OXD illustration showing Cross Platform vs Native concept of 3 digital channels: desktop, tablet, and phone.

Cross-platform vs. native application development: How to choose?

Steve Ly, Director of Software Development at OXD, discusses the benefits of considering cross-platform technologies versus native solutions to optimize development efforts and enhance the digital experience for users.
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When organizations embark on the journey to create custom applications, they have to decide how they will support the application on different devices and operating systems. Organizations can develop their applications natively, using technology specific to one platform, or they can opt for technologies that function across multiple platforms. This cross-platform vs native debate comes down to weighing the advantages and disadvantages with each approach and deciding which works best for the organization.

At OXD, our approach is deeply rooted in prioritizing the needs of our clients and their users so our technology choices reflect this. We believe that for a majority of clients, using cross-platform technologies is the best approach in supporting all their user’s needs.

What exactly are cross-platform technologies?

Cross-platform technologies allow software developers, including our own development team, to build an application and deploy it seamlessly across various devices and operating systems using a single codebase. This differs from traditional native approaches where applications are built for a  specific device or operating system. Like these native applications, these cross-platform solutions can use features like push notifications and access to cameras or microphones. Essentially, cross-platform technologies offer much of the advantage of native applications while supporting much easier development and maintenance. 

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Why would you want to use this technology?

Cross-platform technologies offer a range of advantages over building device or operating system specific applications.

  • Cost effectiveness: Using a single codebase to target multiple platforms reduces the need to develop and maintain platform-specific versions of the applications. This greatly reduces the effort required by the development team.
  • Speed to market: Developing one application that can be used in multiple platforms leads to faster development time.
  • Developer knowledge: Typically these technologies are based on programming languages that are fairly common and not specific to that platform. Some even use standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript. This leads to easier resourcing for these projects as there is a larger talent pool to draw from.
  • Uniform experience: Using a single codebase has the added benefit of a consistent and uniform application user experience across different platforms.
  • Access to native features: These technologies have access to native platform features such as push notifications, geolocation, and camera, which makes it comparable to applications built specifically for a device.
  • Ease of maintenance and deployment: When working within a single codebase, it’s a lot easier to make updates and roll out changes to users across multiple devices and operating systems. This ensures consistency and lowers the overall maintenance effort.

Cross-platform technologies are very versatile when building applications but there are instances when it may not be a suitable technology choice.

  • Performance: The performance considerations for each cross-platform technology varies but in general, applications that require complex animations and graphics will perform better as native applications.
  • Device specific features: Cross-platform technologies strive to provide full access to device features but there is still a gap between what they offer versus what is available in native applications. 
  • Native user experience: While cross-platform technologies provide user interface (UI) consistency across platforms, native applications are built specifically for a device or operating system and therefore provide a more fluid and intuitive experience.
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Jetbrains State of the Developer Ecosystem 2023

With continued advancements in cross-platform technologies, the feature set gap between cross-platform and native approaches is getting smaller and smaller. The ability to target multiple platforms with a single codebase and reducing the development effort makes this approach much more attractive for a lot of our clients. 

Popular cross-platform technologies

The popularity of cross-platform technologies has increased alongside the proliferation of mobile devices. This has also led to increases in the number of cross-platform solutions available for developers to use. The list below is just a few of the options available in the market while the first two are examples we've used in projects for our own clients. 


This framework creates desktop applications for Windows, MacOS, and Linux using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript. It powers popular desktop applications like Visual Studio Code, Slack, and Figma. WhatsApp and Slack are examples of Electron applications. The courtroom digital service we built for the Alberta government is also an Electron application.


Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are essentially web applications that give an app-like experience to users. They are built with HTML, CSS, and Javascript and can be easily installed on devices without going through the device app store. Examples of applications built with PWA include the Starbucks app, Uber, and Pinterest. The Versatilis digital service we built for Honeywell is a PWA. 

Gartner’s 2023 Technology Adoption Roadmap lists PWA as a technology that has already been deployed or is in the process of being deployed in large enterprises. Engineering leaders cite that these applications provide a high level of enterprise value and relatively low deployment risks given the ease of deployment.


Flutter is a toolkit that supports building applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. It uses the Dart programming language and is favoured for its high performance and large native feature support. Although relatively new, Flutter still powers important applications such as Google Pay, eBay, and Etsy.

React Native

React Native is a framework built by Meta (Facebook) that allows for the development of mobile applications using Javascript and React. Applications built with React Native feel like native apps because they are compiled into native code. Not surprisingly, Meta’s products such as Facebook and Messenger are built with React Native. The Amazon app is also a React Native application.


Ionic is a framework for building cross-platform mobile applications on a single codebase. It uses standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript making it easy for web developers to learn. It has tight integration with popular Javascript frameworks such as React, Angular, and Vue, and has a wide range of components that mimic the mobile experience. Examples of Ionic applications include Sworkit, MarketWatch, and Diesel.

So, cross-platform vs. native application development: which will you choose?

When it comes time to evaluate and plan for your digital project, we suggest researching beyond native applications and also explore cross-platform technologies to see if they align with your business objectives and goals. They could be a good option to build a better experience for the people who’ll use your product or service.

As technology evolves, so too does our commitment to delivering innovative solutions.

Cross-platform technologies prioritize user satisfaction above all else. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more.