Introducing WheelUI: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

You know that mobile is important to your business. Maybe you’re considering an idea for a new app or mobile strategy. Or, perhaps your existing app needs a refresh. Either way, you have a limited budget you need to use effectively. As you look to optimize costs, deciding between cross-platform and native app development will be one of the early decisions you need to make. Robots & Pencils has a solution that can help.

Comparing Native and Cross-Platform Apps

If you’re unfamiliar or need a refresher, native app development uses first-party tools created and provided by Apple and Android. You build one app for Android and another for iOS, each using their own programming language. This allows you to ensure that each app meets UX standards specific to its platform and has access to all the features that an Android or iOS device offers.

On the other hand, cross-platform development uses third-party tools built as an added layer on top of the native tools. These tools let you build one app that works on both Android and iOS. The premise for using cross-platform is simple. Rather than developing one app for each platform as you do with native apps, you build once, deploy on multiple platforms, and save money. Sounds great, right? The issue is that native apps, not cross-platform apps, are widely acknowledged as providing the best user experience and greatest feature availability. Having a better user experience means having higher user adoption. Higher adoption equals more business value and more return on your investment, which obviously is what you want.

The other concern is that the preferred choice of cross-platform tools changes frequently, which can make it hard to maintain cross-platform apps and to find skilled cross-platform developers. Also, despite the promise of a single set of code, cross-platform tools often require the use of native code as well. As a result, cross-platform apps can have iOS and Android code in addition to the cross-platform tool. Ultimately, cross-platform apps may be cheaper to build at first, but they are expensive to maintain and less attractive to users.

So, how can a budget-sensitive company still provide the best possible user experience and utilize the full range of features on each platform to get the highest ROI? Enter WheelUI. Created by the mobile team at Robots & Pencils, WheelUI can help you build a native application on each platform for less total cost than cross-platform development.

WheelUI: How it Works

The majority of a mobile app is often a handful of commonly used screens and UI components, like a login view, menus, and a news feed, to name a few. This is where WheelUI comes in. WheelUI is an in-house R&P framework built to provide common UI (user interface) screens and components for our clients.

All WheelUI components are built using native code, with code written in Swift for iOS and Kotlin for Android. Because WheelUI is native, the UX of each screen matches the platform. (Having screens that don’t line up with user expectations for iOS or Android is one of the common UX pitfalls of a cross-platform app.)

Additionally, each WheelUI screen has already had the Pencil touch, with our talented UX and UI experts leading the design of these UI components. All WheelUI screens are also easily configurable to your color palette, font, and other brand needs, so that your brand still shines through in your app.

The major benefit WheelUI offers clients is that each of these screens no longer needs to be designed or built anew. This means that you can get the UX and feature benefits of native code for a much lower cost. And by saving money on those common screens, clients can apply a larger portion of the budget to creating custom code and UI for the unique features that makes their app stand out.

WheelUI Time & Cost Savings

Depending on how many of the WheelUI app components you use, we estimate that up to 40% cost savings is possible compared to a full custom native project. (Think–you’re saving on design, development, project management, QA, everything. It adds up!)

Many businesses expect cross-platform development to cut costs in half since it (in theory) requires only one codebase instead of two. However, mobile project costs like design, QA, project management, and everything else are relatively equal between cross-platform and full custom native. Plus, because cross-platform apps are built on top of another software layer, oddities sometimes slow down development and increase total project cost. Based on our experience, we think cross-platform is more likely to save only around 20% from native development. Therefore, even when you add on custom development to a WheelUI project, you can still save money compared to a cross-platform project. You will have the budget to build that killer feature that elevates your app above the rest.

On top of cost savings, WheelUI also cuts your time to release. The WheelUI screens are built, thoroughly tested, and ready to go. All we need to do is load up your data. We estimate that using WheelUI could cut as much as 40% off your total project timeline.

WheelUI vs Cross-Platform: Talent Availability and Maintainability

Cross-platform tools have shown themselves to be widely adopted for short periods of time. As the desire to use a specific cross-platform tool wanes, companies with apps built in those platforms have to decide whether to keep supporting the tool or to rewrite their entire app. That’s a big risk to weigh if you’re considering cross-platform development.

Native code, used in WheelUI, has shown itself to last. At R&P, we’ve supported native apps for 10 plus years with no signs of support ending. By keeping WheelUI native, we’re looking out for the long-term viability of our clients. On top of maintainability, the ephemeral nature of cross-platform tools has led to a lack of talent availability in cross-platform tools. Many developers are uninterested in mastering a platform that could end up disappearing within a handful of years. Comparatively, native iOS and Android developers are readily available, so you’ll have a much easier time finding a developer who can work on your native app built with WheelUI.

Getting Started with WheelUI

WheelUI keeps all the strengths of native code, but offers it at less cost than cross-platform or a full custom development project. WheelUI lets you prioritize your app user experience to maximize the business value of your app while also saving money and time. At R&P, we’re already using WheelUI in our own products.

It’s said that cross-platform is built to release and native is built to maintain, but we believe that WheelUI can do both.

To learn more, and discuss your mobile strategy and pricing for app development with WheelUI, email us at hello@robotsandpencils.com.

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Robots & Pencils

Robots & Pencils

A digital innovation firm. We help our clients use mobile, web & frontier technologies to transform their businesses and create what’s next.