Whenever you hear the phrase “app development” as a programmer, what names do you recall first, Objective – C, Swift or Java? These days there are much easier technologies to design software applications for both iOS as well as Android, among which Xamarin has been really popular. After reading this post you will get pretty much familiar with Xamarin programming and to what extent this could limit as well as expand the potential of your business app.
What is Xamarin all about?
Xamarin is a programming language that enables you to design mobile apps compatible with all platforms. The technology currently stands upon Microsoft stack while enabling programmers to share the source code across all platforms (iOS, Android and Windows). Presently, the community has exceeded 1.4 million.
The developers behind Mono, led by the same Miguel de Icaza back in 2001 is the same team behind the creation of Xamarin in 2011. The latter was designed solely for commercial purposes and became quite a popular language for Microsoft developers soon after their acquisition in 2016.
Following the acquisition, Xamarin SDK has been open sourced and later combined with Xamarin Studio Integrated Development Environment. Let’s discuss some key features below.
Uses C# programming for designing apps for all platforms. In contrast to Titanium, Xamarin is structured natively, thus, making it the only language for designing user-friendly mobile apps.
The C# is a core language that doesn’t cause unexpected errors during execution of code. As a part of the .NET framework, Xamarin can be utilized for a number of highly useful features mainly Lambda, LINQ and even Asynk.
As a matter of fact, Xamarin utilizes C# and combines with .NET layer required for app development across multiple platforms. Moreover, Xamarin is capable of utilizing all the recent APIs like the ARKit for iOS as well as Android Multi-Window.
Xamarin enables you to formulate intricate lines of codes based on different platforms, thus making apps look native while ensuring optimum user experience at the same time.
Wireframe: Xamarin comprises two major integrations for both iOS as well as Android. For both products, the processes are automatic and have been designed for allocating memory, deleting redundant codes and ability to exchange OS by itself.
Xamarin.Forms: This is a completely different product primarily used for designing prototypes and/or simple mobile app by sharing each and every line of code for Android and iOS.
Xamarin.Mac: This allows engineers to design applications for the operating system used on Macbook.
Platform SDKs: You can gain access to platform-based SDKs with C# syntax.
Platform-specific code bindings: Xamarin enables developers to build applications by holding onto the native look as well as user experience. On a different note, the language enables programmers to re-execute certain functionalities or APIs such as the barcode scanning, integrate Paypal and sometimes, Google Analytics.
Compatible with wearable: The coolest part about Xamarin is that it allows you to program both iWatch as well as Android smartwatch. There’s Visual Studio that supports Mac and Windows designed for developing apps for smartwatches.
Relevant projects using Xamarin: The majority of Windows-based projects can be run with Xamarin and Visual Studio installed on your computer, and can be debugged using emulators. Using Visual Studio one could easily connect with iOS storyboard designer and simulator.
Let’s find out some usefulness and drawbacks surrounding Xamarin. Let’s start with benefits first.
One stack that binds them all:
The Xamarin programming language is comprised of C# and .NET capable of creating fully interactive mobile apps for all platforms; as a result, more than 90% of any source code can be re-utilized to reduce both timeframes as well as cost.
Neatly designed UX & UI:
Developers now have the ability to design impeccable mobile applications by using elements of distinct platforms. Hybrid apps are often designed using Xamarin. Forms that enhances the development process for business apps.
You still have the option to use either Xamarin.iOS or Xamarin. Android to customize the UI and high-performance mobile apps.
Complete hardware compatibility:
Xamarin eliminates all hardware related configuration problems through its plugins, APIs, and commonness among platforms. Xamarin links you with its native libraries, which ensures high customization combined with features as close as any native development.
Open source stack with efficient customer support:
Xamarin licensing policies underwent massive changes ever since Microsoft acquired their company in 2016. Following the event, everything from Xamarin SDK to command line tools has become open under the MIT license, which is a significant portion of the Visual Studio. The .NET Foundation today is now an immensely powerful tech stack when developers at Microsoft, JetBrains, Unity, and Red Hat are working for turning it more powerful.
