Mobile apps are in continuous demand and popularity among the users, accelerated by the availability of fast internet and the COVID pandemic, which has increased the demand. As per a report by mobile app trends 2021, the app installs are rising at the rate of 31% year by year, and user engagement, measured by sessions, is by 4.5%.
Currently, there are nearly 3.48 million apps on the Google Play Store and 2.22 million apps on the Apple App Store.
The demand for new mobile apps is still rising, and with the advent of 5G technology and its devices, there will be a demand for new 5G supporting apps. After the pandemic, the demand for apps for regular services has also increased a lot. E.g., shopping apps, grocery delivery apps, car service apps, food delivery apps, OTT platforms, ticket booking apps, etc., are in huge demand. On the other side, the B2B and B2C customers are also demanding mobile-first interactions with all kinds of businesses – driving many organizations to go for mobile app development.
The mobile apps’ global revenue was more than USD 581.9 billion in 2020, and by 2023 it is expected to reach USD 935 billion.As per a report by Statista
Thus, you can’t just ignore the importance of mobile app development. The way mobile apps are designed and developed plays a pivotal role in a business enterprise. In simple words, the mobile app architecture is important to understand. In this guide, we will go through all the different aspects of the mobile app architecture.
In simple words, app architecture is a broad collection of all different interfaces, aspects, and techniques required for designing a mobile app. The information architecture relates to the initial roadmap and a comprehensive guide according to which the mobile app is supposed to work. This article will give you a complete idea of the mobile app structure. The app may fail if the architecture doesn’t define a roadmap or vision.
What is Mobile App Architecture?
Mobile app architecture basically refers to the set of rules, techniques, patterns, and processes that helps to develop a mobile application. The core role of these set of rules is to assist the developers develop the app by meeting the business requirements as well as industry standards. Lack of mobile architecture might lead to increase in cost, difficulty in maintenance, inefficiency in testing, or more prone to the errors.
What Is Meant by A Good Mobile App Architecture?
In today’s time, many apps developed have neither architecture nor any standard is followed. Lack of an architecture results in:
- Higher costs and more time in development
- Difficult to maintain, especially when the developer changes
- Difficult to scale up and test
- More prone to errors
There are certain principles that are followed in a good mobile application architecture like KISS, DRY, and SOLID on different development stages for faster development and a visionary path of data flow. It will give clarity on how to scale or expand the app in the future. The architecture should support flexibility and agile development methods, efficient testing, easy future maintenance, and less prone to bugs. A clear and well-defined architecture will save both time and money in the short & long-term.
Basic Layers of App Architecture
The most simplistic representation of the mobile app architecture is represented by three layers. These are:
- Presentation Layer
- Business Logic Layer
- Data Layer
We will discuss each of these layers in more detail.
1. Presentation Layer
In the presentation layer, there are all the required processes and components for delivering the app to the user. While developing the presentation layer, the focus is on what users will see and how they interact while using the app. In easy words, this layer is built on the user interface and user experience. Thus it is directly related to the users.
- User Interface: UI refers to the design elements like colors, fonts, placement, and overall design. To have a better UI, it is important to understand the target audience and different user personas.
- User Experience: UX refers to how a customer interacts with the app, like links, buttons, sliders, video, etc. This insight guides the presentation layer strategy in the mobile app architecture. All elements are decided accordingly.
During the design of this layer, developers have to choose the right platform and device type so that it follows proper standards.
2. Business Logic Layer
This layer refers to the logic and rules responsible for data exchange, operations, and workflow regulation. It contains the basic workflows, business logic, entities, and other important components. It is also responsible for security, data caching & validation, logging, and exception management. It can be either on the user device or the server, depending upon the operations of the app.
The business logic layer gives the answers to questions such as:
- What is the problem that your app is solving?
- How will the solution be delivered to users by this app?
- How is it different from the existing competitors in the market?
3. Data Layer
As the name indicates, this layer includes all data utilities, service agents, and data access components to support data transactions. There are two major parts of this layer:
- Persistence: Data access with data sources via API
- Network: Network communication, routing, error reporting
Important Elements of Mobile App Architecture
Apart from the above-mentioned layers, there are many other critical components that work simultaneously to achieve the desired result.
