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Hybrid app development: the ins and outs

A hybrid application is an app that is containerized, so it can function in multiple operating systems (usually iOS and Android) from a single code stack. The key advantage surrounding hybrid app development is the ability to use standard web development technologies – such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript – to deliver mobile apps across Android and iOS. To do this effectively, developers need a means to deliver the depth of a native user experience without using traditional native tools and capabilities. In the end, it comes down to striking a balance between speed, flexibility, cost and user experience – and these benefits of hybrid app development far outweigh those of native capabilities.

Key requirements for hybrid app development

  • Backend connectivity – The app will require authentication through identity management services, combined with biometrics on the device, as well as server-side logic to process transactions, sync data and manage conflicts across multiple devices.
  • End-to-end functionality ¬– The app should support everything from mobile users to provider resources.
  • Single development environment – One platform should serve both online and offline applications without multiple underlying technologies. This should also be an environment that uses common languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript, rather than C++, Swift or Java.
  • Integration to core systems – The entire mobile portfolio stack should provide integration between the mobile device and server-side data, and the core systems of record and services. Data should be persistent on mobile in order to manage offline performance, with sync services to the mobile backend as a service (mBaaS) when online.
  • Multi-channel capability – Users should be able to engage via mobile and automatically switch to web or tablet, all while maintaining engagement via a single development stack and operating environment.
  • Integration – Native apps must also be able to connect to the same mBaaS, systems and services.
  • Extendable framework – Through a reusable app store, developers gain the ability to extend support for app capabilities to create richer mobile experiences.

Hybrid app development that yields a native experience

One of the most critical aspects of conveying a native experience when developing a hybrid app is access to a broad set of standard and custom widgets, templates, frameworks and other development tools. In the Mendix platform, standard widgets provide access to native mobile features, such as cameras, scanners and biometric devices. These are available in the Mendix App Store on an open source basis. Developers can craft custom widgets through the Mendix JavaScript Client API and share them on either the private Enterprise App Store or the Mendix Community App Store.

Mendix templates are also customizable and provide a means to boost hybrid app performance beyond simple web-page responsiveness using mobile-enabled widgets and device-specific transitions and gestures. Our platform also allows apps to be extended using PhoneGap Plug-ins, which can be implemented through existing open source plug-ins or through custom plug-ins housed inside JS widgets.

Mendix supports the development of offline apps using the same Desktop Modeler IDE that is used for web and hybrid applications. This eliminates the need for developers to train on different platforms in order to deploy apps on multiple mobile operating modes. The IDE will automatically signal the developer if any inconsistencies or errors are introduced into code that violate the restrictions required of offline operation, making it easy to locate and resolve these errors before deployment. Once created, the offline apps can be packaged manually or under the Developer Portal’s PhoneGap build services and then deployed directly to the app store.

Ready to focus your hybrid app development environment on crafting rich, native user experiences? See how Mendix can help.