Due to Xamarin’s cross-platform technology, users are able to update simply by deploying the latest additions to any source code, and changes will be made for both iOS and Android automatically. Keep in mind that this will work specifically for Xamarin. Forms or created using business logic for both Xamarin.iOS as well as Xamarin.Android.
Own tools for app development:
Xamarin is equipped with its own set of tools such as IDE, SDK, Xamarin test cloud, Hockey app, and Xamarin.Insights. As a result, developers are no longer required to integrate any third-party apps for designing, testing and deploying any Xamarin app.
Xamarin.Forms: something for simple app designing:
There are practically two different ways to design mobile apps, the usual method is by using either Xamarin.iOS or Xamarin.Android. Another method is using Visual Studio as it enables you to share one interface across multiple platforms without designing multiple times. Moreover, you could design a portion of an app using. Forms and the remaining with native UI kit.
Xamarin Live Player:
You could install this app on your smartphone and immediately get down to debugging and/or testing a beta version without connecting to a separate workstation.
Once the installation of Live Player app is complete, you could scan the QR code on Visual Studio through the phone’s camera, and you get access to apps under development.
Any app on your phone will synchronize automatically with the app on your phone.
Xamarin.Mac for Macs:
Developers now have the ability to design fully native apps for Macs using .NET and C#. The same libraries are also utilized for integrating Objective-C with Xcode. With Xamarin.Mac infused with Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin. Android, developers now have the ability to share 90% of any source code across all platforms. It further allows you to build Xcode UI if the Xamarin. Mac is embedded.
Learn Xamarin from its online study portal:
If you’re planning to get started with Xamarin and how all its functionalities work, they have an e-learning platform available with resources for training. If you’re going to hire new engineers for developing any Xamarin based product, the University will guide you including your team starting from beginner level courses to the really advanced level comprising lecture notes and guides from live classrooms.
Limitations in Xamarin:
Now, let’s delve into the limitations surrounding Xamarin and ways it could limit your ability to code.
Prolong delays in backend support:
Unlike the native platforms for both iOS and Android, it takes a bit of time before the latest updates for Xamarin become available. Although they claim to be having efficient support yet there are frequent delays still experienced by users.
Limited open source libraries:
On Xamarin, you only have a limited number of options to choose from .NET open sourced platform and everything included on the platform. There isn’t any liberty to choose from options; however, there are thousands of tools for coming up with simple UI, graphs, charts and heavily powerful options available for integrating into any mobile app with a few clicks. Such features include fast payment processor, wearable, push notification support, ability to store on the cloud, and the ability to stream for music and/or videos online.
Significantly small community:
Obviously, the Xamarin community has been comparatively smaller than that of Android and iOS, thus, finding a reliable Xamarin expert is challenging. Based on recent statistics, Xamarin covers 10% of the app development community. With Xamarin University, anybody who is willing to become a Xamarin expert could do so much faster compared to the learning curve for other programming languages.
Still requires basic native programming knowledge:
Whenever you’re using native Xamarin.iOS and/or Android, the programmer is required to write platform-centric codes; as a result, they have to possess basic knowledge on Java/Kotlin and Objective-C or Swift native, but not in case if you’re using Xamarin.Forms.
Not compatible with heavy graphics:
One of the best perks of using Xamarin is that it allows you to share any source code across all platforms. However, designing video games with highly interactive UI using Xamarin would be a complete waste of time and resources.
Consumes enormous memory:
Simple “Hello World” application on Xamarin.Android takes up to 16MB of space, the majority of which is taken away by libraries, contents, and even Base Class Libraries (BCL). As a result, you have to further optimize in order to keep the apps consume a reasonable amount of space.
