iOS App Development Best Practices

Quick Note : iOS app development platform is the most trending hotspot for businesses and developers to create next-gen future-ready and scalable mobile applications. While there are many iOS app development tutorials and guidelines, they often miss the inside tricks. We will cover the iOS app development best practices that can help you improve your iOS app performance.

One of the many advantages of iOS app development that appeals to aspiring mobile app developers is the extensive collection of varied developer resources available to use. iOS platform is known for its priority to improve functionality, maintain consistency, and ability to standardize the entire mobile app development process.

There are more than 20M registered Apple users globally and the money these developers have made through App Store is more than $100 billion.

So, you can only imagine the demand and competition that beholds you as an iOS app developer in this global market. Following best practices for iOS app development will help you get an edge in the market, and deliver result-oriented, ASO optimized, and practical iOS app solutions to your clients.

Importance of iOS App Development Optimization

Trivia about Importance of Mobile App Optimization

71% of uninstalls happens beacuse of App Crashes– AppSamurai

Only 67% of bugs are reported in iOS.– Instabug

Imagine having the best iOS app for food ordering that has all the right features and an appealing UI too for attracting customers. Now, the app is as promising as it can get once your user gets in the app, but the app takes forever to load! Ordering food is something that has a higher sense of urgency and users do not want to waste time to get ordering. Hence, this will impact your app’s popularity negatively and users will uninstall your app for poor performance.

The same concept stands true for any kind of mobile app. You need to ensure a seamless mobile app experience for first appealing to your customers and then retaining their interest in the app too. Without wasting much time, let us go right into the iOS development best practices.

Pre-requisites of iOS App Development

iOS is Apple’s exclusive mobile app development platform that powers iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch hardware. As we know, Apple believes in having a closed and controlled ecosystem. To develop iOS apps, you need:

  • A Mac computer with the latest XCode version
  • Intel i5 CPU
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Disk Storage

Note: WWDC 2021- Apple announces app development possibilities (Swift Playgrounds 4 and new possibilities)with iPadOS15 with Swift Playgrounds.

iOS App Development Best Practices

So far, we have understood the importance and relevance of iOS app development. Without further ado, let’s dive right into exploring the best practices for iOS development:

  1. Think about backward compatibility
  2. Start with an MVP
  3. Organize Source File
  4. Prioritize the use of Apple Framework first
  5. Follow iOS app security best practices
  6. Focus on iOS app design
  7. Decide Code Architecture
  8. Utilize Package Managers
  9. Keep Models Immutable
  10. Setup proper Schemes for your app
  11. Consider automation tools
  12. iOS app testing best practices

ios app development best practices list

1. Think about Backward Compatibility

While making your iOS app compatible with the latest iOS version is necessary to keep your app updated and relevant, most developers forsake the importance of optimizing their iOS app for backward compatibility. By building a backward-compatible iOS app, you would open up your app to a range of broader audiences as it would help your app run on older iOS versions, subsequently older iOS devices.

Generally, the dilemma an iOS developer face is how to balance building an iOS app that follows the latest trends and has backward compatibility for the increased user base.

General guideline to follow iOS app development best practices in terms of backward compatibility mentions:

Consider how much money and time you are willing to spend making your app backward compatible. Measure the potential users it will give you and see if it is worth the effort and investment.

2. Start with an MVP

Like any general mobile app development best practice, iOS is no exception. If you are unsure, of the app you are developing or the features you think will be best fitted for your iOS app, do not commit to a full-scaled, operational iOS app just yet! Consider starting with an MVP first. MVP stands for Minimal Viable Product. It is a version of your iOS app with only the necessary features to be usable by an early set of customers/testers that can provide feedback that can help improve future developments.

Doing so will help you save up a lot of development time and cost by identifying core issues or changes in the initial stage of iOS app development rather than post-deployment where making such changes could be challenging and costly.

3. Organize Source File

One of the best iOS app development practices is to keep and maintain clean code. One of the most important clean coding practices is to keep your source file in order. In order to do so, you can come up with some common folder structure that you follow consistently throughout the project. This will help declutter and avoid the chaos of the several hundred sources files ending up in the same directory. An organized source file especially helps when you have larger scalable apps with multiple directories.

