In the past year we started exploring a new (at leat for us) terrain: hybrid web apps. We already developed mobile web apps and native apps but this year we took a first step into the combination of both worlds. Here are some lessons learned so far.
Just develop a web app
after all the hybrid app is a (mobile) web app at its core, encapsulating the native interactions helped us testing in a browser and iterating much faster. Also clean architecture supports to defer decisions of the environment to the last possible moment.
Chrome remote debugging is a boon
The tools provided by Chrome for remote debugging on Android web views and browser are really great. You can even see and control the remote UI. The app has some redraw problems when the debugger is connected but overall it works great.
Versioning is really important
Developing web apps the user always has the latest version. But since our app can run offline and is installed as a normal Android app you have to have versions. These versions must be visible by the user, so he can tell you what version he runs.
Android app update fails silently
Sometimes updating our app only worked in parts. It seemed that the web view cached some files and didn’t update others. The problem: the updater told the user everything went smoothly. Need to investigate that further…
Cordova plugins helped to speed up
Talking to bluetooth devices? checked. Saving lots of data in a local sqlite? Plugins got you covered. Writing and reading local files? No problemo. There are some great plugins out there covering your needs without going native for yourself.
SVG is great
Use log files
When your app runs on a mobile device without a connection (to the internet) you need to get information from the device to you. Just a console won’t cut it. You need log files to record the actions and errors the user provokes.
Accessibility is harder than you think
Modern design trends sometimes make it hard to get a good accessibility. Common problems are low contrast, using only icons on buttons, indiscernible touch targets, color as information bearer and touch targets that are too small.
These are just the first lessons we learned tackling hybrid development but we are sure there are more to come.