting an out-of-date (and thus accessible) aspect of your app.

#9 Finding Creative Solutions to Problems that Arise During Development Processes 

No matter how detailed and carefully planned your app project is, it’s pretty likely that at some point, you will run into trouble. And the more complex your project is, the more likely it is that something won’t go according to the plan. For example, you might be forced to change the project’s scope or hire more team members due to unexpected technical difficulties. Or maybe the planned way to add a new feature to the application fails. 

Whatever the problem is, it’s essential to stay calm and think about how you and your developers could tackle the problem on a product roadmap. First, you should find out the actual cause of the issue so that you are focused on it rather than just the symptoms. 

Next, you should gather information on what you could do to fix the issue.  If you want to solve it creatively, you might want to brainstorm with your developers. This way, you can present your ideas to your team and think together about how best to fix the situation. 

#10 Resolving Issues With Data Integration Between Mobile Apps and Web Services

Most of the apps we use on a daily basis allow us to create an online profile on the server and that way, access the service on whatever device we are using. Mobile users love this feature as it allows them to switch the devices quickly they are using the app and have access to the same data. 

But to give your users this option, you need to add a data connection and synchronization feature into your app, which comes with its own list of challenges. There are many things to plan here, from ensuring the data is in the same format and of good quality to ensuring that all data passed through both applications is secured and that the central server can stand up to any hacking attempts.

#11 Estimating how much funding you need for the app

The last (but not least) challenge on our list is estimating the budget for digital solutions such as mobile apps. As there may be no similar mobile apps, the cost of developing one can vary drastically based on its complexity, platform, type, and features. You also need to remember that building mobile platforms isn’t a one-time investment. Once you launch it, you will still need to pay for regular maintenance, development environment, updates, security testing, mobile strategy, native features, marketing, and fixing any bugs that may appear. 

Having a rough estimation of how much you can pay for the app will help you in two ways. One, you’ll be able to manage the entire project progress better and prevent the so-called “scope creep” from hurting your budget as your project grows far beyond the initial estimation. In case of any unexpected issues that need more funding, you will be more at ease knowing that you have set aside funds for such situations as well.

But there’s one more benefit that will be visible if you decide on hiring a mobile application development company instead of working on the app with your own team. By giving the team a rough estimation of your budget, the development team can determine whether your budget is realistic and, if not, suggest what should be changed in it.    

With only vague information about your project and requirements, meanwhile, they might only tell you how roughly the pricing and payment models work within their mobile app development services. That brings the risk that once the team understands the full scope of your project, the actual cost of your app project might be much higher.

Over to you

Developing mobile apps can be extremely beneficial for your business, but only as long as you won’t fall into one of the many traps you might encounter. When you’re working on your app, you’ll need to consider many factors: choosing the right mobile app development technologies and designing an intuitive interface, through functional testing, certification testing, configuration testing, to make sure the app is bug-free and secure.

The good news is that most of those problems are preventable if you do thorough research on the expectations of your audience and keep gathering feedback about how your app works. That way, you and your team will have an easier time developing and launching your app with success on the market.

If you can’t solve those challenges in your software application development project yourself, though, how about reaching out to us? We’ll surely think of something together.  

Don’t forget to check back for more information and tips related to the development of mobile applications.

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Serverless architecture with AWS explained

There is no better way to explain the boom for serverless architecture and cloud computing than to quote Gartner’s words:

“Serverless architectures enable developers to focus on what they should be doing — writing code and optimizing application design — making way for business agility”. 

A serverless architecture (or serverless computing, in other words) is a hot technology with a catchy yet slightly misleading name. Though it may imply a completely server-free approach, serverless services and applications de facto run on servers. The magic beneath is that organizations and app creators don’t have to worry about managing the physical servers that host their codes.

How does serverless architecture work, what are its benefits, when to use it, and what are the most popular vendors? Let’s consider the answers in this short guide.

serverless architecture benefits
Serverless architecture benefits

What is serverless architecture? 

Long story short, it is a model of cloud services in which the developer focuses solely on creating business logic and not the infrastructure on which it is to be executed. As mentioned before, physical servers do actually exist. The point is that when creating a serverless solution, you don’t have to hire a highly specialized DevOps engineer responsible for setting up the machines, configuring networks, or updating operating systems. This leads to a significant cost saving, as DevOps are currently almost the most high-paid specialists on the market.

The whole responsibility of server management is handed over to serverless service providers, with Amazon, Microsoft, and Google being the Big Three. At the same time, serverless architecture is a different approach to software development. App builders combine various services (building blocks) that are available in the public cloud. This way, code written by developers is run using only precisely the number of resources that are necessary to support them. 

When a predefined event occurs, the serverless platform runs the task. Thus, the developers or platform owners don’t have to predict how many times the function or event will be used – they simply pay a minimal fee each time the core is run. 

This approach delivers highly scalable solutions with improved app performance at optimized costs. 

To put this more straightforwardly, it’s usually a cheaper solution. 

The whole system relies on cloud vendors and we can distinguish between two models: 

  • BaaS (Backend-as-a-Service) allows programmers to focus on the front-end side of their projects and not bother with back-end development tasks such as database management, cloud storage, or hosting. Using BaaS services drastically reduces development costs and the time needed to release applications, since developers don’t have to work on code for back-end activities related to e.g. databases.

  • FaaS (Function-as-a-Service) is an event-driven model that performs and charges for small modules of code. When some events occur in an app, a function like opening a particular window in an app or the submission of a form by a user is triggered. A cloud-based vendor (such as Amazon Web Services, IBM OpenWhisk, or Google Cloud Platform) runs these events on their servers and charges the app owners for every event that occurs. The main benefits of this approach are excellent scaling and cost-efficiency. 

When to use a serverless architecture? 

Serverless architecture is an excellent solution for online business needs. It allows quick scaling, faster and cheaper software development, as well as improved performance. All of these are great news to business-oriented IT professionals because all of the resources saved on back-end development can be furtherly invested in future development. 

Including serverless architecture in your business may benefit your goals, especially if you’re planning your app to:

  • have unpredictable or rapidly changing development or scalability needs
  • be based on multimedia that require complex data processing
  • utilize IoT technology

About Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS is the largest and most popular public cloud in the World. Currently, it includes over 160 services from an extensive range. Examples include computing power, storage, artificial intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, and even the Amazon Ground Station service for satellites.

What made AWS so famous? Amazon claims a couple of possible reasons:

  • The broadest offer,
  • The highest security,
  • The largest community of users and partners,
  • The fastest pace of innovation implementation,
  • The biggest community to have already tested their solutions.
advantages of the Amazon Web Services
advantages of the Amazon Web Services

Six reasons to go serverless

Although serverless architecture is not a magic solution for any organization’s problems, it does offer several substantial advantages. 

A significant increase in go-to-market speed

Let’s state the obvious: less time spent on development, deployment, and other operations mean that your users will be able to enjoy your app much sooner. FaaS functions are a lot easier and faster to deploy than whole dedicated servers.

Cutting an app’s operational costs 

When deciding on the serverless approach, you outsource some part of the development and maintenance to a third-party provider. Then, for a fee, they manage the servers and databases of thousands of companies, with which you share servers and hardware, etc. This sharing economy solution appears to be much cheaper and more efficient when it comes to the time your developers need to maintain your application. Plus, you pay only for what is used.

Reduced development costs

The serverless BaaS approach comes down to sharing whole application components with other companies that use the exact same logic in their products. There’s no need to spend more time and money on reinventing the wheel. Serverless allows you to utilize ready-to-use back-end mechanisms that have been polished to perfection by many developers and are proven in battle. 

Reduced scaling costs

The Feature-as-a-Service model allows your application to scale automatically, growing together with your customer base. The process is completely taken care of by a provider and, importantly, you can start small then let the server costs grow proportionally to your business development. After all, you only pay for the capacity that you need at any given moment. 

Easier operation management

Without any back-end infrastructure to worry about (as this is entirely the vendor’s responsibility), you don’t even have to think about the infrastructure maintenance tasks that would keep you up at night. Neither, software updates, security, nor any system administration are your problems any longer.

More efficient capacity management

With the old approach, you would have to make decisions regarding the capacity you might need for a while, based on, at best, predictions by your team. Unfortunately, this often means underestimating or overestimating. The former creates a problem for your users and potential server crashing issues. The latter means not utilizing the total capacity that you are paying for. In both cases, you lose money. Fortunately, such problems won’t occur with serverless architecture. 