This image gives you a rough idea of these elements in the mobile app architecture, like remote infrastructure composed of data access and services.
After downloading and installing the app, the user will start interacting with your app on the mobile device. Depending upon the platform on which the app is downloaded, the architecture will have its unique set of rules and dependencies.
After that, the business logic comes, and it will implement all workflows and processes, which is the major goal of the app.
Other components such as data storage, security, access permissions, etc., are also integral to the app’s architecture.
Types of Mobile App Architectures
Four major types of mobile app architectures are categorized based on the operating platforms. These are:
- Android App Architecture
- iOS Mobile App Architecture
- Hybrid Mobile App Architecture
- Cross Platform App Architecture
1. Android App Architecture (Native Apps)
Native apps refer to those apps which are only built for Android smartphones, i.e., developed for a specific mobile platform. Native apps can support Android languages (Kotlin and Java) for devices from many different companies like Google, Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Sony, etc. Although there isn’t a single architecture for Android, the most commonly used is Clean Architecture.
This architecture has been built on the layers principle and inversion of control. The layers are the same three layers mentioned above, and the business layers are mostly referred to as the domain layer. In the clean architecture, the domain layer doesn’t have a dependency on any other layer, but it leverages interfaces. It ostensibly seems difficult to understand, but it makes it easy to add and scale up apps after a while.
2. iOS Mobile App Architecture
iOS apps are also referred to as Native (if built for only iOS). These are developed using iOS compatible languages like Objective-C and Swift. Apple has clear standards & practices in mobile app architecture and follows the MVC model (Model View Controller). This model is built of:
- Model: It is the data layer and consists of persistence, parsers, model objects, managers, and networking code.
- View: Just like the presentation layer, these re-usable layers showcase the app to the users.
- Controller: This layer acts as a mediator and communicates with an abstraction via a protocol.
3. Hybrid Mobile App Architecture
As the name indicates, it leverages both native and web solutions. The backend is built as a native app, while the platform-neutral JS, HTML, and CSS are used for the frontend. These apps utilize plugins like Apache Cordova or Ionic Capacitor to access native platform features.
Currently, hybrid mobile apps are leading the industry as they can be used on a variety of platforms and are easy to update.
4. Cross Platform App Architecture
Just like hybrid apps, cross-platform mobile apps use a common code with platform-specific abilities in each native shell. These apps don’t use web language but instead use frameworks like React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin. The UX of cross-platform apps is quite similar to native apps, which makes it highly demanding. Some of the benefits of cross-platform apps are:
- Cloud Integration
- Fewer Technical barriers
- Code Reusability
- Consistency in UI components
- Easy Hosting
- Shorter Time to Market
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Factors to Consider while Choosing a Mobile App Architecture
1. Type of Device
Before beginning the mobile app development, you have to decide for which platform you are developing the app i.e., iOS, Android, Windows, iPad OS or Cross-platform. Then consider the smartphone models that are in use- and there are a lot! These information pieces are required to determine the right dimensions for development.
These factors are also important while designing the app:
- Screen Size, Resolution, and DPI
- CPU (Processor)
- RAM (Memory)
- Network version, i.e., 4G, 5G, etc.
The motive here is to deliver a consistent UX across different platforms and devices so that every user will get a similar experience irrespective of the device choice.
After deciding on the target devices, you have to work on the developmental frameworks. These play a pivotal role in the mobile app architecture and the tech stack. They come with templates, libraries, and components required for developing web apps for the front and backend.
The common frontend frameworks for the mobile app are Bootstrap, Foundation, React, Angular, Vue, and Backbone. The backend mobile app development frameworks depend on chosen programming language and target platforms. The common ones are Ruby on Rails, Flask, Django, Laravel, Swift, Xamarin, React Native, Flutter, etc.
User research is vital for understanding your target audience. Across the globe, there are different bandwidth limitations. While some countries are operating on 5G internet, others are still struggling with spotty connections. A heavy, complex, and the better graphical app wouldn’t be suitable to target rural users, for example.