4. Prioritize the use of Apple Framework first

When you add an external dependency on your iOS project, it provides a quick and efficient solution for your particular issue for the time being. However, with the next iOS version update, your external dependency could/could not become obsolete or having compatibility issues. The gamble can be troublesome in most cases. Hence, having extensive knowledge and studying Apple’s extensive framework first for finding solutions to your problems is one of the best practices for iOS app development, rather than relying solely on external dependencies.

Pro Tip:  If there’s a feature that Apple’s extensive framework doesn’t have a solution for yet, make use of external dependencies but switch to Apple’s official API for that service, if it gets available with the latest iOS update.

5. Follow iOS app security best practices

Making your iOS app secure is not an added feature, it is an absolute necessity. Any random attack could lead to the loss of millions of sensitive data points of your customers that trusted you with their details, causing your business a severe loss. It is your responsibility as an iOS app developer to follow these iOS app development best practices for security to make your customers feel at ease, and protect their data against cyber-attacks.

Here are some stats that highlight the need of effective and immediate attention to improve security of your iOS apps:

38% of iOS apps have High-risk vulnerabilities

89% of vulnerabilities can be exploited via malware.

Malicious apps were accountable for half of the mobile threats back in 2019.– McAfee Threat Report

Now that we understand the importance of incorporating iOS app security best practices, let us dive deeper to understand them:

iOS App Security Best Practices

  • Write Secure Codes
  • Be vigilant with third-party integrations
  • Make use of authorized APIs only
  • Use tokens for session handling

1. Write Secure Codes

The first breach point for any app that an attacker would try breaking in with is bugs and vulnerabilities in the app code. They would attempt to reverse engineer your code and alter it. They only need access to your public app to do this. Hence, you should keep the security of your code as your focus from day one of your code writing, ensuring it is tough to break. Minify and obfuscate your code so attackers can’t reverse engineer it. Test it repeatedly and fix any minor bugs as soon as they catch your attention. Your code should be easy to update and patch as well.

2. Be vigilant with third-party integrations

Third-party frameworks are necessary evils. They offer some valuable resources that enhance your iOS app functionalities but most of them are vulnerable and loosely secured. One of the iOS app development best practices is to keep these third-party integrations updated to the latest stable version available at all times. Keep an eye out for ad libraries if you’re using any. Don’t disable ATS  (Application Tracking System) even if the integration persuades you to do so.

3. Make use of authorized APIs only

Unauthorized APIs can be loosely coded and can unintentionally give hackers some core privileges that they can and will misuse significantly. A good example is how caching authorization works. It helps developers reuse the information when making API calls, which eases the developer’s life to use the APIs. However, at the same time, it also gives attackers a possible loophole through which they can attack privileges. You should only use centrally authorized APIs for pushing maximum security.

4. Use tokens for session handling

Mobile app sessions last longer than desktop sessions, hence it becomes all the more difficult but important to lay down proper session handling practices for your iOS app. One pro tip for better session handling is to use tokens instead of device identifiers for identifying a session. Tokens can be easily revoked at any given time, which adds a layer of security if your device is stolen or lost. You should also make sure to enable data wiping from a lost or stolen device and enable remote log-off.

6. Focus on iOS app design

App design is as important as app functionality. You cannot abandon app design and create the most perfectly functioning app and then wonder why it isn’t selling or appealing to your target audience. App design is what makes your MVP-looking app a market-ready iOS app solution. There are many iOS app design considerations to develop a next-gen user-friendly and appealing iOS app. Here are some of the best iOS app development practices for app design that you should follow –

  • Design an app with a purpose in mind
  • Optimize the user flow
  • Discuss app development budget
  • Design for value addition

1. Design an app with a purpose in mind

Most mobile app designers, especially beginners often don’t have a clear sense of purpose when they start designing their iOS app. Most times, apps are designed and developed in a way that adheres to the latest iOS app trends, rather than with a problem-solution approach. This is a wrong practice that would lead to your app being any mediocre app on the app market. If you truly want to create the best app that provides a unique service or is easily distinguishable from the competition, you need to have a set of intentions and an overall purpose for your app through each step of the project.