Top serverless alternatives to Amazon Web Services

Although AWS is the reigning king of serverless solutions, there are plenty of others you can choose from. Let’s consider a few of the most frequently used ones.

Google Cloud Platform

Google Cloud’s serverless solution allows developers to build applications using containers, making the dev experience easier. Google Cloud Platform is perfect for apps that use Big Data, advanced analytics, and machine learning. One of its most significant advantages is fast response times. 

Microsoft Azure Serverless

Azure holds the market tightly, especially when it comes to enterprise customers – most of which utilize Windows and Microsoft software. So when they entered the cloud market, Microsoft simply took its old on-premises software like Windows Server, Office, Sharepoint, .Net, and others, then moved them to the cloud. 

Qinling

Qinling is a FaaS for OpenStack. The main goal of this project was to create a platform that would support serverless functions (like AWS Lambda), function package storage solutions (such as local, Swift, or S3), and container management platforms (Kubernetes, for example).

Serverless frameworks

Anyone who enters the world of serverless architecture must learn about serverless frameworks. Building serverless platforms demand a tool for developing and deploying, which is what serverless frameworks are for. There are a couple of frameworks for building serverless apps including Apex, Gordon, or ClaudiaJS for Javascript; Sparta for Golang; or the most universal Serverless Framework that works well for Javascript, Golang, and Python. 

Serverless’s users praise its easy learning curve and rapid development, which is reflected in the numbers – over 36.6K stars on GitHub and 15M downloads at the time of writing (with numbers still growing!).

Is the future serverless? 

According to a survey conducted by O’Reilly on 1.5K programmers, 40% of them have faced serverless architecture in their companies.

In 2020, a DataDog survey showed us that over 50% of AWS users are now using the serverless AWS Lambda Function as a Service (FaaS). 

The global forecast for 2021 indicates that:

The Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) market size is estimated to grow from USD 1.88 billion in 2016 to USD 7.72 billion by 2021, at an estimated Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 32.7%.”

And those numbers shouldn’t shock anyone. We’re all surrounded by software daily, and the market is getting more competitive than ever before. So software developers, investors, Venture Capitals, and even business owners need solutions to make releasing app iterations faster and cheaper. 

Serverless architecture seems to be the perfect solution to that, with a vibrant community constantly testing, building, and improving existing solutions as well as creating new ones. 

Summing up

Here at CrustLab, we sincerely believe that the future is serverless. It makes creating software more affordable and inclusive, which boosts creativity and the quality of the market. In addition, optimizing development, deployment, and maintenance processes as well as conveying part of the responsibility to third-party solutions lowers costs both financially and environmentally (shared-economy solutions are proven to reduce the amount of energy required to maintain servers).

We’re not saying that this solution comes with no limitations, and it’s not the way for everyone to go. But if you think your business could benefit from implementing a FaaS or a BaaS model or have any other questions, please contact our team.

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What is React.js and how can that technology be used to build a custom web application?

Anyone that is at least slightly interested in the web development world must have heard about React.js. It’s a powerful and popular front-end JavaScript library (not framework!). React is used to create many everyday use applications including Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb, and Dropbox. 

What’s more, according to research by the State of JS, for a good couple of years it has held a strong position among other technologies in terms of developers’ satisfaction, awareness, interest, and usage.

And no wonder, since it lets entrepreneurs build custom web apps with beautiful interfaces and a remarkable User Experience. Compared to other technologies such as Angular.js, React brings excellent results when it comes to app performance and development speed (hence, development costs). 

With that in mind, let’s dive into the story that will answer your React-related questions, such as:

  • What is React.js?
  • What makes it stand out from other web development technologies?
  • What are the main benefits of React?
  • For what kind of projects will it be the best fit?

What is React.js?

The React library was created by Facebook developers in response to an issue that Facebook developers were facing. They were on the lookout for a way to build dynamic, interactive, and visually appealing interfaces with no loss in efficiency or performance. And that’s how React.js was born. 

Originally intended for internal projects, it was launched as open-source in 2013 and has taken the Javascript community by storm. It is still maintained by Facebook and now has millions of developers and hundreds of contributors. 

React.js is an efficient and elastic JavaScript library for building user interfaces. It allows engineers to quickly build complex UIs for web and mobile applications. Its approach to building a User Interface is component-based, meaning that a developer creates separate and isolated component pieces of code with their own properties and functions, making the whole code easier to debug.

This structure guarantees a number of business-friendly benefits. Here are a few of them:

  • better performance
  • faster development
  • lower maintenance costs
  • easier integration of new developers into projects (thanks to the clear code structure)

Except for the component structure, the uniqueness of React lies in two features – the usage of a JSX language and a Virtual DOM. Those who are interested in how it works will find a short, explanatory React.js Dictionary at the end of this article.

About the benefits of React.js

Vibrant open-source community

By choosing React.js, you get access to thousands of passionate React developers who keep contributing to its growth in the package. As one of the most popular open-source technologies, it has over 2M repositories on Github. However, React is now considered an established and stable technology. The community still creates new frameworks and tools, such as  Storybook and React Bootstrap. They also provide support for anyone who is new in the React world. Plus, it has the giant of Facebook standing beneath it.

It will save you time and money

There are thousands of reusable components available as open-source libraries. Developers can put them in various project slots, working more efficiently and not ‘reinventing the wheel’. This approach pushes much higher code quality while significantly decreasing the amount of time needed to build apps (therefore saving developers’ time and reducing project costs).

Better performance

React was created to solve the issue of lousy performance in the context of more complex applications. Long story short, it worked. Thanks to Virtual DOM, given its number of features and utility, it scores excellently when it comes to web performance, guaranteeing lightning-fast apps with low loading times.

Great UX and UI

React.js makes it easy to create dynamic web applications because it guarantees more functionalities with less coding, which is a direct benefit of its component structure. Virtual DOM offers a unique and effective way of updating an app’s views by only updating single components when changes are detected. This allows for the creation of advanced apps with interactive User Interfaces. The vast majority of components have been previously coded and placed in the Github repository.

One-way data flow

In React.js, how a user sees a component depends on its state. Any of their actions (such as clicking on a button or filling up a field) can change the component’s state. This change is transmitted to its view and, in sequence, to the inheriting components. 

This approach makes the application more efficient (as the relationship between particular elements of the interface is clearly defined), less prone to errors, and easier to debug (as a developer has greater control over the data flow). One-way data flow also makes it easy to analyze an app’s performance, since any slow-downs can be detected in the blink of an eye as the changes to a component affect only that component itself.

SEO-friendly

Crucial as it is, not many JavaScript frameworks deal well with search engine optimization. React.js drastically improves page load speeds, one of the primary criteria for the Google index algorithm. In addition, apps built with React are lightweight, offer server-side rendering, and can load in the blink of an eye. 

The benefits of React.js
The benefits of React.js

Cross-platform development with React Native

React Native is a framework created by Facebook to speed up the process of mobile app development. Previously written React code allows you to simultaneously build apps for both Android and iOS platforms. As it uses bridges to translate JavaScript into native components, code is used to build both iOS and Android native apps once it has been written.

This is perfect if you need to build an uncomplicated mobile app without many resources. The more complex the app’s features are, the more native code snippets need to be written. The code created for a web application may be reused for mobile ones – developers build a reusable library that can be leveraged in both web and mobile apps. 

Is it possible to create a server-side rendered app with React? 

First, we need to clarify the main differences between client-side rendering and server-side rendering.

In client-side rendering, a browser downloads a basic HTML web page then renders the JS parts and fills them with content. Server-side rendering means the React components are rendered directly on the server, delivering HTML content. 

Combining it into a web application that can be rendered on multiple platforms simultaneously, we get an isomorphic application that renders on both the server and the client (web browser) sides. Creating such an application, developers build one common component tree, which is rendered on a server after the request. This results in sending an HTML code with all the data to the browser, which later loads the JavaScript in the client version of a React application. 

There are two main advantages of such an approach:

  • improved SEO
  • better performance

Search engines don’t read JavaScript. If the content is not in HTML, they see it as a blank page, no matter how helpful it is. 

In server-side rendered applications, their performance depends only on the server’s resources and the capabilities of the users’ network. And it’s been said multiple times that improving the speed of an app improves the overall user experience drastically. 

