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App development in record time with Google’s Flutter framework

Developing apps for mobile phones and tablets has always been a lot of work. Most companies would like their app to run on both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. You can almost halve your potential audience by developing for only one platform. Traditionally this can double the amount of work to release an app as it has to be developed in both Apple’s and Google’s frameworks.

At Crane Interactive we have started the process of adopting Flutter, a new app development framework by Google. First released in 2015, Flutter allows you to write code once and it run on both iOS and Android. This greatly reduces development time and allows for easier testing. Unlike some other frameworks that support this methodology, apps written in Flutter are buttery-smooth and run with full native performance on both platforms.

Fast forward to 2018, Flutter now has a beta release and is considered stable enough to release apps to Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. Flutter is rapidly developed with frequent releases.

Sometimes a feature needs to very specifically tuned to a particular operating system. For example, if Flutter does not support a particular phone feature, you are able to revert to using Objective-C on Apple devices or Java on Android. This allows you to write as much code as you can with Flutter then fine tune specific features to make sure you get the best from each platform.

Flutter also supports different design styles. You can opt to develop your app using Google’s Material Design or Apple’s iOS style. Flutter provides rapid development times allowing more time for testing different user interface designs resulting in an expressive, beautiful experience for the customer. While Apple will accept Material Design apps to their App Store you may choose to fine tune a version of the app to support their respective widgets. Flutter makes this possible.

Here at Crane Interactive we are in the final stages of launching our first app developed with Flutter. Our client is delighted with the rapid speed of development and the resulting app. We are looking forward to publishing the app to Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store in the near future. Once published we will summarise our client’s experience in a case study. Sign up to our mailing list to be notified when the case study is ready.

Why invest in responsive web design?

The range of devices that are capable of accessing web-based content has exploded in the past few years. Wide screens, tall screens, small screens, no screen at all. Back in 2012 it was estimated that 8.7 billion devices were internet-connected. Devices such as mobile phones and tablets have driven this growth. Traffic from mobile devices now far exceeds that of desktop computers and laptops. Mobile visits accounted for 52.67% of website visits vs. 43.2% from desktop computers as recorded by statcounter as of August 2018.

Due to the vast range of devices accessing the internet it became important to adapt website content to display correctly on varying screen sizes. Responsive web design was born. A website that has been adapted to be responsive will display it’s content appropriately depending on the size of the screen it is displayed on. For example, it may be possible to display content across multiple columns on a large screen, a smaller screen may only be able to display one column. Visit our website on a mobile phone and again on a desktop computer. Can you see how it adapts? Websites that have not been coded in this way may have content hidden off screen, very small or large content sizes may appear or images may appear too big.

While it can be difficult to keep your own web properties up to date there are many commercial reasons for doing so. Crane Interactive are experts in responsive design and have experience in adapting older code to be responsive. Please get in touch if we can be of assistance. Some reasons for investing in responsive design are described below.

1. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

As the growth of mobile website visits continues search engine algorithms have had to adapt to deliver the most relevant results. If a website has not had the work needed to be responsive they may now rank lower in search results. The goal of a search engine is to display the most relevant content possible for their customer’s searches. How relevant content is rendered on the device performing the search will be a key factor when ranking results.

2. Faster page load times

When accessing a website from a mobile phone it can be infuriating if the page takes a long time to load or the website is difficult to navigate due to complicated menus. These items are a factor in responsive web design. Pages and images are optimised for the device they are being viewed on. Content and images can be optimised to load quickly even when accessed from often slower mobile networks.

Website menus can be very difficult to navigate from a mobile phone web browser. This is improved by offering large targets for fingers to tap rather than small font sizes and drop down menus. Responsive web design allows menus to be displayed in the most appropriate way depending on the device you are visiting from.

3. Improved conversion rates

What works on a desktop display might not work so well on a mobile phone. You may use a pop-up box requesting that the visitor signs up for a newsletter. On a desktop these can be quickly submitted or dismissed by the visitor as they have a physical keyboard and mouse available to them. On a phone it can be difficult to hit the ‘X’ button or type out your email address. You may offer this option with a button instead. With responsive design you can have the best of both worlds and display the functionality of your website in the most appropriate way.

4. Lower maintenance cost

Before responsive design it was best practice to maintain a separate website targeted at mobiles. The cost of maintaining two websites aimed at different devices is unnecessarily expensive. Maintaining one website that responds to the device it is being viewed on is best practice and reduces costs.

5. Future proofing

Many new devices come to market each year. The advantage of a responsive website is that unless there is a huge step-change in web standards you won’t need to adapt your site design again and again. For a one off cost you can future proof your site so it works correctly on the latest tech.

We would be delighted to take a look at your website and work with you to improve it’s responsive design. If we can be of assistance please get in touch.