4. User Interface and User Experience Design
In mobile apps, design plays a pivotal role in creating first impressions among the users. The app architecture must have a robust UI and should be able to keep users around with a strong UX. A strong UX is critical in achieving success; however, it changes by the user expectations, OS, and device type. In the design phase, there should be a suitable balance between the UI against UX.
Navigation is one of the first ways by which a user interacts with an app. It involves both frontend and backend. In a standardized UX design, the users can easily detect how to move around the app and explore other sections. Elements of familiarity help in improving navigation. Some of the practices which create the best navigation and make the mobile app easy to use are:
- Hamburger Menu: This three-lined menu is quite popular in mobile apps, and users are also familiar with it. They know that clicking on it will open up a menu from where they can go to other sections. It is generally located in the top-left corner of the screen.
- Search: Search is one of the first ways by which users interact with an online store app. A well-positioned search bar levels up usability, with the standard position being the top right.
- Bars, rails, drawers, or tabs: The users should have multiple options to navigate within the app. It includes fixed bars of buttons (top and/or bottom), rails (a vertical bar), drawers, and tabs.
- Familiar icons: Icons like home, search, contact, photos, etc., makes it easy to navigate around the app.
- Intuitive labeling: The labeling on buttons or options should be easy to understand.
- Site organization: Creating categories of certain sections makes navigation easier. For e.g., there are categories like blogs, news, products, videos, photos, etc.
- Gestures: A gesture-based navigation support can streamline navigation
- Scrolling: how the app supports scroll vs. fixed elements
- Thumb zone navigation: In mobile, users mostly use their thumbs for interaction. Hence, design with the thumb zone in mind for enhanced usability.
6. Push Notifications vs. Real Time Updates
Push notifications are an important marketing strategy and are also required to hook up the users with the app. However, there must be a careful balance between nudging users and frustrating them with too many notifications. Notification frequency also impacts the device battery life, and if too much, then it can result in poor user retention.
Push notifications are sort of messages which tell users about something new, remind users of their products in the cart, offers, or notifications can be from another user (like message). Android users are opted-in for push notifications by default, while iOS users have a choice. That’s why they have a low rate (51% on iOS and 81% on Android).
Although many users consider them highly annoying, push notification is one of the most important marketing tools for an online business. They are highly effective for personalized marketing and creating a sense of urgency.
Moving past scheduled push notifications, today’s mobile apps are using real-time technology to give instant interactivity in mobile apps. E.g., a food delivery app gives real-time updates on the status of the food like order received, restaurant making food, delivering, delivered, etc. Other examples are cab booking apps, healthcare apps, fitness apps, and home technologies apps that give real-time alerts like security alerts. Just like push notifications, real-time updates should also have controlled frequency not to overwhelm the users.
How to Choose the Right App Architecture for Your Mobile App?
Here are certain factors that you must consider while choosing the right mobile app architecture for your mobile app:
Not every mobile app developer can follow any choice of architecture. It depends on the developer’s skill set, market analysis, and development approach. In many cases, the requirements of fast, agile development outpace the IT skills available for native and cross-platform developers.
b. Analyze target audience
You must analyze your target users, the type of device they use, are they android users or iOS users, competitive analysis, agile user stories, flows, mapping, and prototyping tests.
c. Key feature requirements
List down the features that your online business requires and identify whether those features can be implemented and if it is suited for Native, Hybrid, or Cross-Platform development.
d. Platform Choice
The chosen platform will decide the best practices around UI and UX.
e. Development Time
The development time is not the same in every mobile app architecture. Some architectures used in complex apps take more time to develop certain elements or integrations that should be built into the overall plan and choice.
f. Start Developing a Test App
If you follow the agile methodology, then you will know that it focuses on iterative development and continuous feedback from users and focuses on customer-centric input that can only come from a test app. It will be like a prototype that has basic features and functionalities and provides valuable feedback to know whether the architecture is meeting desired results or not.
Developing a mobile app and achieving its success requires careful consideration of architecture and tech stack. Understand your business requirements and determine what features you want in your app and how these features will be connected through layers. Apart from these, there are many other considerations as well. At EmizenTech, the best mobile app development company, we have expertise in building complex apps with diverse features and giving the proper consultation. Let us know your requirements.