Incompatible with third-party plugins:
You are likely to face issues at times for integrating APIs into any Xamarin made mobile app. The majority of the tools including libraries are designed for supporting the native tech, but Xamarin compatibility may not be suitable always. As a result, you might have to adopt certain API that is made particularly for Xamarin made apps.
Xamarin Visual Studio IDE:
The Visual Studio is a Microsoft owned software primarily used for debugging, designing as well as launching apps compatible across all platforms. There are 3 versions of Visual Studio,
- Visual Studio Community
- Visual Studio Professional
- Visual Studio Enterprise
Therefore, depending on the level of experience and the size of each team, developers have to choose the right version for themselves. You’re free to design software for web, server, and even desktop using any of these 3 versions available.
Visual Studio Community:
This one is designed specifically for students in which you can add five users without incurring anything at all. Really useful for a small development team even if they’re new to Xamarin.
Visual Studio Professional:
The professional version is a set of tools dedicated to pro developers working in small teams. It has really powerful features that allow you to see references, check for changes made when and also by whom, including the ability to figure out whether the tests are passed or not. The annual charge is $539 per user.
Visual Studio Enterprise:
This version enables you to maintain coherency between developers and IT support. There are specialized tools to help you track the quality of work, enjoy multiple training programs, and of course, the entire engineering and testing platform will be in your grasp. Starting at $2,999 per user, this package is offering Test manager support, Package management, including Private pipeline.
On a different note, you could also check out the Visual Studio App Center quite useful for organizing the entire workflow across multiple technologies. Developers now have the ability to automate app packaging through Github or Bitbucket, you could even add integration for various testing to check for crashes, as well as for tracking analytics.
Visual Studio Online:
The online version enables you to set up recurrent integrations on any platform you’re currently working, by altering codes real-time and adding them to the main source. Oftentimes, this version has proven itself to be the best interest among developers working with Xamarin programming language.
Shifting from Android or Xcode to Visual Studio:
Fortunately, with a not-so-steep learning curve, developers could easily catch up with Visual Studio if they are willing to shift from Android or Xcode simply because there are similarities between the platforms.
Xcode, on the other hand, is perfectly compatible with other source codes of the most common platforms, currently used for coding. If you are frequently using CloudKit, then be aware that Xamarin and Visual Studio, both allow CloudKit integration. In terms of usage and flexibility, both tools are simple with a remarkable level of service. However, the latter is favored among companies employed 1000+ employees. As you may have already read about Visual Studio Online, saying how the stack is powerful enough to calculate multiple variables in seconds!
Considering how mobile interfaces have become important, Xcode and VS are tied, but Android.studio has fallen behind in terms of their testing capacities.
It’s true that the majority of the business owners are considering Xamarin, simply because the stack is enabling them to save more of their time since the same coding is applicable across other platforms.
Xamarin has brought about huge possibilities for corporations due to a generalized UI for all platforms covering almost 90 percent. However, the case is completely the opposite of interfaces with heavy graphics.
The term UX (or user experience) is used a lot these days. It’s a relatively new term for businesses to get used to, but not new to the tech industry in general. But what actually is it? What does it really mean, and why should you care?
User experience is defined as: “the overall experience of a person using a product such as a website or computer application, especially in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use.” It encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with your company, your services, and your products. The first requirement for creating and maintaining an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without any hassles.
What does that mean for you?
Using the above definition as a guideline, you can understand why UX is so vitally important to you and your business. Providing a good user experience is of the utmost importance if you are going to attract and maintain customers. It is at the crux of providing them with value and delivering it in a seamless and effectively pleasing way.
Here are some things you might like to consider:
- A report by Forrester Research showed that every dollar invested in UX generates around $100 dollars in return.
- It’s much more expensive to gain a new customer than to keep a current one.
- 95% of users think that good UX pays off, (if it’s users you want, their opinions count!)
A better return on your investment, higher conversion rates, and increased sales aren’t the only benefits gained from providing enhanced user experiences.
