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Building a Mobile App Using Xamarin Forms

06/13/2017

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By: Andrew Hayes - Manager, Software Development Services at LBMC Technology Solutions - 

Building a mobile app – Where do you start?

So, you want to build a mobile app, but you’re not sure where to start. This is something we hear all too often from people that want to know the best way to build a mobile app. As you can imagine, there are many ways you can achieve that goal. So, where do you start when you want to build a mobile app?

As I'm sure you can guess, there are a variety of app development options. The first step is to choose the platform that works best for what you want to build. This can be tricky. In order to pick the best platform, you must first decide whether you want to build something on a native platform for each device (specifically for iOS, Android, Windows, etc.) or use some kind of hybrid platform that allows you to re-use existing coding skills and/or application code across various devices. In the past these hybrid options provided exciting possibilities, but in the end failed to deliver a fast, great looking app, while also maintaining the benefits of the hybrid framework.

In enters Xamarin and their cross-platform variant Xamarin Forms. With its recent rise in popularity, Xamarin Forms balances the user experience and performance of a hybrid application with the benefits of code-sharing and the ability to re-use of existing skills to build great-looking and functioning mobile applications.

Why should you use Xamarin Forms to build an app?

Within the Xamarin ecosystem there exists native Xamarin (C# SDKs designed to run natively on iOS and Android) and the newcomer Xamarin Forms. Xamarin Forms was designed as a cross-platform SDK with the goal of having a single code base for iOS, Android and Windows. As you can imagine, this is an excellent hybrid platform for anyone looking to build an app that works on multiple device types.

I'll avoid discussing the differences between Xamarin and Xamarin Forms at a more technical depth in this post and focus on some of the reasons why you may want to choose Xamarin Forms for your next app. 

Xamarin Forms is great for data driven apps.

Apps that are highly data-driven, data entry oriented, or primarily concerned with retrieving and displaying lists of data and their details are typically a great fit for Xamarin Forms. These types of apps may be more business or enterprise oriented, and the users could be employees, partners, and customers of the business that need to be able to interact with the business on a mobile platform. A common example might be a light-weight CRM app that allows users to interact directly with a portion of the full enterprise CRM system. Maybe your partners or customers need to be able to submit cases and view the status of cases or make updates to them without the need to login to the full CRM portal. These types of applications are a great fit for Xamarin Forms because they are almost completely data-centric.

A hybrid platform that keeps costs down.

Creating apps for both iOS and Android used to mean spending nearly double the cost for developing and maintaining each app. This is due to, in large part, the vast difference between the development tools, languages, and experience needed to get the app from start to finish on each platform. Xamarin Forms is not a replacement for every type of app you may want to develop, but if you are building data-centric apps, or are considering the cost and benefit of developing a data-centric app, then Xamarin Forms should be at the top of your list. Its ability to reduce costs when developing and supporting mobile apps makes it a top contender.

You can customize the experience for iOS and Android.

In the past, you had to decide whether you wanted to make an iOS or Android app because of the lack of cross-platform options. Now with Xamarin Forms, users have an extensive ability to tailor the user experience for both iOS and Android with one platform. By using Xamarin Forms for this type of application you can deliver your app to both Android and iOS, re-using a high percentage of the application code between each app platform, which translates to lower development costs and lower ongoing maintenance and support costs.

Always research your options. 

With all of the app development platform options available, it's important to understand what your needs are and then use the platform that best suits your project. Learning about the capabilities of the options available to you will ensure you move forward with the right platform for your needs. 

Ready to go mobile? Contact LBMC Technology Solutions for help creating your mobile applications.