When should you use React for web development?

React has proven its capabilities when building both Custom Web Applications (just take a look at Netflix, Instagram, PayPal, and many more) and simple single-page apps (SPAs). The main difference between a single-page application and a traditional multi-page app is that navigating a SPA does not require moving to an entirely new page. Instead, views load within the same page. When having a proper routing configured, single-page apps tend to be even faster and better optimized.

Getting back to the types of apps you can build with React.js… Well, there are a lot. 

Social Networks

Single Page App - Pinterest
Single Page App – Pinterest

Why does it work so well?

  • Great for building Single-Page Apps
  • Easy social sharing with server-side rendering
  • Simple real-time data processing with Websockets

Examples:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

Video Platforms

Video Platform - Netflix
Video Platform – Netflix

Why does it work so well?

  • Powerful single-page applications
  • Good performance

Examples:

  • Netflix

Sharing economy platforms

Shared economy platform - AirBNB
Shared economy platform – AirBNB

Why does it work so well?

  • Great for building Single-Page Apps
  • Easy social sharing with the server-side rendering
  • Simple real-time data processing with Websockets

Examples:

  • Uber
  • Uber Eats
  • Airbnb

SaaS platforms

SaaS platform - Invision
SaaS platform – Invision

Why does it work so well?

  • Component reusability
  • Quickly updated UI with Virtual DOM
  • Quick rendering of pages with isomorphic JS

Examples:

  • InVision
  • Zapier
  • Asana

E-commerce platforms

Ecommerce platform - Shopify
Ecommerce platform – Shopify

Why does it work so well?

  • Easy component maintenance 
  • Great performance
  • Interactive SPAs

Examples:

  • Shopify
  • Shopping.com

Communication platforms

Communication platform - Skype
Communication platform – Skype

Why does it work so well?

  • Great for building Single-Page Apps
  • Exquisite real-time data processing with Websockets

Examples:

  • WhatsApp
  • Discord
  • Skype

What is a JSX language?

HTML files are the core of every basic website. They are read by web browsers and translated to appear on your devices as web pages with the desired UX and UI. To make it possible, browsers create a Document Object Model (DOM) – a structure of how the particular components are arranged on the website. 

Web developers may add dynamic content to the web pages by adjusting the DOM with programming languages like JavaScript and additional extensions. 

JSX (JavaScript eXtension) is a React extension for JavaScript that gives its users the opportunity to change the DOM with ready-to-use components written in simple HTML code. It is known to save them lots of time and significantly improve site performance. 

Virtual DOM in React.js

When not using JSX to modify the DOM, a website will probably go with HTML. And for basic, static websites, that is absolutely fine. However, things get tricky when you host a complex, dynamic website that requires lots of user interaction. In that case, the entire DOM has to reload every time a user clicks on a button or fills in some field(s) on a form.

In a scenario when a developer uses JSX to update the DOM of their website, React.js creates the Virtual DOM (VDOM). It’s a virtual image of a UI that is saved in the memory and synchronized with the real DOM by a library (such as ReactDOM). Using React’s declarative API, you can notify the DOM about which components need to be selectively refreshed and which ones should stay the same. This way, the page load speed improves, computer and internet memory usage decreases, and this results in a faster, more user-friendly site. 

Wrapping up

React.js is a powerful JS library that brings many benefits such as component reusability, Virtual DOM, performance, and stability, unidirectional data flow, and many others. Although it is not the perfect solution for any case, it has helped many great businesses like Skype, Instagram, and Shopify to achieve their successes.

It’s up to you to decide which technologies will take part in your own success – we hope this article has imparted some wisdom to you. Feel free to contact us if you have any doubts about React or picking the right technology stack for your project!

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Flutter for cross-platform applications development: nuts and bolts

In order to develop effective cross-platform applications, a number of factors need to be considered, and one of them is the approach it is implemented in. While some companies rely on native technologies and use React Native in their development processes, others are increasingly interested in Flutter. Today, we will examine why that is the case.  

What is Flutter, actually?

Flutter is a set of software development tools that are used to develop cross-platform applications on devices with Android and iOS operating systems simultaneously. The technology was developed by Google and is widely considered to be in practice a way to increase speed, quality, and lower cost of the entire project.

The language that Flutter is based on is Dart, which is an object-oriented and statically typed language. Further, Dart has become relatively straightforward to master, since the Dart developers assumed that their goal was to create a similarity with other programming languages rather than to create innovative solutions. Mobile applications written in Dart may appear and behave almost exactly the same on both platforms with performance comparable to native applications. 

Knowing Dart allows a developer to take advantage of all Flutter’s features – both the implementation of views and application logic. A widget is an important element of this framework since it is the component from which the application view is built. A widget can be anything, from text to images and anything else. It is possible to nest widgets within other widgets, giving you the ability to compose very complex objects in a relatively short amount of time.

Furthermore, the Flutter ecosystem is already quite advanced and very rapidly developing, despite its relatively short history.

Native versus cross-platform applications

As Michal Sulek, Mobile Development Lead in Crustlab indicates: 

Flutter is, in my view, the best platform for the creation of cross-platform applications since the development is relatively simple and straightforward. Its primary competitor, React Native, is more challenging (but cannot be described as difficult). React Native has undergone a number of changes over the past few years, which complicate its development.

Whenever Flutter is mentioned, its biggest competitor – with regard to cross-platform applications – is React Native. What is a better alternative? React is without a doubt a more mature tool, and its advantage right now is definitely the large community and a large number of libraries that are available. Certainly, both platforms have their advantages and disadvantages, but both guarantee a fast and solid application.

However, there are certain factors that may tilt the scale in favor of Flutter in the future. The Fuchsia operating system has been developed by Google for a few years and uses Flutter as a user interface layer. The rumor already circulating on the web is that this system would eventually replace Android, erasing its greatest defect. Importantly, it would also support all existing Android applications.

Shall you develop a mobile app using only one method, or can you mix them? Check Michal’s take on this one. 

Cross-platform applications? Well, it usually depends. Flutter apps are always a bit behind their original counterparts, so if something new urgent comes out for either Android or iOS, it might be that hybrids will have to wait until it is ready for them. In a Flutter framework, like React Native, the module developers have a lot of input. It is beneficial that they are so open-source, and everyone may contribute their own plugin, but on the other hand, it sometimes affects the overall quality of these plugins. There are also many minor mishaps or bugs in Flutter itself, resulting in some UI glitches. If we want to develop a serious application or a larger project, we shouldn’t rely on the hybrid architecture, as there’s always room for error.

Technical and business bits on cross-platform applications

Flutter can optimize costs

Theoretically, simple apps written in Flutter can result in significant financial savings (even up to 30%). How does it actually work? What makes Flutter so powerful (and cost-effective) is that it is based on one, unified code-sharing. All the platforms use the same common code, which is also written in a single language, Dart.

Importantly, this rule applies equally to each part of the application, including the UI. As Flutter relies on one common source code to build cross-platform applications rather than two separate native apps (that would often require hiring more people or allocating more resources), Flutter offers significant cost optimization.

Flutter is efficient

Flutter isn’t much different from native applications in terms of efficiency.

Thanks to the Skia engine for rendering views, applications using this technology are able to run as fast as native applications. A typical application in this technology ought to run at 60 FPS (frames per second).

As a result, the pace of project development and the speed of responding to changes is greatly accelerated, allowing programmers to focus on their business logic without fumbling around with the specifics of a particular platform. Since Flutter applications use only one syntax, they have a consistent and transparent implementation, which makes them easier to test and understand.

Flutter is trustworthy

Since Flutter technology is developed, maintained, and promoted by Google, a global technology player whose products are used by thousands of people worldwide, it inspires trust and is constantly updated, not only by Google itself. Flutter is based on contributions from the community, which is what largely determines its strength and popularity. Consequently, it is extremely dynamic, and it is very important that it incorporates the comments of the community when it is being developed.

Flutter challenges

It goes without saying that Flutter has a bunch of advantages, but there is no such thing as an ideal technology. The challenges listed below should be considered when determining whether a given project would be better served by native development or still should go with Flutter. 

  • Flutter is still in a very early stage of development, so it is important to remember that there are some open areas still awaiting completion. 

  • While the number of community-created extensions is impressive, they are not always well written and should be double-checked before implementation.

