Flutter App Development Guide: All You Need to Know When Building a Project with Flutter
Flutter has proven to be an effective solution for creating cross-platform mobile and desktop apps, and during the last year also for web applications as well. Both startups and established companies confidently choose Flutter to build their products, when they need them to be nice-looking, user-friendly, and accessible across a wide range of devices and platforms.
The following guide will help you find answers to the final questions before getting into the development stage, weigh the pros and cons of Flutter and its competitive technologies, and examine real use cases of Flutter app development based on MobiDev’s experience.
Why Do Startups Opt for Flutter?
The main goal of startups is to win new customers in competitive markets in a short period of time. That’s why fast time-to-market, users and their needs should be the main focus in startup software development. Flutter meets these requirements with its flexibility and cross-platform capabilities. It allows a fast development process with code working consistently on Android and iOS, with minimal OS-specific problems. This is how startups get maximum coverage across different platforms and outrun competitors.
Why Do Enterprises Choose Flutter?
Building enterprise apps requires using a scalable technology that is more robust than the alternatives and that can serve in the long run. Flutter offers superior scalability due to its built-in hot reload feature, which effectively handles large codebases and provides robustness compared to alternative frameworks. It also provides convenient code and UI debugging tools that seamlessly operate on both platforms.
Also, enterprises are interested in developing the product on a single architecture using the same technologies, which doesn’t require hiring new specialists and spending additional funds. Today Flutter is the best solution for these tasks.
Top 4 Cases Flutter is Best Used For
Flutter is an extremely flexible technology that works well for a wide range of business cases. Let’s look at them in more detail.
Flutter cross-platform mobile app development
First and foremost, Flutter is a silver bullet for cross-platform app development, which is commonly used in three cases:
- If it is required to develop a mobile app within the short term. Like most cross-platform solutions, Flutter allows having a single codebase for all chosen operating systems, which greatly fastens the development process.
- If the app logic is frequently being changed. For example, when business requirements are dynamically adapting to the market. We had a case where the client addressed us with the proof of concept solution for iOS and Android. Having no documentation, but a focus group, he aimed to test the app’s concept before building a full-fledged system. We chose Flutter as an optimal solution allowing him to change the app’s logic dynamically.
- You need an app with a complex custom design. Flutter is particularly well-suited for projects that require a high degree of customization and complex animations.This is the best technology today in terms of complex designs. It also provides a fast development cycle and can be easily integrated with other technologies and third-party services.
Flutter for web app development
Since the Flutter code can be compiled into Webassembly for better security, it is possible to have the same codebase for Android, iOS, desktop and the web version of an app. From our experience, Flutter is the best fit for web applications in the following cases:
- When porting some mobile apps into the web because of almost 100% code sharing.
- When having complex and unusual web interfaces (like editors, IDE, etc.)
- When it is required to create an extensive functionality for complex enterprise solutions within a short period of time.
Flutter 2.0, released in 2021, made the framework the only cross-platform non-HTML-based technology that officially supports the Web out of the box and provides the same development capabilities for other platforms.
Web capabilities in Flutter 2.0
Flutter, unlike other web technologies, can work not only through the DOM but also through its own render engines (CanvasKit, HTML renderer), greatly simplifying the creation of unusual and non-standard web applications with complex UI/UX. The development of such apps previously required significant development time. Also, Flutter has a huge library of UI components (Widgets) that significantly reduce the development budget.
Flutter 3.10, released in May 2023, has a useful set of features and improvements, yet the Flutter roadmap and strategy document proves that the team involved in this open-source project will have to work on the interoperability to simplify Flutter adoption in web projects.
Applications that require high stability
Certain projects in finance, healthcare, transportation, eCommerce, and other areas require high stability. Flutter provides this by compiling code into CPU-specific ARM code and using its own rendering engines. As a result, Flutter apps maintain a consistent interface even after OS updates or system customizations.
Flutter also ensures version compatibility and consistent API and development approaches. This allows code written in previous versions to be reused in new apps, unlike many other technologies that may drop support for older versions. As a result, high stability keeps applications running smoothly.
Fast MVP development
Flutter is an excellent option for MVP development due to its unique features that enhance developer productivity. For example, with Hot Reload, changes in the code don’t require a complete app reload.
As Flutter’s widgets are immutable, only the screens being actively worked on undergo the reloading process. This efficient approach can potentially reduce development time by approximately 30% according to our calculations.
Watch the MobiDev demo to see an example of how Flutter’s capabilities can reduce the development cycle.
