If you stick around the web development business long enough, there will probably come a day when someone asks you to build a mobile app for their company or project.
Or maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of launching the next best moneymaking mobile app all on your own.
Either way, there’s a significant difference between developing a website and launching a mobile app.
The good news is that as a web developer, most of your skills will be somewhat transferable. For example, if you already know Java, you won’t have far to go to build an Android app. But there’s still a significant learning curve involved.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to make the leap from web to mobile.
The Difference Between Web and Mobile Apps
One of the biggest and most noticeable differences between web and mobile app development is the level of flexibility.
Web development gives you a variety of programming languages, devices, and tools to work with, while mobile apps are more limited.
Generally speaking, mobile apps are designed for individual devices and platforms. The languages you need to know for an iPhone 7 (Swift or Object-C) will be different than the ones you need for a Samsung Galaxy S7 (Java).
You also have to think about user experience in a different way. Mobile apps are more object-oriented while websites tend to be more action-oriented.
Mobile apps also need a level of functionality that will keep users engaged for longer periods. The average user will spend around 15-30 seconds browsing a website compared to the 2+ hours they will spend using mobile apps daily.
A few other factors that set mobile app development apart include:
- Rankings/Ratings – Mobile apps are primarily ranked by their cumulative ratings instead of their searchability
- Crashes – Mobile app crashes are more critical than a 404 error as oftentimes the required solution is to upgrade the whole app
- Integration with other apps – Mobile apps will also need to include features of other apps, like how Uber uses GPS to locate riders or Evernote uses the camera feature to import notes
- App size – Mobile apps have a larger focus on size of the application, memory footprint, and load/startup times compared to traditional websites
- Browser compatibility – Mobile apps require more development time and testing due to device compatibility and OS versions
- Multiple versions – Mobile apps generally run multiple versions depending on when the user downloads the app, compared to a website that typically runs one “live” version
While these things may feel overwhelming for a web developer, there are plenty of good reasons why you may want to switch to mobile app development.
Why You Should Learn Mobile Apps
Mobile development can be intimidating, but you may still want to invest the time in it. Here’s why…
1. More earning potential
Mobile app developers typically make more money than web developers, partially due to demand. Web developers tend to lose business to DIY solutions like Wix and Squarespace, but so far there’s no widely-accepted DIY solution for building a great mobile app.
This means that mobile developers can also charge more for their services without being questioned. Payscale.com lists the average salary for a mobile application developer as $71,072 per year versus $53,036 for a web developer.
And if you launch your own app or co-develop one, you can make residual profits from things like in-app purchases – money which is hard for web developers to replicate.
2. Transferable skills
As we mentioned earlier, many of your web development skills will transfer over to the mobile world, making it easier to get started. This is especially good news for newer developers who are learning HTML5, as its predicted to overtake native apps in the future.
3. More flexibility and creative power
Non-game app downloads will exceed $182 billion in 2020, accounting for a quarter of all app store downloads. The best part for developers is that there are a variety of ways that people can use mobile apps to improve their lives, meaning the sky’s the limit in terms of innovation. Chances are if you have a creative idea for an app, you can probably find a market for it, which puts more control into your hands.
If these reasons entice you, then you should consider switching to mobile app development.
How to Transition Into Mobile App Development
The easiest way to get started is to choose a mobile platform based on a programming language with which you’re already familiar. If you’re already keen on Java, consider starting with Android apps, for example.
Currently, there are three roads you can take depending on your language of choice:
- Native iOS development with Objective-C or Swift
- Native Android development with Java
- Cross-platform HTML5 mobile development with PhoneGap
Once you’ve chosen a platform, you will also want to consider the type of app you want to make. Ask:
- Will it be a non-game or gaming app?
- How many potential app users are there?
- What app will have the greatest reach?
- What app will generate the most revenue?
After you’ve settled on a specific app type, you will want to consider strategy before you start building. Research some of the apps already on the market that may be competing with yours to see whether or not you have a unique enough offering.
You should also consider whether your app should be free or paid (the most successful apps tend to be free with in-app purchases).
After that, it comes down to the technical details of programming and designing the right user interface. If you need help at this stage, check out CodeConquest’s list of resources for learning how to build mobile apps.
Mobile is the wave of the future, and there are a lot of great reasons to make the leap to mobile development. For one, it’s incredibly profitable.
Whether or not you decide to develop mobile apps for others or you launch your own, mobile apps are in much higher demand than traditional websites. Even if you want to stick with web development, consider adding mobile to your toolbelt for added marketability.
If you’re curious about getting started with mobile app development, start brainstorming some app ideas and doing some research into which apps are the most marketable. Then it’s as simple as choosing a mobile platform and brushing up on the right language.