  • In spite of its many advantages, embedding native views in Flutter is not without its difficulties.

  • To write Flutter applications, not only do you need to know Dart, but you will also have to have people who understand both Android and iOS in your team.

  • Implementation can be challenging since Flutter is an adapter, not a ‘native technology.’ Too advanced solutions will utilize native tools anyway, so Flutter may not be suitable for everyone.
Technical and business bits on cross-platform applications
Technical and business bits on cross-platform applications

Flutter cross-platform applications you may know

Alibaba cross-platform app

A team of developers at Alibaba Group’s Xianyu created an app with Flutter. 

Alibaba already had an existing app. Thus, the first step in the process was to implement Flutter’s features and then add additional functionalities based on the framework. 

Over 50 million downloads have resulted in over 10 million daily active users. By choosing Flutter, they were able to save time because the application can easily be created and maintained with a single codebase. 

The use of Flutter was not a replacement for native application development, but rather a means of supplementing cross-platform solutions. Alibaba integrates Flutter into their native applications in order to provide the best experience.

Groupon hybrid app

Groupon, another example of a company that utilized a pre-made application, chose to integrate the Flutter technology with an existing system rather than entirely re-build it. 

Groupon decided to create two types of apps in Flutter, one for customers and one for merchants.

Groupon apps allow merchants to track campaign performance and track customer feedback. They also assist customers with the provision of customer support and enhance their experience.

Philips Hue app

Philips Hue is a lighting system for smart homes and provides accessories for customers who desire intelligent lighting. Hue Sync and Hue Bluetooth are both apps built with Flutter. Using these controllers, Philips’ clients can set the mood and alter the light’s color and synchronize lamps with their media sets, and quickly and easily control them with their mobile devices.

Philips has been using Flutter since 2018 and found it to be a good fit for their project even though a number of other suitable alternatives were available. Flutter seems to fit their needs perfectly, so they continued using it. 

SpaceX Go mobile app

All SpaceX information is accessible through this app, which has a detailed list of both previous and upcoming rocket launches. In addition to that, there’s a catalog of all the vehicles and more information about rockets, capsules, and ships built by SpaceX over the years.

This application includes a ship locator that allows users to view the status, position, and speed of the active SpaceX spaceships. It also provides Tesla location data.

Grab cross-platform application

Grab mobile app enables people to order food for delivery to their homes. Flutter has been used to develop Grab’s merchant application for restaurants. This software provides local businesses the opportunity to grow by adding menu items, managing orders, and displaying their earnings. The burgeoning food delivery business has been able to grow even more rapidly as a consequence of that.

My BMW hybrid app

Within the BMW Group, the software platform for the My BMW app is referred to as the Mobile 2.0 App Core. Developed in-house, it adopts the very latest technologies and includes a broad data ecosystem. Developed with the open-source Flutter framework and written in the Dart programming language, the My BMW app can be used on iOS and Android devices. 

Fun fact: with over 300 developers, the Flutter/Dart team at BMW Group is the second-largest in the world.

Wrap it up

The use of Flutter is definitely a viable solution for mobile app development in many business cases. 

It is undeniable that Flutter has provided added value and considerable proliferation for the mobile industry. This is without question a significant step towards developing cross-platform applications.

It is not necessary to engage two independent development teams anymore to write two different sets of codes. The result is a reliable product that is developed in a significantly shorter time and for a much lower cost than native methods alone. Accordingly, if your anticipated mobile product meets these criteria, Flutter could be a great option for you. 

Although this technology is not without disadvantages and is not suitable for all applications, it has already established itself as a real competitor. From the pace at which these technologies are growing, it is not impossible to expect that it may become a leader in its field in the near future.

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Why is headless CMS the future of web development? Comparison of Headless CMS systems

The growing number of headless CMS systems encouraged me to dive into the topic and present my experience in CMS systems for web and mobile development. Before we go through all the pros and cons of this approach to managing content, it’s a good idea to explain what headless CMS is.

What is the headless CMS?

A lot of customers are electrified by the “headless CMS” buzzword. I didn’t find the phrase origin but the meaning can get across very easily. The old well-known CMS systems (AKA coupled CMS) consist of two main layers: the admin panel – where an editor can add some content and the UI part that displays the content of the website. According to Wikipedia, the term “headless” comes from chopping the head off the body. In this context “head” is a frontend part of the app and the “body” is a backend part. So headless CMS is a system that contains only the backend part. There is no graphical interface that represents the content entered by an editor to the admin panel.

Traditional CMS vs. Headless CMS comparison chart
Traditional CMS vs. Headless CMS comparison chart

Headless CMS doesn’t have a graphical interface

Now you are probably thinking: why the heck do I need a CMS that cannot display any information to the user? At first glance, a headless Content Management System looks like an unfinished project. Actually, it’s not. This new (old) approach to the CMS lets us resolve one issue that occurs frequently. What if I want to build my back-end and front-end sides of the app in different technologies? Now it’s possible. You can grab your favorite frontend framework and just consume the content from the headless CMS API.

Why is WordPress not always the best choice for my website?

First of all, WordPress CMS is a great Content Management System. Both huge companies and small businesses decide to use this solution. The number of plugins and the project’s maturity make it the first choice in case of choosing a platform for a wide variety of the company’s websites. Dozens of available themes and optimization for SEO are the most important factors why WordPress is chosen as a solution for landing pages and blogs. Definitely, it’s a fantastic tool from the editor’s perspective.

On the other hand, WordPress is a vast CMS not only from the editor’s perspective but also from the development team. Do you really need all these features on your simple landing page? What if you want to use different technologies on the front-end side? WordPress is a monolith project. As I said earlier, the backend and front-end sides are strictly coupled. There are a bunch of cases where a monolith architecture is not the best choice. Let’s imagine that you want to implement a landing page for the app. Your app is written in React but you also need an editable landing page. So if you are going to use WordPress, you need to move your branding to totally different technology and write all your components once again. Additionally, every time you change something in the app’s header or footer, you probably need to do the same on the landing page because you want to be consistent across the whole app. There are probably a number of workarounds that help you omit the above problems but do you really need a workaround? What about using headless CMS in such scenarios?

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Flexibility in front-end technology – there are many remarkable UI frameworks on the market. If you want to create a front-end part of your product using React or any other framework you can just do it.

  • Build a website using technology you are familiar with – most companies define their core (canonical) technologies. If you feel that you are an expert in Angular or Svelte you can use these frameworks.

  • Support multiple API types – most headless CMS systems support REST as a software architecture style but there are a couple of them that also support GraphQL.

  • Admin panel – some headless CMS systems e.g. Strapi is an excellent solution for managing data. You can create tables and add relationships between them directly from the admin panel.

  • Great choice in case of a simple project – headless CMS is a right solution for not complicated projects. Especially when you just need to use CRUD operations.

  • Consistent UI across different parts of your app – if you are working in e.g. micro frontend architecture and you want to be consistent between various components of your whole app, you should take a look at headless Content Management Systems.

  • Increase data protection – decoupling of the backend and frontend part of your app can improve security.

  • Support multiple platforms – you can create an API using headless CMS and consume data even using native mobile applications.

Cons

  • Require technical knowledge – if you want to go into headless CMS direction you need a dedicated team that helps you build a fronted part of your app.

  • Lack of preview – headless CMS doesn’t support preview. The reason is quite simple – a separate app is responsible for displaying data.

  • Higher costs – at the beginning of the project decoupling of the back-end and front-end parts generate additional costs.

Which solution should I choose?

Suppose you want to choose the best solution for your business. You need to consider a couple of things. First of all, do you want to host your system on your server (Strapi, Ghost), or do you want to use a cloud solution (Contentful, Sanity)? What functionalities are you looking for? Do you want headless CMS to create posts on your blog, or need a more advanced system to store data in relations? How do you want to return data to your frontend app? Do you want to use REST or GraphQL? Below you can find a quick overview of the most popular solutions.

Headless CMS comparison
Headless CMS comparison

Strapi

Strapi is a self-hosted, database agnostic, open-source headless Content Management System. This CMS supports both SQL and NoSQL databases (PostgreSQL, MySQL, MariaDB, SQLite, MongoDB). The Admin panel looks like a customized DB client. You can create tables, add relations, and adjust responses to your needs. It’s a great choice if your application requires mostly CRUD operations.