- Increased user satisfaction – By making your customers happy, you will inspire loyalty and longevity. Furthermore, you will boost the number of referrals you receive through word-of-mouth. Today’s users expect more–give it to them and reap the benefits, time and time again.
- Reduced costs all around – Getting to know your users means you will be able to provide them with exactly what they want. This knowledge gives you insight into what they need and the problems they are having. In turn, you will be able to market to them more effectively and spend less money chasing them.
- Gain a competitive advantage – Sure, more and more businesses are upping their game when it comes to UX. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make YOUR users’ experience a great differentiator in what is possibly a saturated market. Who wouldn’t be keen to stand out above the competition this way?
So you see, with information like that, you can’t really argue the fact that there are plenty of reasons for you to look into your business’s UX.
You don’t have to be a UX expert.
Not many people know all there is to know about UX. It requires deep knowledge across a specific skill set that integrates design, curiosity, psychology and experience. But just because you aren’t an expert in those areas doesn’t mean someone else isn’t. It’s wise, though, to take your time in choosing a UX partner that really knows their stuff.
Effective and successful execution of user experience takes an investment of time, thought and money, but can you really afford NOT to?
When designing a website, put yourself into the position of the visitor of your website.
- Why do they come to your website?
- Can they see what they are looking for?
- Can they find it easily?
- Is there enough information available to them?
Finding answers to these questions is key when starting off with your website design. It only takes seconds for people to make up their mind about whether or not your website looks interesting enough for them to check out your content. Let’s have a look at how you can make sure your website aligns with your website visitors’ needs.
Who are you? What do you do? What are you offering? What products and/or services are you providing? Make sure this information is clear, concise, and at the top of your webpage so visitors don’t need to scroll up and down and search for this information.
What value or benefits are you bringing your potential new customers (also referred to as value proposition)? Why should they buy from you? How will they benefit from buying your product(s) and/or service? How will it make their lives easier?
Answer these questions and create another clear and concise message displayed at the top of your webpage. There should be no doubt why people would want to buy your service or product.
Your website’s visitor likes what you are offering and the benefit they are getting from you. The next question that is very likely to pop into their mind is “What will this cost me?” The pricing information, including different options, should be easy to find.
What makes you unique and special? Why should people buy from you and not your competitors? What sets you apart from the rest? This is your chance to convince potential customers that you are the right choice. Make your point of difference stand out, and you can be sure the visitors will remember YOU.
Allow your customers to give feedback about your products and services. Ratings, customer reviews, testimonials, awards, recognition, and your social media presence all influence a buyer’s decision. Finding “proof” that your product or service has been purchased and the quality appreciated by others increases your chances of making a conversion.
If your company is relatively new, incorporating the following information will help you in building trust and credibility:
- company’s address/physical location
- a separate “Contact Us” page including your company’s phone number and email address and any other contact options such as chat
- company policies such as product return information, money-back guarantee, etc.
- a professional-looking website with properly working links
In closing, there are three useful tools that can help you dig deeper into what the visitors of your website are looking for.
This is a free Google service which provides you with a ton of information. For example, it allows you to track the search terms of Google users that led them to your website. It can also give you an idea of the particular information users are looking for when they get through to your site.
This is another free Google service that helps you identify your best content. You will be able to tell which content generates the longest average time users spent on your webpage. You then get the chance to compare the content that performs better with that which performs worse, and improve the underperforming segment as needed.
A/B testing lets you compare two versions of a webpage and allows you to determine which one performs better. You can test the effectiveness of features like images, headlines and colors. You can see which ones get the most attention, generate the most clicks and/or interaction on the different website versions.
Remember you only have seconds to impress the visitors of your website. When creating or updating the content of your webpage, bear in mind above mentioned key points to keep you on track with your website’s visitors wants and needs. Use the tools available to get the relevant data and see if it matches your assumptions. Make sure your visitors want to check out your content, buy your service or product and come back for more.