As was already mentioned, Flutter works great when the business logic changes frequently due to changing requirements. If you are not sure about the final vision of the product, Flutter will allow you to make a minimum of changes for different platforms, enabling you to work with and update only one code base.
Top 3 Cases When Flutter isn’t the Best Choice
Although I don’t want to make you doubt the chosen tech stack, it’s important to realize that any technology has limitations that can affect scalability and growth. Therefore, it’s essential to verify if choosing Flutter is the right decision for your product implementation. There are some cases where Flutter isn’t the best choice for a project. Let’s find out why.
Apps with native-dependent functionality
Flutter provides access to native device features like the camera and geolocation but can’t provide access to all the native functionality that your app may require. If you strive to build a product with native-level features and want to avoid resource-intensive apps with a large footprint, it’s better to tap into native Android or iOS app development services.
In scenarios where core functionality varies based on the platform or operating system, such as background work or supporting sound playback when the app is minimized, it may be more convenient to develop two separate applications.
However, if the business logic remains the same or these are not key features, Flutter can be a valuable solution. It offers seamless integration with third-party tools, enabling you to overcome these challenges and achieve your desired functionality. At MobiDev, we had the experience of developing such a solution with Flutter (see Case Study #2 below).
Augmented Reality (AR) solutions
Augmented reality (AR) engines function differently depending on the platform, and Flutter can’t guarantee platform-independent logic. For AR app development, building separate native applications can offer advantages in terms of productivity, cost-effectiveness, and maintenance. This approach ensures a more streamlined development process and better compatibility with platform-specific AR engines, enabling optimal performance.
Limited web capabilities
While Flutter provides a number of tools for web application development, its web support is still in the early stages and may not be suitable for all cases. Stability issues can arise, and it may not be the best choice for websites where SEO or content sharing on social networks are priorities. However, it works well for web apps like collaborative and editing tools (see our Case Study #3 below).
Also, Flutter has limitations for certain cases, such as creating web games, due to its 2D nature and performance degradation when used with many moving objects. The upcoming Flutter 4 release will introduce a new rendering engine for 3D models, potentially addressing these limitations.
Finally, if your team consists of experienced React Native developers or uses another cross-platform technology and you plan to maintain the application in-house, there may be no need to switch to Flutter.
Some Flutter Alternatives
Let’s consider Flutter against the background of other popular cross-platform technologies, React Native and Native Script, to evaluate the technology impartially.
As you can see, Flutter wins on all criteria. About 80% of cross-platform applications developed by MobiDev are implemented with Flutter.
In our experience, Flutter is chosen by product owners who are focused on the end-user experience, while its closest competitor, React Native, is more often the choice when the client has a team of React Native developers to support the product in the future.
Our Case Studies for App Development Using Flutter
Let’s look at more cases in MobiDev’s portfolio to illustrate how Flutter app development helps to meet customer needs. The cases will be followed by comments from MobiDev Flutter developers who worked on the projects.
Case Study #1: Designing a Mobile CRM with Flutter
The client’s request was to create a mobile application for both iOS and Android and integrate it into the existing infrastructure, which included existing web and mobile applications. The app had to cover a part of the existing web functionality.
The key tech challenges:
- Deliver an app within strict deadlines
- Implement complex CRM logic on mobile
1. Deliver an app within strict deadlines
The client had clear deadlines for the release of the first version of the application. Therefore, when choosing a technology, we focused on the speed of development of each option. Flutter became a great choice and allowed us to develop the product the fastest among stable and scalable cross-platform frameworks and deliver the product within the deadlines. It took us only 3 months to release the first version.
2. Implement complex CRM logic on mobile
The application was developed as a mobile version of a web product, so the team had the task of transferring all the complex logic of the CRM system with the ability to manage jobs, track contacts, create estimates, send invoices, etc. on mobile platforms.
The system has a large number of roles with criteria for these roles which needed to be conveniently displayed in the mobile application as well as the entire workflow.
Flutter’s built-in capabilities, such as style management and UI tools, made it easier and faster to implement this logic. For the architecture design, we separated UI and business logic. Flutter developers created classes to communicate with the server side along with using asynchronous programming with futures. It brought us the ability to code “page templates” and speed up the development of application screens.
You can learn more about the business part of the project here.
The main advantage of Flutter compared to other technologies is that it significantly speeds up the development process of a software product, and therefore reduces the cost of this development for the client. In this project, Flutter allowed us to create a multifunctional cross-platform application that allows users to experience the same wonderful experience as when interacting with the web version. At the same time, we significantly saved time on development because Flutter provides the same UX on iOS and Android.
