5 Skills Every Mobile App Developer Should Have in 2020

Mobile app development is a field that continues to change frequently and dynamically. As different trends, programming languages, tools, and frameworks become popular, mobile developers are forced to learn constantly. It isn’t easy, but it’s part of the job.

All of this begs the question: what sorts of skills should a developer have in 2020? Here’s a breakdown of some of the most in-demand skills based on recent trends and innovation in mobile development.

  • Being Able to Work with Native Code

It’s become clear and fairly undeniable in the world of app development that building an app with code that runs natively to the device is a better approach for many apps. In the not-too-recent past, many developers claimed that building a web or hybrid application that could run on mobile devices would save time. Over the years, with the advent of new development frameworks, it’s become clear that having code run native to mobile phones is a better way to go for most apps.

There are several reasons for this. The performance and speed of native code are better than non-native code. Having unnecessary delays and load times can significantly detract from user experience and make an app seem clunky and antiquated. 

Additionally, there are certain functionalities and features that can only be introduced into an app using native code. This particularly relates to features that use or interface with the hardware of the phone in a significant or unique way.

The big argument against native code in the past was that it isn’t time-efficient. However, this is no longer the case. There are many new frameworks that streamline the development cycle while developing an app that runs natively. 

Xamarin is one alternative that is becoming more popular. It’s a framework and environment from Microsoft that runs C# code natively to a mobile device. 

Perhaps the best and fastest-growing framework is React Native. Drawing from its predecessor, React, it provides a framework for developing an app in Javascript that can run on both Android and iOS devices. This leads us right into the next skill.

  • Cross-Compatible Development

While this might be somewhat controversial, as some still claim that developing apps for one platform at a time limits costs, the reality is that managing an Android and iOS app with one cohesive codebase often makes more sense today. In the past, firms would effectively develop three different apps: one web app, one Android app, and one iOS app. Any update or new feature would then have to be introduced on all of those codebases separately.

This is a very time-consuming, and unnecessarily tedious approach. A developer comfortable with a framework like React Native or Xamarin can deploy apps to different operating systems without creating three separate apps. According to TechCrunch, more clients are demanding cross-platform mobile apps today.

Many development agencies might not like the fact that this reduces their billable hours, as well as the amount they can reasonably charge for app maintenance, but it’s pretty clear that it’s often a better choice for the client.

  • Javascript

As most developers will confirm, the ubiquity and popularity of Javascript, particularly when it comes to mobile app development has grown substantially in recent years. This is primarily due to the creation of time-saving Javascript frameworks like Angular, React, and React Native. Developers should at the very least brush up on their Javascript skills if they want to adapt to the modern age of software.

Teaching an old dog new tricks isn’t easy, and many long-time engineers might be hesitant to dive into this programming language, but it will be harder and harder to fight the current as its popularity continues to grow.

As Forbes explains, Javascript is the number one most-used language on Github and this trend will only continue to increase.

  • Design and Communications

Surprised? Well, you shouldn’t be. Good app development doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

While many think all app developers are anti-social beings that never step out of their pajamas and never stop eating Cheetos, the reality is that in order to be a good developer in 2020, you have to have soft skills. Too many developers waste time exploring trendy technologies that have little to no relevance to the project at hand. Instead of understanding and communicating project goals to their team, they spend their time nerding out. 

A good developer can understand design thinking, marketing, communications as well as technology. Poor design makes for an app that isn’t enticing to use, and regardless of whatever technological components have been integrated, an app with no users helps no one. 

Moreover, developers must be able to communicate effectively with their team including designers, product managers, other decision-makers, and sometimes with clients.  

This is why soft skills are beginning to be taught at coding bootcamps, according to Fast Company.

  • Data and Analytics

Many developers also neglect considering important data when developing an app. Some can actively resist the efforts of designers to introduce features that are in line with market research and user testing. According to Digital Authority, if an app doesn’t address a pressing market demand, it might not be downloaded or used.

A feature that is very exciting for a developer to build, for example, might run counter to what the data suggests that the market wants. When this is the case, a good developer must acknowledge where the data points, and plan his or her efforts accordingly.

Knowledge of data and analytics is also necessary to build the various tools and make use of SDKs that allow for behavior tracking on an app. The ability to track specific conversions and track user behavior is key to data aggregation that informs a firm’s strategy in the future.

In conclusion, you might be surprised at some of the skills explained here. However, what it means to be a good app developer is continually changing. As the market evolves, developers must learn skills that are outside of their comfort zone.

Use the above skills when vetting technical talent or determining whether to work with a specific agency or not. Not sure where to start with your mobile app efforts? Check out this list of companies that are known for their app development and marketing skills.

Learning new skills is a normal and exciting part of being a technologist. Rather than getting discouraged by new trends and advancements, developers should get excited about picking up new skills and becoming a better version of themselves.


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