What do you do if you hear about a company, business or service that you are interested in learning more about? You guessed it. You google it. But you cannot find them online, so you start wondering… do they really exist? How can you find out more? The Yellow Pages? Talk to people who know about them? Drive past the company to check them out in person given you know their location/address? Too much time, too much effort, too much hassle. For many, if they aren’t able to find what they want online, they will forget about them as quickly as they heard about them.
Living in a world where we constantly check information online, you can easily see why investing time and money in a website is incredibly important. Let us give you 10 reasons why it will be worth it.
1 Be visible
Since the majority of people don’t just like to look up information online, but also like to buy online, how will they find you and buy your services and products if you do not have a website? For small business owners, it should be interesting to note that search engines, such as Google, are largely focusing on local results. Therefore, it should go without saying that getting a website up and running is crucial to business.
2 Gain credibility
A website doesn’t just make you visible, it also lets people decide if you are trustworthy and if they would like to do business with you. A professionally done website that features your company’s history, information on you and your staff, the board of directors for bigger companies, certifications, business partners and testimonials help to instill confidence in your business and what you are offering as well as the credibility of your business.
3 Reach your target audience
Rather than being limited to the people of a small geographic area finding their way to your store, you can potentially reach billions of people in an instant. You get the opportunity to grow and expand your customer base in a faster and easier way.
4 Be competitive
Your competition has a website. People can search for them and find them. Your competition is accessible to the customers, whereas you are not if you do not have a website. You are losing sales and missing out on growing your business. Do you really want to let this happen?
5 Be available 24/7
If you do not have a website, you need to rely on customers coming to your store during opening hours. On top of that, if they do come to your store, they may not even be buying anything from you. Having a website means your customers can find you any time of the day, anywhere around the world. They can contact you and buy from you in the comfort of their own home, even if it is 3 a.m. in the morning.
6 Save costs
Websites are easier to setup and maintain than a lot of people think. If you hire someone to design it for you or if you try to have a go at it yourself, once it’s up and running, you are able to reach an entire new audience and maintain it at a relatively low cost. It is one of the most effective advertising, marketing and sales tools you could ever have. Always remember though to check out your competition’s online presence and to update your website with the latest information on your products and services.
7 Grow your revenue
Since a website allows you to reach a market that you would never be able to reach otherwise, it is safe to say that the only direction, for your sales to go is up! What you really want is not just customers that make a one-off purchase, but for customers to come back and keep buying from you. Your website can help you turn potential customers into loyal ones. From letting people sign up, to a regular free newsletter, to subscriptions and exclusive promotional offers – you choose which means you would like to use to keep your customers interested and have them coming back for more.
8 Be more efficient
Having a website means you can save time. Just to give you a couple of examples: sending out emails to your customers takes seconds. Imagine if you had to post letters! Updating information on your website, depending on how much content needs updating, only takes a few minutes. Creating a new brochure or flyer would not just take a considerable amount of more time but also money.
9 Gain a better idea of what your customers need
There are different ways to find out what your customers are looking for, or how happy they are with your service and/or your products. You can use online forms, questionnaires and surveys or you can use free tools such as Google Analytics. It allows you to gain valuable information ranging from who is visiting your website, how many of the viewers of your website bought something, to how much time they spent on your website. If you want to boost your sales, spending time on analyzing this data is a must.
10 Communicate better
A website enables you to answer questions through a Q&A section, forms and videos, etc. You can also help customers through an online support feature. New products and sales initiatives can be instantly advertised on your website. You can use social media to draw people’s attention to your offers by providing links to your website.
There are so many benefits to having a professional website. It is not just a way of showcasing who you are and what you are offering, but it is also a way of reaching millions of people at once, communicating with your customers, finding out what they want, being able to adjust to their needs. The result is an increase in your sales and business as a whole.