Last Updated on
April 27, 2024

How to Build Cross-Platform Mobile Apps in 2024

Key takeaways:
  • You can build a cross-platform app as a native app, webview app, or hybird app. Native development is the most expensive and time consuming, webview the least, and hybrid is in the middle.
  • Native apps can access hardware but are complex and use separate codebases; webview apps can't access hardware but are simple and use one codebase. Hybrid apps use one codebase but can access some native features.
  • You can build cross-platform apps from scratch or a framework, which is time-consuming and expensive but very flexible and detailed, or with more limited no-code and low-code DIY drag-and-drop app builders.
  • No-code and low-code app builders are easy to use but are often limited and have vendor lock-in due to proprietary programming languages or lack of access to backend features along with hidden fees.
  • MobiLoud can take your existing website and turn it into a cross-platform app with no coding needed from you, with all of your custom features, code, and branding intact.

Building a cross-platform app is a good idea, considering that Android and iOS have relatively equal numbers of users. But how do you build a cross-platform app?

This guide covers what you need to know about building a cross-platform app. We also have a guide for those who need help from the very beginning of the app development process. Check it out if you're less sure what sort of app you want.

Several approaches can be used to develop a cross-platform app. We will examine each one and its pros and cons. 

Step 1: Do some basic design and engineering

A hand writing notes on a stack of papers with app design templates on them with a phone lying close by.
Cross-platform app development requires some foresight and thoughtfulness.

As mentioned, by this point, you likely already know that you want a cross-platform app and have a basic idea of the features it should have. Still, there are some things to consider specifically for cross-platform apps that you should keep in mind.

Namely, ensure that your app does not rely on features exclusive to either Android or iOS. For instance, there is no Magic Island on Android, so you cannot plan for it to be there for everyone who uses your app. Similarly, there is no Google Fast Pair for iOS. 

After you have ensured your app relies on features common to most smartphones, you can then determine what kind of cross-platform app you want. There are three primary categories to choose from, and we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Step 2: Decide what kind of cross-platform app you want

Cross-platform apps are divided into native, hybrid, and web apps. Here’s what you need to know about each.

Native apps

A native app is built to run specifically on Android or iOS. How can it be cross-platform, then? To put it simply, you maintain separate codebases for each platform and try to keep them in sync and updated.

The primary advantage of this approach is deep access to native hardware features. If your app absolutely must have access to things like an accelerometer, GPS, or other hardware devices, native app development is the way to go. The apps themselves also tend to run faster.

The major disadvantages of this approach are the cost and complexity. As mentioned, you will have to build and maintain two separate codebases for each platform. When you consider that it can cost upwards of $100,000 to develop an app and that you have to double that if you are building two apps, the price can ratchet up quickly.

Furthermore, you have to consider who will build the app. You can hire an in-house team of programmers to build your native cross-platform apps, but that means two teams, one for each app. Or you can outsource the app development process to another company. Either way, it’s going to be costly and a management headache.

Even then, you must also consider maintenance and feature parity. If you update one app, it won’t automatically mean the other app updates. And if you want to introduce new feature designs, you have to do it twice. Otherwise, you risk an inconsistent user experience. 

For these reasons, most companies tend to avoid building native apps for each platform unless they truly require deep hardware access. Instead, they turn to the other two options.

Webview apps

Webview apps are basically web pages with the mobile platform’s web browser stripped away. Unlike native apps, there is no access to hardware features with web apps, but in return, they are quick and easy to build and maintain.

The major advantage of webview apps is how fast and easy they are to build. Since you are basically creating a webpage, you can use web programming languages like HTML and JavaScript.

And because you serve the same web page to users on Android and iOS, everyone will have a consistent experience. On the backend, this also means one codebase to maintain. 

As a result, webview apps make it easy to push updates and design changes. Plus, while you will still have to hire a team of coders in-house or outsourced, one team can manage both platforms from the same codebase.

However, this is also a drawback of webview apps. Because you are only using web code, you cannot do much beyond what a browser can do. As a result, the app you make will be simple and may not integrate well either iOS or Android.

Overall, webview apps are a good idea if your app idea is relatively simple and does not need to integrate heavily with the underlying mobile OS. 

What about progressive web apps (PWAs)?

There are also PWAs. These are a bit complicated to explain, but basically, PWAs are websites that look and feel like an app.

Essentially, you visit a web page in a browser, and it functions like an app. This is rather subjective, but it is supposed to be a better, more cohesive experience than a mobile website.

We have a full guide on PWAs to help you understand them further. However, one thing to note is that installing PWAs is not quite as simple as installing standard apps.

They don’t come from the app store. Instead, as mentioned, you have to visit a website in a browser first, then add the app to your home screen.

This means that users may get confused, and you lose out on a critical advertising opportunity: your app icon in the app store and installed on a user’s phone.

Hybrid apps

A diagram showing a hybrid app. It shows arrows pointing to the native elements at the top and bottom of two phones screens on the left and right and another set of arrows pointing to the web portions in the middle.
Hybrid apps combine elements of webview and native apps.

Hybrid apps can be thought of as a combination of both native and webview apps. Their advantage is the ability to combine the fast development process and shared codebase of webview apps with access to hardware features of native apps.

Hybrid apps use native elements such as tabs, buttons, and other pieces from a mobile operating system combined with webview portions where needed. This approach lets you build an app quickly and share features across operating systems.