Ghost

Ghost is a modern publishing platform. It’s the right choice for news apps or blogs and the post entity is the primary data type. You can create drafts/ schedule your publications and even inject custom code to your site’s header and footer directly from the admin panel. The ghost text editor supports Markdown. There is an option to embed cards from e.g. YouTube or Spotify but also create custom HTML elements. You can organize your content using tags. The platform automatically generates RSS feeds for collections, tags, and authors’ archives. A lot of SEO aspects have been implemented directly into the core – usually, there is no need to use external plugins. You can add an alt attribute to images and link tags to the RSS feed. Additionally, there is an option to customize metadata separately for every post.

Contentful

Contentful support real-time team collaboration. The text editor has a feature called “Rich Text Commands” – it lets you quickly embed entries using a command panel without leaving the editor context (you just need to type “/”). All your content is served via JSON API. Contentful supports versioning – there is a way to revert content to the previous version.

Is it the right for my company?

In my opinion, headless Content Management Systems are the future of web development. The popularity of omnichannel solutions changed the way we have to think about content management. Coupled CMS systems like WordPress are no longer the best choice if you want to use the same backend for both web and native mobile apps. When it comes to making a decision, you should ask yourself: Do I need to create my digital product for web and (native) mobile? How often would I need to change my website? Am I going to reuse the data in other products? Do I need a complex CMS system?

I fully realize that the choice is difficult. The best approach would be to ask a partner with technical expertise to support you in making such a dissection. We are always happy to help you!

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Top 10 Web Development Frameworks To Consider In 2021

The knowledge of HTML and CSS has invariably been the basis of web development for years. These skills are still essential, but as in every modern programming technology, things have been covered by a higher level of abstraction to give developers tools that would let them create better software in a more performant and safe way. There are many frameworks designed to support web application development. But what exactly is a web development framework? It is a solution that helps construct internet applications and functions according to the architectural rules of browsers and mostly HTTP communication protocols.

Frameworks or development libraries are nothing more than packages or collections of programmable solutions and programs that help develop an application. Thanks to the framework or library, developers could easily use web resources and APIs to build web services. As a result, development time has been significantly shortened by, for example, facilitated everyday activities performed in web development compared to the standard way of building and deploying web applications. Most frameworks have their own libraries enabling access to the database, which contains information about the structure of the templates used, and session management. It can be useful in both cases, dynamic websites, and static websites.

Typically, frameworks act as an extension of the capabilities of a given programming language or a tool or a set of solutions for an application of a given type, e.g., CMS, mobile development tools, or web application.

The following statistics are the best proof of the popularity of the usage of frameworks and development libraries:1,850,673 detections of frameworks in the Top 1 million sites from around the world – according to BuiltWith,

the total number of React downloads in the last two years exceeds 6 million. For Vue and Angular, this value is over a million downloads – according to Tecla,

in 2018, almost 80% of the surveyed developers declared that they use or want to start using React, over 70% with Vue, and over 30% with Angular – according to stateofjs.

If you work as a programmer, you certainly use various frameworks on a daily basis, and you are familiar with the subject of this article. However, it is possible that you are just starting to be interested in this topic or are looking for additional information that will bring you closer to the world of web development frameworks. If so, below is a list of the top web development frameworks that will rule 2021.

React JS – a JavaScript library considered as a web development framework

React JS is not a frameworkAs per its official website, It is a Javascript library for building user interfaces. Although it is not a framework, many developers consider it as a framework.

React was developed by Facebook and maintained and supported with the help of a community of individual developers and companies. Facebook and Instagram applications use this library, so it is understandable that React is that popular.

Fundamental concepts of React are declarative programming, component-based, Virtual DOM, and it could be used in NodeJS or mobile apps as React Native.

Thanks to React’s decorativeness, simple views will be rendered efficiently, i.e. only when the data changes. The process happens with Reconciliation. Moreover, it improves code predictability.

The component-based approach builds encapsulated components that manage their state and make a composition. It could be easily used by passing data through the application without involving the DOM.

According to hotframeworks.com, interest in React has been growing steadily since 2016.

Vue.js is one of the newest and most popular frameworks in web development.

It is known as a progressive framework for building user interfaces, which means that it could be used in small parts of a project without any problems.

Also, Vue.js could act as the primary and only front-end framework in web development. The framework has specific libraries that provide functionalities to build the application in just Vue.js.

Vue.js’ main concepts are the Component system, Two-way binding, and the same as React – Virtual DOM.

The component system is one of the main concepts in Vue.js. It provides the possibility to build large-scale applications with reusable, self-contained smaller components.

Two-way binding is supported, which reduces the complexity of keeping user input consistent with the application data model.

Unlucky, this framework is not supported by significant commercial communities like React or Angular. However, Vue.js’ popularity in web development is continually growing, so it will be a big chance for some more prominent companies like Google or Facebook.

According to 2019.stateofjs.com, the use of Vue.js among developers worldwide increased by as much as 33 percent from 2016 to 2019.

Angular – an application design framework and development platform

Angular is an application design framework and development platform for creating efficient SPAs. It is developed and maintained by Google.

The main concepts of Angular are components, templates, directives, and dependency injection.

Components are basic UI blocks of an Angular application. The application contains a tree of components. Also, a component is a subset of directives, which is always associated with a template. Only one component can be instantiated for a given element in a template.

The template is an HTML section that could be included as part of the browser’s displayed page.

Directives are markers on a DOM element (attribute, element name, CSS class, or comment) and tell Angular’s compiler to attach particular behavior to this element in DOM or even modify this element and its children in DOM.

Dependency Injection is a software design pattern in which one object receives other objects that it depends on. In Angular, an injector subsystem is responsible for creating components, resolving their dependencies, and providing them to other components if needed.

Angular occurs as AngularJS framework and Angular 2, but they are separate entities.

Express – a trendy framework used in back-end web development

Express is a prevalent framework used in back-end web development. The framework is a minimal and flexible Node.js web application framework that provides fundamental web application features without limiting Node.js.

The main features of the express are Routing, Middlewares, Templating, and much faster server-side development.

Because of the minimalism of express, some developers implemented many middleware packages that solve almost every web development problem.

Besides that, Express is based on Javascript and is chosen by many developers who want to keep their back-end applications at a high level of development.

Spring is the most popular back-end web application framework in Java.

This framework offers an extensive development and configuration pattern for the latest Java-based enterprise applications on different deployment platforms.

The framework is used not only in big complex projects in the biggest companies but also by individual programmers who want to create scalable web applications.

Spring has many useful features, but the most powerful are dependency injection, events, data binding, and resources.

Dependency injection is a pattern through which to implement IoC, where the control being inverted is the setting of the object’s dependencies.

Events in Spring are by default synchronous. It means that the listener can participate in the publisher’s transaction context.

Data Binding is useful for allowing user input to be dynamically bound to an application’s domain model.

Aspect-Oriented Programming (AOP) separates cross-cutting concerns from the business logic of the application. For example, it could be used in logging or security.

Django – a high-level Python Web framework

Django is an advanced web framework based on Python programming language that relies on fast development thanks to a clean and practical approach to the design. Its creators are experienced programmers who were aware of most of the most common problems related to web development, which is why the framework they created is a response to well-known needs. This allows you to save time and focus completely on writing the application.

Django is fast, fully loaded, reassuringly secure, incredibly versatile, and exceedingly scalable.

Companies and organizations of all sizes use Django in a variety of ways. This framework is useful when building science platforms, content management systems, or other applications.

Laravel is a PHP framework that became popular in a short period of time. It helps to create web applications more shortly and easily.

Laravel is extremely easy to use. Some amenities help develop apps from scratch with the database, security, and testing sections.

All that is needed to start is for the Composer to manage its dependencies. After a specific setting configuration, the application is ready to make some changes without implementing basic authentication or DB connection.

Laravel has many built features like authentication, template engine, database migration system, a command-line tool called Artisan.MVC architecture is also supported, which means that it helps separate business logic and presentation layers.

Rails – a web app development framework written in the Ruby programming language

Rails – a framework for web app development that uses a specific programming language – Ruby. It is designed to make programming web applications more accessible by making assumptions about what every developer needs to start. It allows developers to write less code while having more features than many other languages and frameworks.

Rails only have two major principles :

  • Do Not Repeat Yourself: it means that “Every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.” By making code more reusable, it is more maintainable and less buggy.
  • Convention Over Configuration or coding by convention is a concept in which the best way is to focus on adapting to logical situations by default rather than creating own rules each time. It would help programming to be easier.

