Mobile Application Development Platforms for small business

A mobile application development platform (MADP) is a type of software that allows a business to rapidly build, test and deploy mobile applications for smartphones or tablets. The term MADP is generally credited to the research firm, Gartner.

When searching for a mobile application development platform it is important to keep several factors in mind, including whether you want a cloud or on-premises offering.

Choosing the best mobile application development platform is no small task. The product must address an organization's needs and allow developers to build applications that satisfy their users.

When selecting a mobile application development platform (MADP), developers should evaluate the type of applications they want to build, the mobile environments they plan to target and how much customization they need.

Key considerations for a MADP from an application developer’s perspective are:

In addition, MADPs should include extensible middleware and back-end services that deliver features such as push notifications, authentication and data storage. Full-fledged MADPs provide standards-based application program interfaces for integrating with third-party services. Scalability, app store deployments, access control and data synchronization are also important to keep in mind.

Many MADP platforms have evolved by the acquisition of products forcibly glued together without much focus on convergence, which makes it hard to use, scale and maintain. Your in-house team should simply be able to download and try out the platform, but it is not the case with a majority of MADPs today. If you need the vendor’s expertise and training to get past the initial installment and deployment hurdles, it should raise a red flag on the cost of maintaining the platform in the long run.

The apps must be able to run efficiently on the target devices and take full advantage of their native features. Although cross-platform development sounds good on paper, automatic code generation is not foolproof, and the final output often misses the mark compared to authentic native apps. Be sure to test the MADP's cross-platform capabilities thoroughly

Developers can build three types of apps: native, web or hybrid. By most measures, native apps provide the best mobile application performance. A native app takes full advantage of the features built into the device and operating system, without extra layers of abstraction or access limitations.

Although web-based apps, using HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript are relatively easy to implement, they generally do not perform as well as native apps, nor can they take full advantage of a device's unique features. As a result, some organizations take the hybrid route, which falls somewhere between the native and web approaches. Hybrid apps usually take better advantage of native capabilities, although they still pale in comparison to native apps.

A typical MADP provides:

More and more MADPs offer codeless or near-codeless options for building mobile applications. These services offer user-friendly interfaces that rely heavily on point-and-click and drag-and-drop operations to assemble applications. In many cases, the MADP also provides templates and forms to further simplify the development process.

By 2018, more than half of employee-facing mobile apps will be created using codeless tools, Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn. predicted in a December 2014 report. Kony Inc.'s Modeler, Salesforce1 Lightning, Oracle's Mobile Application Framework, IBM Worklight and SAP Web IDE offer rapid development of straightforward projects by IT and enterprise business analysts. They also cut down on the number of apps that need to be outsourced to developer partners, Gartner reported.

When assessing your MADP options, you must determine the level of development expertise and resources available and the degree of control developers you need over the final product.

MADPs come in all shapes and sizes. They offer different features, support different types of apps, take different approaches to development. As a result, organizations must know exactly what developers need and which MADPs can deliver it. Not selecting the best mobile application development tools can end up costing a company for a long time to come.

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