The shared codebase between both versions of your app means you can push design changes and updates fast and consistently. Your team only has to manage one codebase, which reduces complexity and cost. For end users, hybrid apps look and feel like they belong much better than webview apps.

There are downsides to hybrid apps, though. Namely, hybrid apps require careful planning to determine what native features you want because if you rely on too many of them, you are back to building a native app. You may also encounter slowdowns and poor integration with a mobile operating system.

At the end of the day, many companies choose hybrid apps. They let you build an app quickly but with better feature parity and integration than webview apps. In fact, many people use the terms “hybrid app” and “cross-platform app” synonymously because of this.

Step 3: Build your app

Once you have decided which route to take, you have to build your app. While each approach has particular elements, the methods for coding your app can be divided into three categories: from scratch, no-code, and low-code. There is also the approach we take at MobiLoud, which we will cover separately.

From scratch or from a framework

A laptop open with lines of code shown on its screen.
Coding from scratch or a framework may take time and money, but it affords you ultimate control.

When you think of “programming an app,” you likely think of from-scratch app development. Your team of coders or choice of outsourced company writes lines of code that create an app, define how it works, and craft how it looks.

As you might expect, this approach gives you the maximum level of control. It lets you fine-tune your app's behavior and appearance, which is advantageous if you want to maintain rigorous branding or implement a must-have option.

This method of development also tends to be expensive and time-consuming, so to make this process easier, various app development frameworks have cropped up. A framework can be thought of as a base or foundation. You build your app using the components, features, and enhancements it offers and stick to its rules. 

We have a guide covering cross-platform frameworks if you want to understand them more in-depth.

While these approaches tend to be pricier and longer, from-scratch or framework app development lets you build more customized cross-platform apps that are specialized to your needs.


Because coding an app from scratch can be overwhelming, no-code DIY app builders have cropped up. As the name implies, no-code app builders let you build an app without writing any code.

They work by providing a drag-and-drop interface. You drag the functions you want from a collection and drop them into a template or canvas. 

This approach is obviously much easier than writing code and much faster, too. If you want your app built quickly, it may work.

But there are downsides. Namely, you will not be able to customize your app much. Only the functions available in the DIY drag-and-drop app builder will be available. If you want to do something that is not offered, you are out of luck.

You also may experience vendor lock-in. That is, you will not have access to the backend and internals of your app except through the app builder, so you will have to pay subscription fees. There may be extra fees as well, depending on what features you want to include, how many people use your app, and more.

DIY app builders may be a good way to build a prototype or visualize how your final app cross-platform app will look, but they usually cannot offer a satisfactory experience otherwise.


Low-code app builders try to strike a balance between no-code and from-scratch app building. Essentially, they combine a DIY, drag-and-drop interface with the ability to write code when needed.

This way, you can get an app built quickly and customize it. If you want more control over app building than no-code app builders can provide but do not have the resources to code from scratch or use a framework, low-code builders may work.

Still, they share some downsides with both no-code and from-scratch approaches. Much like no-code builders, low-code app builders feature vendor lock-in thanks to the use of proprietary programming languages that are not used elsewhere.

On the flip side, even if the low-code builder you choose uses a widely used programming language, you still have to write lines of code. That means depending on the features you want, the time and cost savings of having drag-and-drop elements start to recede.

Low-code app builders are likely best if your cross-platform app is more complex than no-code builders can handle, but you don’t need too many customizations.

Turn your website into a fully functional app with MobiLoud

A screenshot of the MobiLoud website reading "Turn your online store into a mobile app in under 2 weeks."
MobiLoud turns your existing website into an app, and we can do it fast.

There is an alternative to the above options, and it is what we do at MobiLoud. We turn your existing website into an app, and you do not need to code it.

Unlike DIY app builders, we can reuse your existing features, workflows, and backends from your website in your app. This saves you time and money building an app, plus you get to keep the same logins and maintenance tools.

Turning your website into an app also means that all the code you have written and all your existing branding survive intact. As a result, all your product catalogs, images, themes, colors, and more will be the same on your website and app.

We build cross-platform apps for iOS and Android with full white labeling at every pricing tier. Whether you are a small business or a large company with complex operations, we can turn your website into an app. If you need more support, we also offer options to optimize your cross-platform app’s UI, graphic design, and functionality.

This approach saves you time and money and keeps the experience consistent both within your company and for your users. We even let you see what your app will look like using our free preview tool

Building cross-platform apps: The takeaway

Building a cross-platform app is a good idea in today’s market, where both Android and iOS occupy about half the market. To get your cross-platform app built, you should ensure you are not relying on any features exclusive to one platform.

Then, you can choose whether a native, webview, or hybrid app is best. Chances are a webview or hybrid app is likely best for you because native apps must be written for each platform separately.

After you decide which type of cross-platform app you want, you can choose how to create it. You can code it from scratch or from a framework, either using in-house programmers or an outsourced company. This gives you maximum control and configuration options but can be expensive and time-consuming. 

You could also consider low-code or no-code app builders, but these may be too limited for your needs and often feature vendor lock-in and hidden fees.

Alternatively, you can create your cross-platform app with MobiLoud by turning your website into a fully functional app. This lets you retain all your branding, code, and features without any coding from you.

Preview what your app will look like today, and get in touch with us to find out how easy it is to turn your website into a cross-platform app.

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