Also, Rails was implemented in MVC architecture, the most famous architecture in the back-end side of web development.

Flask – a micro-framework written in Python

Flask is written in Python and is known as a micro-framework because it does not need any specific tools and libraries. There is no database abstraction, verification of correctness of forms, or other components, but it operates extensions that could add some functionalities like Flask.

Flask aims to keep the core extensible but straightforward and does not force anything particular, so this framework could be everything you need and nothing you do not.

Besides Flask is a micro-framework, it is used in applications like LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Symfony – a PHP web application framework based on MVC architecture

Symfony is a PHP web application framework based on MVC architecture and a set of reusable PHP components and libraries.

This framework’s main advantages are that it is one of the fastest PHP frameworks and allows developers to code in the Object-Oriented Programming paradigm with the possibility to use sessions.

Additionally, Symfony uses a scaffolding method that builds applications using databases. This concept assumes that developers create specifications describing the structure of databases and compilers generate code that can read or update records in the database.

A crucial feature of Symfony is that it has a Bundle System. It provides a choice of specific bundles (known as plugins in other programming languages). Developers can implement fully functional web applications with an easy way to optimize the full implementation.

Summarizing

The above ranking is a subjective list of popular and most useful web development frameworks in our opinion. We hope that the information collected here has allowed you to broaden your knowledge about frameworks and will encourage you to get acquainted with some of them. The use of frameworks is the bread and butter of a web developer. The ability to use selected frameworks can significantly facilitate and speed up your work. Their popularity is growing year by year, and knowing some of them is a fundamental skill required of a developer. The efficient use of frameworks will allow you to improve your work on web development, stand out from most developers, and get more exciting employment and better earnings.

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The State of Progressive Web App in 2020/2021

Is the Progressive Web App approach ready for production apps? It’s been a long time since Steve Jobs for the first time presented the vision of

The full Safari engine is inside the iPhone. And so, you can create amazing Web 2.0 and Ajax apps that look exactly the same and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone. And these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. And guess what? There’s no SDK that you need.

During this time, a bunch of things changed in the web world, but the question is, is the Progressive Web App approach ready for production apps?

What is a Progressive Web App?

Before we start our journey through the benefits and drawbacks of using Progressive Web App in 2020/2021, I’d like to explain what I understand by PWA. I don’t want to copy/paste what Wiki says about PWA – you can read it – if you wish. PWA app is a web application that behaves almost exactly like a native app that you can download from the official market (either App Store or Play Store). From the user’s perspective, the differences shouldn’t be discernible.

A brief history of Progressive Web App

As I mentioned in the opening statement, Steve Jobs was probably one of the first people that presented that idea to a broader audience. The concept was introduced during the iPhone introduction in 2007 (what’s interesting Apple frozen a vision for ten years! – I’ll explain the reason in summary). Mozilla released Firefox OS in 2013. The system could run web apps as native apps on mobile devices via Gaia (an HTML5 layer and user-interface system). In December 2015, Mozilla announced that it would stop sales of Firefox OS smartphones. In 2015, Russell (Google) and Berriman coined the term “Progressive Web Apps”.

So as you can see, there is no one person, and there’s not even one company responsible for the project. As usual, the work of many amazing people and a simple coincidence allowed for the emergence of a new idea that is gaining more and more popularity.

The most important PWA features

  • Offline-first – a lot of us frequently suffer from low internet connectivity. Several places in the world don’t have access to the Internet. PWA allows browsing our favorite apps without glitches.

  • Native UX – small things make a huge difference. An icon on the home screen and push notifications enhance the user’s experience.

  • Mobile-first – there is a strict connection between Progressive Web Apps and a mobile-first approach. The growing number of mobile devices means that the application’s mobile version is sometimes much more important than its desktop counterpart.

  • Optimized loading time – Progressive Web Apps are based on service workers that behave like a proxy between the Internet and the user’s tab.

  • Security – HTTPS is a must in PWA applications. Thanks to this, users feel safe.

Progressive Web App under the hood

One of the critical features of the PWA is a service worker. The worker is a small script that can handle offline mode to prior visited websites. Additionally, SW is responsible for delivering push messages. Behind the scenes browser runs it separately from the main thread, intercepting network requests, caching, and retrieving resources from the cache. Moreover, you can preview the service worker using, e.g. developer tools in Google Chrome.

Support for the selected feature

Based on the table below, you can notice that many things are already done, but many things need to be added to ensure that PWA is a fully cross-platform solution.

Progressive Web Apps cheat sheet
Progressive Web Apps cheat sheet

How can I transform my web app into a progressive one?

As always, it depends on how complicated your app is and what progressive features you are looking for. However, adding a web app manifest file should be the first step in the process. It’s the core technical requirement. This file provides information about your web application in JSON format. PWA manifest can contain details about web app name, description, background color, icon, or display mode (fullscreen/standalone/minimal-ui/browser).

How can I install a PWA app?

Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question, and the way you can do that strictly depends on your operating system and browser. On the other hand, the whole process is quite simple and very similar between OSs/browsers.
In the case of iOS/Safari, the following steps should be done:

Open an application that supports PWA, for example, Twitter.com, and press the Share button.

PWA app installation step first
PWA app installation step first

Select “Add to Home Screen” from the menu.

PWA app installation step two
PWA app installation step two

Confirm the action by clicking “Add”.

PWA app installation step three
PWA app installation step three

An app icon should be added to the home screen.

PWA app installation step four
PWA app installation step four

Does Progressive Web App support desktop users as well?

Yes, it does! The most popular browsers/OSs support PWA features.

PWA vs. Native Application

What should I choose? – It’s one of the most frequently asked questions, and I agree that it’s always a tough decision, but it’s crucial from your product’s perspective. Before you start the implementation phase of your project, you must compare both technologies. Below I presented a few points that should be taken into consideration before you make a decision. Before challenging yourself with this difficult question, let’s highlight the most important factors.

Hardware features

I always recommend preparing a list of mobile features that are required to launch your product. The more hardware you want to use, the more you should go towards to native solution. The previous sentence doesn’t sound like a PWA recommendation. Still, the truth is how many apps use Bluetooth/gyroscope/accelerometer and others? Do you really need them in, as an example, an e-commerce app?

Cross-platform support

A lot of people think that PWA is the only cross-platform solution. You can create a single codebase and use it across different devices. Is it true that it’s impossible to develop a native app that would work on both Android and iOS devices? Of course, it’s not. You can take a look at Flutter or React Native solutions.

Performance

There are two areas where the native app takes over PWA:

  • you need hardware features;

  • you want to create a game or complicated UI/UX Design;

Updates policy

In the case of a Progressive Web App, most logic is placed on the server-side, so you don’t need to engage additional layers, like marketplace. On the other hand, if you want to update a native app, the whole process is much more complicated and time-consuming because you not only need to update an app in the store, but also you must force users to download a new version.

Tech Stack

PWA uses well-known technologies in the web world. There are no limits. You can use React, Vue, Svelte, Angular, or any other library supported by browsers. Another benefit of using a progressive approach is writing your code in pure JS or any other superset of JavaScript – TypeScript, ReasonML, or Elm. Currently, JS is the only language that allows you to use the same technology on the back-end, web, and mobile (one language to rule them all!). On the contrary native Android app can be created in Java or Kotlin, but iOS supports only Swift.

The total cost of the product

Last but not least. People love cross-platform solutions, and the reason is straightforward. I can pay only once and have support for Android and iOS. It’s not always accurate, and one other important factor should be taken into account. Do you know that the app’s maintenance in many cases is much more expensive than the creation phase? Keep that in mind, when you need to make a decision. Maintaining a single application for multiple platforms can cost you more if you think about your project from a long-term perspective.

Is it possible to add a PWA application to the store?

In the third paragraph, I presented how we can install a Progressive Web Application on our phones. As you probably noticed from a technical perspective, it’s not rocket science – just a few clicks. From a marketing/sales perspective, it was a huge drawback – how many of our customers know about that hidden option in the browser? Fortunately, there is a way to publish the app in the official marketplaces.

