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What is Mobile App Development?

Zara Hanif
December 19, 2022
IT & Development

What is Mobile App Development?

We’ve had cell phones since the ‘80s, but smartphones are a recent phenomenon. With them comes a powerful connection with consumers: apps. The mobile app market has been accelerating since its debut in the mid-2000s and is expected to grow by 9.27% in 2026. Mobile apps are an amazing way to connect employees, reach target audiences, and grow your brand. Mobile app development software can help both experienced and inexperienced teams achieve this with powerful and fast built-in tools.

What is a Mobile App?

A mobile application is used on mobile devices to access software, web browsers, services, and websites. Mobile apps allow businesses to offer their end-users a convenient, mobile-responsive experience. 

Oftentimes a website isn’t mobile-friendly and will show a glitchy, broken version of the web page on a smartphone screen. This is because the website isn’t mobile-friendly. It’s super important for websites to be mobile-responsive in general. Forcing people to buy or install a dedicated app isn’t an example of accessibility but is a good way to be super annoying to consumers. 

The appeal of having your own app goes beyond basic responsiveness. If you’re going to distribute an app, it needs to provide more functionality, convenience, and speed than if you used a regular web platform. For businesses that want to offer a mobile platform for employees, mobile apps can offer things like offline workflow, secure communication with push notifications, and real-time messaging.

How Does Mobile App Development Work?

The mobile app development process is extremely nuanced. It requires user experience design prototyping, research, and team collaboration. For a simple website, you only need to know front-end markup languages like HTML, HTML5, and CSS. Harder scripting languages like Javascript and PHP are helpful but optional. 

With a mobile application, you have to know front-end and back-end languages. Back-end programming languages create the underlying framework that an application runs on. It requires more time and effort to debug the code and optimize it for security and performance. 

The software development process also includes app design for different operating systems (OS). When making a website, you can create a one-size-fits-all web application that works with multiple web browsers, even the old ones like Internet Explorer. 

Mobile app development teams need to develop native apps specific to an operating system or mobile device. This means you need to produce an iOS app for Apple’s App Store and an Android app for the Google Play store. They may also need to build hybrid apps that can be used by both web and mobile users such as an email-checking app like Gmail. Another option similar to hybrid apps is a progressive web app (PWA). A PWA is a web app that offers an optimized mobile experience without being a native application on the device.

Development teams have to put plenty of work and care into the mobile apps they create. These steps help to ensure that the end result is a high-quality customer experience, a development tool that offers speed, automation, and flexibility. 

For teams with less experience, there are robust mobile application development platforms that offer codeless app designers. These platforms are suitable for use cases like startups or small businesses that want to create apps for clients or internal teams. Teams looking for commercial options will also be able to find several beginner-friendly no-code app builders. You can find mobile development environments for any need: traditional coding, low-code, and no-code.

Coding in an Advanced Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

Developers that plan to do traditional coding benefit immensely from using an interactive IDE with resources and capabilities to speed up the development process. The one big issue is that there are hundreds of options for paid, free, and open-source IDE software. 

Freedom of choice is wonderful, but decision paralysis is a real thing. One great way to find your team’s best-fit solution is by searching for specific mobile app development features. Involving your team in the software selection process can help narrow the options as well. Where to look first? The free ones, of course!

Low-Code Development Platforms

Low-code platforms are a happy middle ground between full hand-coding and absolutely no hand-coding. Developers can switch between an easy drag-and-drop user interface (UI) and a built-in code editor. Many editors even come with pre-made templates, or customization options.   

There are quite a few choices for low-code development software, but most are designed to create apps internal distribution in your company. Low-code platforms offer companies business application solutions, and many aren’t designed for mass app distribution. There are platforms that can be used for commercial mass distribution but they are mainly no-code. .

No-Code Development Platforms

For teams that have no experience with programming, no-code is the way to go. In a no-code development environment, inexperienced “citizen developers” can build apps for their company business processes. Similar to low-code tools, you will be able to build apps inside a user-friendly UI that does not require programming skills. 

Not all no-code environments are just for business process solutions. Compared to low-code platforms, there are more no-code options for mass-distributing commercial mobile applications. As the mobile app industry rapidly expands, more and more citizen developers want to create their own competing mobile applications. 

