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future-of-app-development-why-you-should-build-your-apps-from-templates

Future of app development - Why you should build your apps from templates

Templates and themes have been around for a while. Online giants like CodeCanyon and Themeforest are the forerunners in the race, but there are thousands of other template and theme providers as well. Until a few years ago, template business was majorly focussed on websites and Wordpress templates. But things are quickly changing now. On summer of 2018 the mobile app ecosystem, one of the biggest industries on this planet, will turn 10. Google and App store have seen a huge growth in apps in recent years as shown in the graph below. With the growing rise in app-based startups, it is imperative for developers to use a modular way of app development which costs least time and money. That is where app templates come in. 


Growth in number of apps on App store




What are app templates 

A collective experience of several app development agencies says that majority of the app development is a repeat process. This is specially relevant in today's age where startups are often found building an 'Uber for something', or an 'Instagram of something'. Even the apps which are not exactly cloning these famous apps, are actually using similar components in them. This inevitably calls for a modularization of app development process. App templates are ready-made source-code (sometimes also called app starters), which give a head start in app development. 


Are templates worth? 

Imagine you are set out to build an 'Uber for something', and you get the full app UI off the shelf. You can then plug in your logic, your product and your back-end into the app and get it ready for app store. This way you save a ton on your development cost. 

Following are the major advantages of using a template for app development

  1. Cheaper - You save thousands of dollars spent in UI development. This is crucial phase where a majority of startups end up spending most of their time and money. Designing a feature from scratch is not worth, if you can just pick the feature off the shelf in fraction of the price
  2. Faster - You save weeks (if not months) of time which you would otherwise spend on designing and developing your app's UI. Faster time to market is often the deal maker for an app startup.
  3. Keep your team smaller - If you are an early stage startup, and the co-founders are not developers, it is not wise to hire separate developers for UI designing, and then UI development on different devices. Using a hybrid app (same technology for both iOS and Android) halves your problem, but you would still love to have an off the shelf template. This way you can jump to feature integration directly and keep your team smaller
  4. Standard and Bug-free - One of the biggest advantage of using a good app template is the standard feature and code structure. It is often found that founding team develops the app with whatever they know. This results in a badly written (although working) code. Instead, you can an off-the-shelf code written with proper standards, and mostly bug-free. You cut costs, save time and get better quality code. How much more can one ask for ! 

Limitations

App templates are undoubtedly efficient in a large number of cases. But there are certain limitations as well.

  1. Infinite customizations possible - Because every startup would like their app slightly different, no template might ever meet their specifications fully. It is still wise to use a template if it fulfills majority of your requirements. 
  2. Need to integrate back-end - App templates cannot provide you ready-made back-end integrated in the app. This is because of the infinitely different permutations possible in data and features. Also, one may have different choices of back-end technology from others. It is still no disadvantage to use the template for the UI and front-end part of the app
  3. Need to release to app stores - A lot of people expect an off-the-shelf solution which they can buy and just upload to the stores. App templates require a bit of work on user side to prepare them for app store, even in their most basic format. This can be a bit of hassle for non-technical founders. 


Why app templates will rise

A lot of factors point towards a rise in usage of templates and app builders for app development.

  1. Increasing number of apps - As the total number of apps rise, the fraction of apps using templates will also rise as a proportion. 
  2. Increasing app based startups - A lot of app based startups are springing up in recent times. Not all of them are funded enough to afford full-time developers and custom app development. As a results, more and more developers will opt for app templates, at least for their MVP. 
  3. Increasing hybrid technologies - A recent explosion in hybrid technology usage also favors the app template usage. It is easier to create and consume templates or starters in hybrid technologies. There is already a market for such apps made in ionic - ionicmarket. Many other similar marketplaces are available for hybrid apps.
  4. Increasing apps for traditional businesses - Traditional business are also slowly moving in app business, even if just for the marketing or publicity of their firm, store, company etc. These type of apps do not require complex functionality like geolocation, push notifications etc. Such apps are best made from app templates, taking hint from the legacy of such website also being developed from templates. If a company makes a custom app just for showing static content, that is a big loss on their part. 
  5. Apps for shorter time-periods - Apps are also made for events which happen only once, like college events. For such situations, hiring developers to create UI from scratch is mostly an overkill. Hence, app templates are going to be popular in such cases.
  6. Everyone wants an app - Nowadays, even for a school assignment, students are making apps. For such a quick turn around time, an app template is the best solution. 


Where can I find app templates

There are a good number of places where you can buy the app templates off the shelf. For a starting point, you can browse

- CodeCanyon 

- Themeforest 

- NativeBaseNative base is a React Native design kit, but it also has it's own market of React Native app starters

- IonicmarketIonic market is the collection of apps made in Ionic hybrid technology. It has significantly grown in recent years and good number of app starters and templates are available here 

- IonicThemesAnother individual marketplace for apps made in Ionic technology

- Enappd - An app starter collection with a variety of Ionic and React Native apps, including Netflix clone, Food delivery apps, Taxi booking app etc.


There are numerous small teams offering their own custom app templates. Even for a full-blown app, you are probably safe off contacting a team of developers who have created the templates, as they know the stuff in and out. 


Are templates my only option ?

Fortunately no. Apple and Google have probably thought of all this way before, and their app development suites (Xcode and Android Studio respectively) come with a UI design suite with drag-n-drop feature possibility. Recently, Ionic also has released their own app builder, which allows easy UI building for the apps. But all this is still time consuming for an early startup, and you cannot always take care of code standards even with UI design suites like Xcode and Android Studio

There are other online app builders available which allow you to design your app in a drag-n-drop fashion. In the end, you get the source code of the design and a resulting APK or IPA. This is similar to XCode and Android Studio, but easier on resources as you can just do everything online. The options and designs available with online builders are often very limited as well, but it is a good start for the development. Some popular app builders are Appy Pie, ShoutemIonic Creator, Bizness Apps etc


Want more reduction in costs? Use Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps have changed the way apps are developed today. If an early stage startup wants to launch their own Android and iOS app, the costs are often not very affordable. This is specially the case for startups which don't have their own technical team. Since Android and iOS are built on two different technologies, you need to hire separate developers and hence, the costs rise. 

For early stage startups (and even for a majority of mature businesses) , it is ideal to have a technology that can serve the app on both iOS and Android. That's where Hybrid technology comes in. There is no single standard for hybrid technology, but the major ones are 

  1. Ionic (based on Cordova)
  2. React Native (based on React from Facebook)
  3. Xamarin

The biggest advantage is, as described earlier, a single technology to serve both Android and iOS. This reduces cost and time to market, which are the keys to success for early startups. 


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future-of-app-development-why-you-should-build-your-apps-from-templates

Aditya

Full Stack Developer, Enappd

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