Publishing Progressive Web App in the Google Play – Trusted Web Activity

In 2019 Google announced a new concept – Trusted Web Activity. TWA gives developers the possibility to publish web content in the Google Play store. Under the hood, TWA wraps the PWA application into an Android container (activity). TWA displays a full-screen Chrome browser inside of an Android app without browser UI elements, like a well-known URL bar. TWA gives you one more feature – transitions between the web and native content are between activities – so it lets you create an app that uses PWA features only for selected views. The whole process of creating a TWA application is clearly described in the official Google docs.


One more thing needs to be clarified – what does trusted mean in the context of TWA? Google decided to introduce a restriction that you must confirm that you are an owner of the website that you want to pack into TWA, and you can prove this by setting up Digital Asset Links. Fortunately, it’s nothing hard – the only thing you need to do is to upload a file to your server that points to your app and some data in your app that points to your website.

Publishing Progressive Web App in the App Store

In the case of Apple devices, it’s not so straightforward. In general, Apple’s review process is much more strict. But still, there is a way to wrap your PWA app into WebView using CordovaPWA Builder, or some other similar solution. It’s important to note here that officially there is a rule in the Apple Store Review Guidelines (4.2) that gives them the right to reject your submission.

Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website.

On the other hand, there is a lot of stuff in the Apple Store that can be affected by this clause, but they are still there.

Publishing Progressive Web App in the Microsoft Store

In contrast to Apple, Microsoft informs about this new feature in their docs. The company also prepared an official tool to transform your PWA app into a native counterpart – PWA Builder. In the docs, they even listed the advantages of such a move:

  • Discoverability,

  • trustworthiness,

  • easy install,

  • business insights.

PWA application is run in a lightweight native app wrapper, which is independent of the Microsoft Edge browser window.

What’s the state of PWA?

It seems to me there are a bunch of reasons that it never happens. I don’t want to paraphrase everything I’ve written in the “PWA vs. Native App” paragraph, but I need to highlight a couple of points. Native SDKs are optimized not only in performance but also in UX/UI way. Another aspect is that PWA was a buzzword in 2017/2018, but during this time, and it’s almost three years, many things have changed, but several features are still missing. Three years in the IT world is like a decade or two in other aspects of our life.

In my opinion, the progress of work is not satisfying. Mainly because we are talking about the biggest and the most powerful IT companies like Apple, Google, or Microsoft – randomly ordered? For me, the winner in hiding work on PWA improvements is an Apple company. On one side, they implement missing things. On the other hand, very frequently, the company doesn’t even inform developers about new options. It’s easy to guess what is the root cause of this strategy – money.  According to CNBC analysis, Apple’s App Store grossed around $50 billion in 2019. That means that the App Store alone would be no. 64 on the Fortune 500 (ahead of Nike or Coca-Cola). Nevertheless, with all these aspects, I’d like to emphasize that PWA is an excellent choice for many businesses, and frequently it’s the first and the easiest step to the mobile world for your app.

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iOS development SwiftUI experiment – building custom chart part 2

Here we are, in the second part of our iOS development SwiftUI experiment! In the first part, you have created a basic black&white chart with some nice curves. You are going to spice your work up and make it pleasing to the eye. It’s ANIMATIONS & GRADIENTS time! ????

How to add animations & gradients for your iOS app with SwiftUI

To kick-off building new functionalities, you have to do a small refactor to keep the project clean. SwiftUI is heavily forcing view structure to be composed of smaller pieces, so let’s follow this guideline and move your grid to a completely separate view.

struct GridView: View {
    let xStepsCount: Int
    let yStepsCount: Int
    
    var body: some View {
        GeometryReader { geometry in
            Path { path in
                let xStepWidth = geometry.size.width / CGFloat(self.xStepsCount)  
                let yStepWidth = geometry.size.height / CGFloat(self.yStepsCount)      
                
                // Y axis lines
                (1...self.yStepsCount).forEach { index in
                    let y = CGFloat(index) * yStepWidth
                    path.move(to: .init(x: 0, y: y))
                    path.addLine(to: .init(x: geometry.size.width, y: y))
                }
                
                // X axis lines
                (1...self.xStepsCount).forEach { index in
                    let x = CGFloat(index) * xStepWidth
                    path.move(to: .init(x: x, y: 0))
                    path.addLine(to: .init(x: x, y: geometry.size.height))
                }
            }
            .stroke(Color.gray)
        }
    }
}

OK, it’s time for real work. You would like to animate the drawing of the chart path. When the view appears it should nicely slide on the screen. You can use the trim(from: to:) method to achieve this. Let’s make some adjustments in the chartBody:

private var chartBody: some View {
        GeometryReader { geometry in
            Path { path in
                path.move(to: .init(x: 0, y: geometry.size.height))
                
                var previousPoint = Point(x: 0, y: geometry.size.height)
                
                self.data.forEach { point in
                    let x = (point.x / self.maxXValue) * geometry.size.width
                    let y = geometry.size.height - (point.y / self.maxYValue) * geometry.size.height   
                    
                    let deltaX = x - previousPoint.x
                    let curveXOffset = deltaX * self.lineRadius
                    
                    path.addCurve(to: .init(x: x, y: y),
                                  control1: .init(x: previousPoint.x + curveXOffset,
                                                  y: previousPoint.y),
                                  control2: .init(x: x - curveXOffset,
                                                  y: y ))
                    
                    previousPoint = .init(x: x, y: y)
                }
            }
            .trim(from: 0, to: self.isPresented ? 1 : 0)
            .stroke(
                Color.black,
                style: StrokeStyle(lineWidth: 3)
            )
            .animation(.easeInOut(duration: 0.8))
        }
        .onAppear {
            self.isPresented = true
        }
    }

There is not much to explain. Just trim a path from 0 to 1 in specified animation duration (in this case 0.8s).

To make it work you need @State property which will maintain the animation

@State private var isPresented: Bool = false

Wow! That was super easy and the outcome is awesome! ????

But you can’t leave the chart black&white, how about adding some gradients? Let’s start with the chart line. To fill it in with gradient just change stroke’s Color.black

.stroke(
  LinearGradient(gradient: Gradient(colors: [.primaryGradient, .secondaryGradient]),     
                 startPoint: .leading,
                 endPoint: .trailing),
  style: StrokeStyle(lineWidth: 3)
)

.primaryGradient, .secondaryGradient are my custom colors added to the Color extension, they can be whatever you want, just use your imagination.

You can do even better by adding the background to the chart. To do so you can draw a closed path below the actual chart line and fill it with gradients. But first, you have to abstract away a path drawing.

struct LineChartProvider {
    let data: [Point]
    var lineRadius: CGFloat = 0.5
    
    private var maxYValue: CGFloat {
        data.max { $0.y < $1.y }?.y ?? 0
    }
    
    private var maxXValue: CGFloat {
        data.max { $0.x < $1.x }?.x ?? 0
    }
    
    func path(for geometry: GeometryProxy) -> Path {
        Path { path in
            path.move(to: .init(x: 0, y: geometry.size.height))
            
            drawData(data, path: &path, size: geometry.size)
        }
    }
    
    func closedPath(for geometry: GeometryProxy) -> Path {
        Path { path in
            path.move(to: .init(x: 0, y: geometry.size.height))
            drawData(data, path: &path, size: geometry.size)
            
            path.addLine(to: .init(x: geometry.size.width, y: geometry.size.height))               
            path.closeSubpath()
        }
    }
    
    private func drawData(_ data: [Point], path: inout Path, size: CGSize) {
        var previousPoint = Point(x: 0, y: size.height)
        
        self.data.forEach { point in
            let x = (point.x / self.maxXValue) * size.width
            let y = size.height - (point.y / self.maxYValue) * size.height
            
            let deltaX = x - previousPoint.x
            let curveXOffset = deltaX * self.lineRadius
            
            path.addCurve(to: .init(x: x, y: y),
                          control1: .init(x: previousPoint.x + curveXOffset, y: previousPoint.y),
                          control2: .init(x: x - curveXOffset, y: y ))
            
            previousPoint = .init(x: x, y: y)
        }
    }
}

So, the drawing logic is now part of LineChartProvider. It has two accessible methods: pathand closedPath. The only difference between them is one additional step for closedPath which makes it a closed shape (this lets us fill it properly with gradient). The private drawData method is an actual drawing part of the provider, it’s abstracted away to easy reuse between the path and closedPath methods.

Also, you have moved some of the supporting computed properties from ChartView to LineChartProvider.