The demand for citizen developers to be able to use mobile development platforms is why there are so many options, but teams should still be careful. Not every no-code template is accessible or usability tested. You’ll still have to do prototyping and research. If web accessibility is a new concept to you, then absolutely check out our articles about accessibility standards and their overall importance here

Benefits and Problems of Mobile App Development Software

Most mobile app development software are diverse, and there are some common benefits and issues that can arise when using them. 

What to Consider When Buying an IDE

In IDEs for hand coding you also end up choosing software that isn’t as intuitive or as fast as promised to be. It’s important to think about what can go wrong so you can weed out products with bad reviews. The same goes for positives, you’ll want software with the best-fit features.

Pros

  • Automation to increase coding speed
  • Built-in debugging 
  • A/B testing
  • Performance analytics
  • Security features like authentication and admin permissions
  • Live testing of app functionality
  • Notifications for app monitoring
  • Crash analytics 
  • Option for distribution services subscription
  • Can be cheaper than codeless platforms 

Cons

  • Cost of the subscription
  • Cost of distribution – usually priced separately from your development subscription
  • Cost of hosting your app – also separated from developing subscription
  • The learning curve – some dev environments can stump experienced developers
  • Data privacy policies and terms of use may affect your commercial rights

For Teams Considering Low-Code and No-Code Solutions

With low-code or no-code tools, a common problem is teams creating and distributing apps before they’re fully tested with the user experience in mind.  

Pros

  • Speed of low-code or codeless designer tools 
  • Teams don’t need years of programming experience
  • You can tailor the app to your specific needs
  • They come with easy templates you can customize

Cons

  • Cost of the subscription
  • Cost of distribution
  • Cost of hosting
  • The learning curve – it takes patience to build an app even without coding it by hand
  • The time it can take to learn can be weeks to months
  • Research and prototyping app designs is still required
  • You still need to consider accessibility and usability because not all templates are pre-optimized
  • Without access to the code, you may have to contact customer support or hire outside help to deal with bugs or crashes
  • Data privacy policies and terms of use may affect your commercial rights

This is not the full list of important deciding factors, but they can help get you started brainstorming on what to avoid or ensure. 

Mobile App Development Software

While the many different options can be overwhelming, these solutions show a range of use cases. Mobile app dev tools can range from free to affordable to incredibly expensive. Codeless options can be more expensive because they’re marketed toward new entrepreneurs that want to build commercial apps. 

Low-code tools, on the other hand, tend to be cheap because the majority are targeted toward small businesses that want to enhance their daily operations. Traditional programming in IDEs tends to be free, open-source, or have usage-based pricing. 

Zoho Creator

trScore 9.0/10
Firebase

trScore 8.6/10
App Builder

by Infragistics
BuildFire
Professional – $25/mo per user, billed annually Free limit then pay-as-you-go per monthIgnite UI – $1,095/yr/userStarter plan – $349/month, billed quarterly
See pricingSee pricingSee pricingSee pricing

For teams that want to develop personalized business applications, Zoho Creator is an awesome low-code solution. It has the functionality for both experienced developers and citizen developers to create high-end applications. There is a learning curve. Most Zoho products come with many tools, so they can take more patience to learn. 

If you’re looking for more user-friendly, amateur-ready platforms then BuildFire and App Builder are awesome no-code/low-code mobile development environments. 

App Builder is part of the cloud-based Infragistics development subscription. You can build from the ground up or use their ready-to-go templates. 

BuildFire is a beginner-friendly, codeless platform for application development. Their subscription plans come with analytics, onboarding, and integrations. You can use them for android development, iOS development, and PWAs.

Firebase is a great option for any mobile app development company that prefers Google products and looks for any opportunity for cost savings. They are a super powerful development software that can be used for both mobile apps and mobile games. The platform has a managed back end and comes with capabilities like cloud messaging, A/B testing, machine learning, and performance monitoring.

More Resources

If you’re ready to get started on your software search then definitely check out our related categories. There you will find lists of related software and reviews from end-users for insight into overall satisfaction.

For those that have used any of the platforms discussed here, please leave a review to help other buyers make informed decisions.

About the Author

Zara Hanif
Zara is a Research Content Writer/Editor for TrustRadius. She has an English BA and Web Design and Development AS. She enjoys the creativity and freedom of the tech world. In her free time she loves to create art, make jewelry, and work on sci-fi stories

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