Considering the global market conditions and consumer behavior, we can say that mobile apps are the current focus of the business world.
Especially in 2020 and 2021, applications started to occupy more space in people’s lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Statista, the global revenue from mobile apps was more than US$ 581.9 billion in 2020. By 2023, this amount is expected to go beyond US$ 935 billion.
Hence, you cannot ignore the significance and increasing effect of mobile apps. The way you develop and design your mobile app will play a vital role for your business entity. In other words, you need to know inside out about the concept of ‘app architecture’ to excel in this competitive digital arena.
Understanding the Basics: What Is App Architecture?
What does it take to come up with an effective, engaging, and intuitive mobile app for your target user? Should you go with a native or a hybrid mobile app? What are the best practices to develop mobile apps for App Store and Google Play Store? – These are the questions that you, as a business owner, should answer before creating an app.
In the simplest of definitions, app architecture is a collection of all the aspects, interfaces, and techniques used to design a mobile application and the overall behavior of all these structural elements. In other words, information architecture for mobile applications refers to the initial roadmap and a comprehensive guide according to which a mobile app is supposed to perform. It should give a solid idea about the structure of mobile apps.
If the app architecture does not define the whole vision and roadmap, it is more than likely that the app will eventually fail.
Basic Layers of App Architecture
Mobile apps are usually structured in different layers, such as a business layer, a presentation or user experience layer, and a data layer. However, there are several other elements associated with architecting mobile applications.
Have a look at the image below for a mobile app architecture diagram example:
This schema illustrates the essential components of mobile application architecture. The components might change according to the app model, but it is a good starting point.
This layer contains all the UI/UX components of the app. In other words, among all mobile application architecture layers, presentation is the one directly related to how users will experience the app.
For a user-friendly mobile app, it is crucial to understand the target audience and different user personas. This insight guides the strategy of a presentation layer in the mobile architecture. All elements related to user experience, such as fonts, themes, images, colors, and animations, are decided accordingly.
This layer contains all the basic workflows, business entities, and other relevant components. You need to position the overall business logic and market structure of mobile apps in this layer.
To which problem your app provides a solution? How will you deliver this solution to your users? How can you differentiate your product from its competitors? You need to strategize these points in the business layer of a scalable mobile app architecture to reach success.
Designing an architecture for mobile apps should go hand in hand with a good strategy for handling user data. Your app must enable efficient use of the data but also needs to provide a secure system. Therefore, the data layer is quite important. This layer contains data utilities, components, and service agents that access app data.
Other Elements Associated with App Architecture
Apart from the abovementioned layers of app architecture, there are some critical elements working in cohesion to achieve the desired objective.
The image below will give you a rough idea of the essential app architecture elements, such as the remote infrastructure composed of data access and services:
A user will interact with your mobile app once they have downloaded and installed it on their mobile devices. Concerning the platform through which the app was downloaded, the architecture will have its own set of rules and dependencies.
Then comes the business logic and the way all workflows and processes are implemented as per the primary goal of the whole app.
Data storage, security, access permissions, etc., all of these are also integral parts of an application’s architecture.
Here is a quick reminder: The organization of these layers and elements is directly related to the app category. For instance, mobile banking architecture should take the data layer as seriously as possible. For eCommerce or food delivery mobile app architectures, the presentation layer should be designed in a way to take users from discovery to purchase flawlessly. From messaging apps to social media apps or dating apps, the process of architecting comes with app-specific requirements.
App Architectures in Native Apps vs. Hybrid Apps
Since you are familiar with the basics now, we can go one step further and look at various app architecture models.
The one that we explained above is generally known as layered or N-tier architecture. According to Redhat, there are also monolithic architecture, microservices architecture, event-driven architecture, and service-oriented architecture types.
However, above all, you need to answer this: Are you planning to design a native app or a hybrid app?
What Is a Native App?
Native applications are mobile apps that are designed for a particular operating system (OS). Since they work in line with the integral mechanisms of mobile devices, they create a “natural” feeling. Users are more likely to find the look and usage of these apps convenient.
What Is a Hybrid App?
