I was first attracted to mobile development while at the Austin-Bergstrom airport in Texas. While leaning on a TSA bench to tie my boots, I saw a little kid tugging at a woman’s jacket.
“Mommy, mommy,” the kid pleaded, “what is a computer?” The woman then turned to the kid and tried to explain by saying: “Well, a computer is like a phone, except you can’t make any phone calls.”
To me, this story eloquently captures the propagation of mobile devices and the way their value is personalized to the user. It doesn’t really matter what the technical definition of a computer or a phone is — it’s more about what the device can do for us.
When I was younger, I marveled at the idea of carrying around a computer in my pocket more powerful than the one used for early Apollo missions. But to that kid in the airport, computing power doesn’t matter. His biggest concern is probably whether or not the phone he’s using has Angry Birds on it.
Mobile devices are the most personal technologies we have (or rather screen-based technologies — our toothbrushes don’t count!). We hold our emails, contacts, pictures, entertainment channels, personal financials, health records, and current locations on them. Moreover, people increasingly access the internet via mobile, in part because of their portability as well as the level of trust we impart on these devices. They inform us and keep us connected with one another, which is why — as a new developer — I am excited about their potential.
We don’t need another thought piece on Medium to tell us how critical it is that companies double down on their investment in mobile. But yet, many organizations lag behind and stick with desktop-bound technologies because they don’t have the development resources to adapt. This is a huge missed opportunity for these companies and their clients, who are getting a less-than-stellar digital experience.
Transitioning to mobile with low-code
When it comes to addressing audiences through mobile, I see a lot of benefits to building in the OutSystems low-code platform. For companies who are looking to quickly address a larger audience on mobile, OutSystems is a great way to rapidly build hybrid apps that work for iOS and Android users.
Some of the biggest pros to building a mobile app in OutSystems:
Quick development. One of the main benefits of building websites in OutSystems is speed, and developing mobile apps in the platform is no different. The same click and drag pattern is used to build screen interphases, allowing you to develop with pre-meditated components or reusable web blocks you assemble from scratch. OutSystems handles the heavy lifting by wrapping your code using Cordova when you hit the publish button, letting you focus on UI and business logic.
Measure once, develop twice. OutSystems lends itself to modularity. If you have already worked with the platform in web, you can easily plug your mobile front-end to a back-end module already created. Otherwise, you can begin building a data architecture or component that can be used in a singular application or across multiple projects in your organization.
Server-side version deployment & patching. In most cases, updates can be pushed server-side, which means that users can open their apps up to the latest version without having to reinstall or manually download any changes. This makes it easy to instantly correct application errors or add features not available in a previous build.
Rapid and modular development like this saves a company ton of time, allowing a dev team to be efficient in building applications and nimble enough to adapt to any changes brought within an org or the market.
Things to consider before you develop your first mobile app
There is no silver bullet to address the already known drawbacks of hybrid mobile apps vs. native apps. Careful consideration must be made when designing an app that appeals to Android users, iOS users, or both. When building a hybrid app, you probably want to take a system-agnostic design approach that doesn’t lean too heavily on either iOS or Android aesthetics.
Whether you are building an internal or external app, you must always think about the tool sets available to accomplish your goals. Sometimes crafting a responsive web app is a better solution than taking the effort to develop a mobile app. Nevertheless, mobile development and design is now an imperative for developers, and OutSystems makes it easy to leverage the shift in screen-based technology usage.