Mobile Development Strategies

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This guide was developed by the MobileGov Communtiy of Practice.

You have decided to create a mobile application. What development strategy do you use? There are many strategies to choose from—some have very subtle differences between them, and some are used in combination.

The following is a list of the most common mobile development strategies.

  1. Mobile Only
    A downloadable mobile application. For example, applications (Android .apk or iOS .ipa install programs) that one downloads from the Google Play, iTunes, or Blackberry World app stores.
  2. Mobile-First
    Design for the mobile presentation before designing it for the desktop Web. For example, when starting to mock up the application screens, build the mobile screen first and add on to create the desktop view—instead of creating the desktop view first, and then trying to figure out how to roll up or remove objects or information.
  3. Mobile-Friendly
    Creating a mobile application that that provides an optimal mobile user experience in terms of speed and usability, and is functionally compatible with the mobile device.
  4. Mobile Optimized
    Mobile optimization looks at site design, structure, and page speed, and formats the application to display most optimally on the specific device size. This means that the application will reformat itself to become optimal for the device used to view it. Depending on the device size, each format may have different sized buttons, different or reformatted content, and optimized images.
  5. Separate Mobile Site (e.g., an “m dot” site)
    A separate website generally hosted on a sub-domain. For example, when a person hits your web site, the site sends back either the full site if you are using a desktop, or a smaller, more compact site if you are using a mobile device.
  6. Responsive Design
    Applications built using flexibly-sized elements, controlled by style sheets, JavaScript, and HTML. For example, one builds the application with a single code base and the site displays differently depending on resolution.
  7. Progressive Web Apps
    Using modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience. These applications are the holy grail of applications, taking the best from native and the best from web, and creating a hybrid that is discoverable, likable, responsive, connectivity independent, installable, and safe.
  8. Adaptive Design
    The web server detects the device and delivers the appropriately-sized website for the specific device. Adaptive design is different from Responsive Web Design in that it does not have one single layout that changes, but has several different layouts for the different screen sizes.
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