Hybrid apps can also be installed on smartphones. However, the difference lies in their process of development. They are actually web apps or websites deployed with a native container.
Native Mobile Application Architecture Design and Development
Native mobile app development revolves around creating or developing mobile apps that only run on specific operating systems. Also, users can access these apps only from specific app stores -mainly through Google Play Store or App Store.
Native App Development for Android
While developing an app on the Android platform or for Google Play Store, the developers will most likely use Kotlin, Java, or C++ programming languages. Google provides developers with various development tools such as the following:
- SDKs – Software Development Kits that include Android Studio and IDE, the Integrated Development Environment
- Android Jetpack – a set of Android components
- Firebase – mobile development platform
- Various other command-line tools for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems
Many Android apps are based on virtual machine instances that assist in dealing with potential specifics – one of the reasons why Java was the first choice of language. With more than two decades, Java is still the most widely used Android language. Furthermore, the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) has allowed app developers to write their codes in a way that the JVM can execute.
In addition to this, NDKs (Native Development Kits) allow developers to write essential app sections directly in C or C++ (native code).
Native App Development for iOS
Developers can create iOS native apps using programming languages such as Objective-C or Swift. Initially, app developers had to learn Objective-C, which was a variation of the C language. However, in 2014, Apple first announced the launch of Swift – a multi-paradigm language that was far simpler than Objective-C.
Even though developers can still interact or access legacy codes using Objective-C, Swift has reached more flexibility and maturity. For any new app developer looking to develop a native app for iOS, it is wiser to start with Swift.
Benefits of Native App Development
Let’s have a look at some of the common advantages that you can get from architecting a native mobile app:
1) Better Performance
As mentioned above, native apps are created for a platform by using the core programming language over that particular platform. Thanks to this platform exclusivity, native mobile apps have better and more efficient performance as compared to hybrid apps.
In addition to this, native apps interact with other native APIs and do not depend on plugins and WebViews. Because of fewer dependencies, these apps tend to perform much faster than hybrid apps with some middleware plugins and other software.
2) More Security
3) Fewer Issues
Needless to say, native apps have fewer bugs – mainly because developers do not have to maintain two separate codebases. Hybrid apps usually use tools that are used to access hardware via a bridge, such as Xamarin or Cordova. This, in return, adversely affects the speed of the app and eventually impacts user experience.
4) Quick Access to New Features
Being a developer, you can directly access all new features of a specific platform if you are developing a native app. Native apps have direct access to device hardware such as cameras, microphones, etc. This is mainly why the overall user experience is far better in native apps than hybrid apps that require plugins to access data.
Moreover, push notification is another benefit that you get with a native mobile app.
5) App Store Guidelines Compliance
Since native apps are exclusively made for a specific platform, they tend to comply better with the platform’s guidelines and terms. In addition, native mobile apps expect lesser changes of rules or guidelines as hybrid apps do, mainly due to security concerns.
For example, Apple rejects apps that rely too heavily on WebViews. It means that native mobile apps are the future of mobile app growth.
6) Better User Engagement
Since these apps tend to run in a more ‘smooth’ way as compared to hybrid apps, the overall UI elements are far better and quicker to access. The use of native SDKs gives a more consistent and tidy look or feel to the finished app.
Disadvantages of Native App Development
As with any other technological component or platform, native apps come with their own disadvantages, too. Let’s have a quick overview:
1) Two Codebases to Keep Track of
One of the most significant drawbacks of going with the native app development architecture is maintaining two separate codebases and databases – one for Android and the other for iOS.
2) Requiring Installation
Apart from Android Instant Apps, all other native apps require installation. This creates a small interruption in the user journey, which needs to be considered in a mobile app architecture presentation layer.
3) Difficult to Monitor and Execute SEO
As compared to other app architectures, it is difficult to run SEO campaigns and strategies on a native mobile app.
Native Mobile App Architecture – Our Final Thoughts
The initial development cost of native apps might be higher than the hybrid, web, or cross-platform apps. Nevertheless, native apps can yield substantial results in the long run. This type of apps tends to create a better user experience, user engagement, and other performance triggers. Eventually, your users get a better overall experience and give you a higher ROI as compared to other app architecture types.