With those improvements ready, you can use it in the chart:

private var chartBody: some View {
        let pathProvider = LineChartProvider(data: data, lineRadius: lineRadius)
        return GeometryReader { geometry in
            ZStack {
                pathProvider.closedPath(for: geometry)
                    .fill(
                        LinearGradient(gradient: Gradient(colors: [.white, Color.primaryGradient.opacity(0.6)]),    
                                       startPoint: .bottom,
                                       endPoint: .top)
                    )
      
                pathProvider.path(for: geometry)
                    .trim(from: 0, to: self.isPresented ? 1 : 0)
                    .stroke(
                        LinearGradient(gradient: Gradient(colors: [.primaryGradient, .secondaryGradient]),
                                       startPoint: .leading,
                                       endPoint: .trailing),
                        style: StrokeStyle(lineWidth: 3)
                    )
                    .animation(.easeInOut(duration: 0.8))
            }
            .onAppear {
                self.isPresented = true
            }
        }
}

Neat! But you can do even better. So far the animation doesn’t look natural. You have to add animation to the background as well!

ZStack {
    // Background
    pathProvider.closedPath(for: geometry)
      .fill(
        LinearGradient(gradient: Gradient(colors: [.white, Color.primaryGradient.opacity(0.6)]), 
                       startPoint: .bottom,
                       endPoint: .top)
      )
      .opacity(self.isPresented ? 1 : 0)
      .animation(Animation.easeInOut(duration: 1).delay(0.6))
                
      // Chart
      pathProvider.path(for: geometry)
        .trim(from: 0, to: self.isPresented ? 1 : 0)
        .stroke(
          LinearGradient(gradient: Gradient(colors: [.primaryGradient, .secondaryGradient]),
                         startPoint: .leading,
                         endPoint: .trailing),
          style: StrokeStyle(lineWidth: 3)
        )
        .animation(Animation.easeInOut(duration: 0.8).delay(0.2))
}

This is way better! Manipulate the opacity of the background to fade it in nicely. Moreover, you are using the delay method to chain animations.

In the beginning, it seemed very complicated and complex but it quickly turned out to be easy peasy thanks to the SwiftUI magic. Although I am satisfied with the overall outcome, there are plenty of things that can be improved. It was the last part of the iOS development SwiftUI experiment, but you have tons of other possibilities to discover. Good luck.

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iOS development SwiftUI experiment – building custom chart

SwiftUI is the future of iOS development, right? We are all excited about how it will influence our mobile development process. At the same time, we are wondering if SwiftUI is ready to shine right now. We are going to find out! In the upcoming blog posts, we’ll try to build a completely custom line chart with extraordinary animations and Hollywood-like effects  This part is all about building a simple chart with a background grid.

How to build a new chart for your iOS app

But let’s start simple. You need to define some kind of data model for our new chart. Let’s start with a raw Point model, nothing too sophisticated just simple X/Y coordinates. You can extend its capabilities in the future if needed.

struct Point {
	let x: CGFloat
	let y: CGFloat
}

Use CGFloat instead of Double to get rid of conversion (the drawing system of SwiftUI is based on CGFloat).

You need some temporary mock data as well:

let data: [Point] = [

    .init(x: 1, y: 5),

    .init(x: 2, y: 4),

    .init(x: 3, y: 15),

    .init(x: 4, y: 6),

    .init(x: 5, y: 9),

    .init(x: 6, y: 12),

    .init(x: 7, y: 14),

    .init(x: 8, y: 11)

]
struct ChartView: View {
    let xStepValue: CGFloat
    let yStepValue: CGFloat
    let data: [Point]
    
    private var maxYValue: CGFloat {
        data.max { $0.y < $1.y }?.y ?? 0
    }
    
    private var maxXValue: CGFloat {
        data.max { $0.x < $1.x }?.x ?? 0
    }
    
    private var xStepsCount: Int {
        Int(self.maxXValue / self.xStepValue)    
    }
    
    private var yStepsCount: Int {
        Int(self.maxYValue / self.yStepValue)
    }
    
    var body: some View {
    
    }
}

We initialize our ChartView with an array of Point models and values of the X/Y axis step. Add some computed properties which will be handy in the grid/chart calculations. Finally, let’s get our hands dirty in the actual drawing. You have to calculate line positions relative to view size. But how do you get the size of view in SwiftUI? Fortunately, here comes a GeometryReader to the rescueIt is a container view that gives you access to information about its size and coordinates. You are going to use it to calculate the position of the grid lines.

var body: some View {
    ZStack {
        gridBody
    }
}
    
private var gridBody: some View {
        GeometryReader { geometry in
            Path { path in
                let xStepWidth = geometry.size.width / CGFloat(self.xStepsCount)     
                let yStepWidth = geometry.size.height / CGFloat(self.yStepsCount)     
                
                // Y axis lines
                (1...self.yStepsCount).forEach { index in
                    let y = CGFloat(index) * yStepWidth
                    path.move(to: .init(x: 0, y: y))
                    path.addLine(to: .init(x: geometry.size.width, y: y))
                }
                
                // X axis lines
                (1...self.xStepsCount).forEach { index in
                    let x = CGFloat(index) * xStepWidth
                    path.move(to: .init(x: x, y: 0))
                    path.addLine(to: .init(x: x, y: geometry.size.height))
                }
          }
          .stroke(Color.gray)
      }
}

Pretty straightforward, calculate X/Y step width then iterate over steps count drawing vertical/horizontal lines. It’s a bit better but still, there is no chart at all  Let’s add one more variable:

private var chartBody: some View {
        GeometryReader { geometry in
            Path { path in
                path.move(to: .init(x: 0, y: geometry.size.height))
                self.data.forEach { point in
                    let x = (point.x / self.maxXValue) * geometry.size.width
                    let y = geometry.size.height - (point.y / self.maxYValue) * geometry.size.height    
                    
                    path.addLine(to: .init(x: x, y: y))
                }
            }
            .stroke(
                Color.black,
                style: StrokeStyle(lineWidth: 3)
            )
      }
}
SwiftUI chart
Your first very own chart!

Here it is! Your first very own chart! Nothing too fancy, once more you have used GeometryReader to get the size of the view. With the size in the hand, you have to calculate coordinates of the next point. To do so you have to get a proportion of the x/y value of the point to the max values. The result is a part of the whole available width/height. Keep in mind that .zero point of view is in the top left corner while you are drawing from the bottom left corner. So to get the correct value of y you have to subtract the result from the view height. Then you simply draw a line to the calculated point.

How to modify your iOS app new chart with SwiftUI

Your chart is almost ready but it looks a bit too… sharp.

What about making it a bit more curved? Let’s modify the chartBody like this:

private var chartBody: some View {
        GeometryReader { geometry in
            Path { path in
                path.move(to: .init(x: 0, y: geometry.size.height))
                // 1
                var previousPoint = Point(x: 0, y: geometry.size.height)
                
                self.data.forEach { point in
                    let x = (point.x / self.maxXValue) * geometry.size.width
                    let y = geometry.size.height - (point.y / self.maxYValue) * geometry.size.height
                    
                    // 2
                    let deltaX = x - previousPoint.x
                    let curveXOffset = deltaX * self.lineRadius
                    
                    // 3
                    path.addCurve(to: .init(x: x, y: y),
                                  control1: .init(x: previousPoint.x + curveXOffset, y: previousPoint.y),   
                                  control2: .init(x: x - curveXOffset, y: y ))
                    
                    previousPoint = .init(x: x, y: y)
                }

Here’s what is happening. First of all, you have to store the previous Point which will be used to calculate the position of curve points.

Now you can calculate X delta between current and previous Point. To get an offset value for curve points you have to multiply the delta with a new property lineRadius. It tells how curved the chart should be. The lineRadius has to be a value within 0…1 range (where 0 means no curve at all). Finally, instead of addLine use the addCurve function. This lets you add two curves on the line between two points. We can achieve that by specifying two control points. The first one is moved to the right side by the calculated offset and the second one to the left side. This gives us a nice effect of a curved line ⎰.

SwiftUI chart 2
Curved line

Now it’s way better! I can’t wait to build the rest of the functionalities on top of it. It’s a great start but there is a lot of work ahead of you. In the next part of the iOS development SwiftUI experiment, you’ll try to add some gradients and transition animation.

I hope you enjoy the post. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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