Mobile applications are a useful way for businesses to connect with their customers. They’re also a business unto themselves, possibly generating income. Whatever your reason for creating a mobile app, one thing to ask your mobile app developers is whether they use reusable components when building apps.
Custom is a hot word for any project. You want your app, your experience to be designed just for you. And yet the foundations for those projects might remain the same for all. A house has three options for a foundation, such as crawl space, basement, and slab. While there are pros and cons to each approach, all of them support the rest of the building to keep it from falling over.
Apps, too, are built on foundations. Even though you are creating a custom app, it’s still going to need the basics to get started. Why spend all those hours reinventing the wheel?
Reusable Components vs. Templates
The idea of relying on reusable pieces might sound confusing for those who have been warned against using template app generators. A component is a part or element of a larger whole, especially a part of a machine or vehicle. A template is a preset format for a document or file, used so that the format does not have to be recreated each time it is used.
While those sound similar, there is a difference. With reusable components, you are taking elements of the app that make it work and reusing those. This might be the functions that create a paginated list of blog posts, for example. However, a template app builder uses the same code, designs, and function styles for everyone. These apps are created by filling in predefined fields and answering questions or using a drag-and-drop WYZIWYG. The result is an app that may not suit the user because it’s interface and features are too generic to be helpful.
Why Rely on Reusable Components
Here are just three reasons to rely on reusable components when constructing your app:
- Efficiency – With the basics already built, 80 percent of the work is done. You can save time and money by relying on some reusable components. That means getting the app done faster and for less cost. In very large organizations, having a shared database of components prevents duplicity across teams.
- Consistency – The primary functions will be consistent, allowing greater control and scalability for those building the apps and a more consistent experience for the users.
- Field-proven code – Code that has been used many times by various people is pre-tested already proven in the field. We liken this to manufacturing facilities that rely on parts built elsewhere to assemble the full product. The pieces are vetted, and you know they work; that way when you plug them in to your product, you’re less likely to encounter problems during development.
- Easier testing – Because the code is already proven, testing is also easier. The base functionality of certain features has already been tested. Now, you’re testing to make sure the entirety of it works together and to make sure any new features or sections work well. If you discover problems, you have fewer places to search for the cause because, chances are, the issue is in the newer part you created.
Tips for Using the Reusable
However, when relying on reusable components, some developers are tempted to change a line of code within the component to make it work for their app. But now, that component is no longer reusable. Instead, be sure to create a separate configuration component that will tell all the reusable pieces how to behave.
The other thing to consider if you are building components is whether they are truly reusable. As one tech blogger puts it, reusable components can be applied in many situations. “They do not rely on anything from the environment they render in. There is a clear delineation between presentation and data (or anything else that is environment-specific).” As you build your own reusable components, make sure they have a list of features that make them useful across many situations.
Further, creating a culture of reusability is not just as simple as setting it up and sharing that information. Your entire organization must agree, and someone will have to maintain those systems. “Organizational impediments” were one of the top reasons listed by a Vanderbilt University professor back in 1999 about why software reuse failed. You may think that was so long ago we’ve fixed the problem, but a team member at WalMart labs shared the challenges of making reuse part of the company philosophy in this 2017 post. As he points out, to gain the benefits of reusable components, your entire team must buy into the project and collaborate.
If you’re ready to collaborate with us, talk to us about your mobile app development project.