Case Study #2: Building a Mobile Version of an Existing Web App using Flutter
The main task of the project was to develop a mobile application and integrate it with the existing website. The project is an app for learning Spanish.
The key tech challenges:
- Create a completely custom design
- Implement background audio playback
1. Create a completely custom design
We developed a completely custom design of the application with almost no use of Material design. Also, the application has several mobile themes that allow users to customize the interface.
Since Flutter provides an easy solution to UI problems of any complexity, we were able to successfully implement all interactive transitions and animations in a cross-platform environment.
2. Implement background audio playback
The task of creating an impressive UX in a listen-only environment occupied a key place in the client’s vision. The user had to switch to listen-only mode and listen to educational records in the background. The developers have created a special setting that allows users to lock down the app so they don’t accidentally tap on something to interrupt the playback.
This was a challenging task because, at the time of creating the application, Flutter did not have the appropriate plugins to implement this. Therefore, the development team created a custom audio plugin from scratch. The offline mode involves the SQLite plugin for Flutter as well.
The concept of libraries in Flutter is its strong side. There’s no “magic” hidden inside. Even when using an external lib, engineers keep full control and the ability to adjust it. Moreover, sometimes there’s a need to develop our own libraries with custom functions as we did in this case.
Case Study:Flutter-Based App for Learning Spanish
Case Study #3: Web Application Development Using Flutter
The product is a project management tool. Since the client already had a cross-platform mobile application, and the request was to support the web version, the capabilities of Flutter for web perfectly met this business need.
The key tech challenges:
- Implement a web version of existing mobile application
- Provide the same UX for web and mobile
- Ensure a high level of performance and security
1. Implement a web version of existing mobile application
The capabilities of Flutter allowed us to reuse existing code to speed up the development process. We have updated the product to the latest version of Flutter with web support.
However, since at the time of writing the project, the possibilities of Flutter for the web were very limited, the development team often had to write new custom modules to implement the business logic embedded in the mobile version. The plugins that were used for mobile did not always support the web. Therefore, the development team had to do a lot of work on customization and adjustment of the existing code to the web, including a redesign of some screens.
2. Provide the same UX for web and mobile
Ensuring the same user experience on all platforms was the fundamental task of the project and at the same time the most challenging part. It was necessary for the navigation to work equally well on web and mobile. But Flutter for web cut some functionality, so developers created a custom library for navigation and additional solutions to reproduce the normal behavior of the web. For example, by default, reloading the page crashed the entire operation of the app, which was unacceptable for such a feature as a time tracker.
The built-in time tracker had to work synchronously with all users who have access to the mobile application. Real-time communication was implemented using Web Sockets, but it worked differently on the web and mobile versions. This required a change in approach from Flutter developers to work with existing libraries and write custom plugins, the details of which are under NDA.
3. Ensure a high level of performance and security
Performance on the web is much more sensitive than on mobile and this required additional efforts from the development team to ensure its high quality. We had to refactor the code of the mobile application to adjust it to the web. This made it possible to improve the speed of loading pages and executing requests.
User authorization was also implemented through a custom solution to ensure an adequate level of security for sensitive data such as contacts and projects’ information.
Flutter can’t yet cover all the requirements of a standard web application, but in this project the choice of this technology was justified, as it was much faster and safer to use the same code base. Our experience has helped us eliminate all challenges and create a true product ecosystem using customized solutions. At the moment, the project continues to develop and is a great illustration of using Flutter technology for web application development.
Migration to Flutter from Other Technologies
In addition to the specified cases where Flutter is chosen to develop an application from scratch, we also have experience rewriting an application into Flutter from older technology. For example, in this case, the product was developed in NativeScript but later migrated to Flutter. The choice was made in favor of Flutter because it provides the best performance that is almost at the same level as the native and is being actively developed.
Hire Flutter App Developers at MobiDev
As you already know the use cases of Flutter for application development, we’ll explain how our team can assist you in building cross-platform solutions. MobiDev has an expert team of Flutter developers who know all the ins and outs of mobile cross-platform and web app development. We follow a consultative approach and try not only to code software but also to help our clients choose the right tech and business direction. It involves a basic business analytics stage to prioritize features and make sure the final product will meet market needs.
Whether you need to create a Flutter app from scratch, complete ongoing development, add new functionality or integrate a new solution into the existing infrastructure, we’ll be happy to become your Flutter app development partner. Contact us to allocate a development team for your project and embark on your Flutter app development in no time.