Create Native-Like HTML5 Apps With Ionic Framework

HTML5 hybrid apps have already made their mark in the mobile app industry. They are not only easy to develop but also requires quite less time as compared to their native counterparts. Before 2011, when the mobile rendering speed was painfully slow, the HTML5 apps were looked down upon by the native app developers. iOS and Android provided them with MVC framework, UI library, APIs and SDK and naturally, native apps were far superior. However, with mobile rendering speed touching new heights and better performance of JavaScript, HTML5 apps are now high on performance. With frameworks like Ionic, HTML apps can now match the native apps in terms of look & feel as well as feature-set.

Ionic is a front end HTML framework which is designed to build HTML5 mobile apps. The framework is built on top of Angular JS and Cordova and aims to bridge the gap between Hybrid mobile apps and Angular JS web apps. One of the USPs of Ionic is that it integrates the services that include analytics and push notifications. If you are a master of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript already, all you need to do is to go through the Cordova docs and you are ready to develop your own mobile app.

Taking the advantage of Cordova which is itself a game changer, Ionic lets you build robust HTML5 apps with almost negligible compromise in the performance. Ionic must not be seen as an alternative to Cordova. It is in fact, a UI library that provides all the tools and services to build the apps. In the subsequent sections, we will delve deeper into the world of Ionic and how other technologies conjure up to built feature-packed hybrid HTML5 apps.

What Purpose Does Ionic Framework Serve?

We are already building HTML5 hybrid apps with the help of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and frameworks like Angular Js, Cordova, and PhoneGap, so where does Ionic fit in? To find an answer to this question, we will have to go back to the era, when front-end frameworks were not in practice. The developers had to lay down the code from scratch for every project and also optimize the web apps for each major browser.

This is the time when frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap kicked in to bridge the gap between websites and web apps. It is not that Ionic is a point-to-point replica of Bootstrap for mobile app development, but more or less, it aims to serve a similar purpose in the context of mobile apps.

Markup and Style Presentation

Ionic is built around HTML5 and CSS, giving full control to the developers in terms of design patterns. There is ample CSS code in Ionic to let it stand on its own, however, the developers have the provision to add their own CSS in order to enhance the style. The default properties can always be overridden with new ones. The variables in the code can be easily customized owing to the fact that code is written with SASS(Syntactically Awesome Style Sheet). It offers features that are not available in even CSS. There is complete scope for the developers to create an app that does not resemble any pre-existing design pattern and comes up with apps that is ideal for the brand.

Application Scripting

It is not only the well documented and customizable markups that Ionic is all about. With JavaScript design patterns, it is possible to build apps that offer rich functionality akin to the concepts of Android, Windows and iOS. The idea is to let the developers create apps which exhibit strong UI interactions that are usually seen in the native apps. Some of them include navigation controllers, side menu which is possible only by doing away with the URL bar and bringing in the view controller concepts that are powerful.

Ionic offers similar functionality for Angular JS that Android UI elements and iOS UI Kit provides for Swift and Java respectively. The developers are provided with ready made mobile UI components which implies that the developers do not need to build the common UI elements and focus on app development instead. The UI elements that are provided out of the box include tab bars, list views, action sheets and stateful navigation.

Major Components of Ionic Framework

Angular JS

Ionic is built on top of Angular JS and uses its MVC architecture for creating apps for mobile devices.

Cordova Plugins

Ionic makes use of the APIs provided by Apache Cordova in order to access the native functions of the mobile devices. JavaScript is used to access these native device functions.

CSS

There are CSS component in Ionic so as to give a native look and feel to the HTML5 apps that you build. The developers can override the default styles and give the app a unique look and feel.

Command Line Interface

A CLI (Command Line Interface) comes with Ionic framework. It is a NodeJS component that takes commands for building, running and emulating the apps and executes them.

View

The Ionic view is a component that lets the developers upload the apps on native devices for testing purposes.

JavaScript Components

All the elements of a mobile app cannot be covered by HTML and CSS alone. The JavaScript components of Ionic extend CSS in order to cover all the mobile elements so that the app that is developed is complete in all respects.

License

Ionic has been released as an Open source program and hence, comes under MIT license.

Pros and Cons of Using Ionic For Hybrid Mobile App Development

As already elaborated, Ionic tends to bridge the gap between web apps and HTML5 apps that resemble native ones. Here, we will examine some of the advantages and limitations of Ionic Framework.

Pros:

=> As Ionic works with Cordova Plugins, apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone etc can be packaged easily, thus saving a lot of time and resource.
=> Ionic provides the developers with an app setup with layouts. It makes it easy for them to start on the app development process.
=> The framework is in constant state of improvement and is bound to get better with each passing day.
=> Ionic lets you build apps in small modules, hence, it is easy to maintain and update these hybrid apps.

Cons:

=> The browsers cannot give the accurate information about the device and this is why, the testing process of apps becomes a little problematic. As there are a number of devices on which the apps need to be tested, it becomes time-consuming.
=> There are certain plugin compatibility issues that crop up when you combine different native functionality. Build errors are caused due to the incompatibility with some of the plugins and are hard to remove.

Hybrid App development using Ionic becomes a lot easier as the developers get an app layout to work on and customize it. HTML5 Hybrid app development is changing at a rapid pace and with the emergence of frameworks like Ionic, it is getting closer to native apps in terms of functionality, navigation, look and feel and speed. Those web developers who dream to become an app developer now have a great tool to make their dream come true and that is Ionic.

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