Ask yourself questions about your iOS app design like:

  • How quickly can the vision for your iOS app be conveyed to your users?
  • How would it impact/improve the user’s life?
  • Why choosing a particular style over the other is justified.

2. Optimize the User Flow

A common mistake most iOS designers make is to skip over the process of planning their app’s UX architecture before starting their design work. User flow should be laid out even before deciding the wireframing as it helps define the app structure. User flow is necessary as it provides a logical navigation guide that helps understand the user journey through your iOS app and helps you set up chronological tasks or features in a way that is logically correct and easy to follow. Once you have the bigger picture clear, you can always fill in the colors with all the design aesthetics and other considerations.

3. Discuss app development budgets

iOS developers generally pay a lot of attention and time to decode the cost of developing an iOS app but often forget to account for the designing cost of their apps. This leads to iOS designers spending many hours and efforts to design features and UX patterns that end up being cut down due to budget constraints later on. Hence, it is ideal to first discuss and allot a specific budget for iOS app design processes. It helps designers understand their limitations and make the best use of the allotted budget for an efficient app design process rather than being frustrated later on.

4. Design for value addition

One of the iOS app development best practices is to understand that app design is a means to an end and not necessarily the result itself. This means that your iOS app design should be visually appealing but more importantly, it should support the core functionality of your app, bringing it out and making it easier for the users to understand. Having additional app design elements that don’t add any functional value will just increase the app size and disorient your users too. Your design should not overwhelm the actual content of your app. Make sure to design your iOS app in a way that is breathable, easy to navigate, and not overly complicated.

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7. Decide Code Architecture

Before writing your first line of code, know what code architecture you want to follow for your iOS app project. The right architecture will help ensure your app to be easier to comprehend, easily testable, reduce the line of codes, and reduce its overall maintenance cost. There are several architectures to choose from – MVC, MVVM, VIPER, and more. Having a clear sense of which architecture to use will help you write your codes more efficiently and work as a guide to help you with code refactoring that improves the overall quality of your iOS code.

Pro Tip: One of the iOS app architecture best practices is to study all the various available architectures and decide on the one that best fits the requirements of your iOS app requirements.

8. Utilize Package Managers

Talking about external dependencies, don’t be that iOS developer who manually integrates them in their iOS project. It wastes a lot of iOS app development time that could be repurposed for more efficient and important things. There are capable tools available to automate such processes; they are called Package Managers. Here are some top package managers for iOS that you can consider:

Choosing the right iOS package manager comparison table

Package Manager for iOS Key Features
Swift Package Manager Automates the process of downloading, compiling, and linking dependencies.
CocoaPods Centralized Dependency Manager
Hosts all Framework Specifications
Public Search Feature for easier access
Carthage Decentralized Dependency Manager
Open-source and built by Swift
Lesser Maintenance
Avoids Central Points of Failure
Difficult Project Discovery

9. Keep Models Immutable

Immutability in coding terms means your code cannot be modified after initialization. Since that sounds troublesome, most developers often ask why keeping immutable is a good iOS app development practice? Well, immutable models are immune to thread changes. If you work with mutable models, one thread could be trying to write to the model while another would be reading it, which could lead to a conflict and app failure or wrong action as a result.

By using immutable models, you know your code can’t be modified after initialization. Hence, your iOS app can easily have multiple concurrent threads without worrying about the reading of any unsafe value. This helps with the complex iOS apps that have many concurrent values or logics and are multithreaded.

10. Setup proper Schemes for your app

Schemes help Xcode differentiate user actions such as Run, Test, Profile, Archive, or Analyse. They help map out each of these various options to a target and build a configuration around them. Hence, you should pay attention to setting accurate and proper schemes for your iOS app. One of the iOS localization best practices is to pass launch arguments like the preferred language that the app must run in.

11. Consider Automation Tools for Continuous Integration

Automation is one of the iOS app development best practices that often is perceived as something unethical or unreliable method of getting a tedious task done. However, that is not the case. Automation helps you improve and maintain your code quality. Any successful iOS app has a continuous integration and delivery process streamlined. In this process, your code is integrated several times a day into a common repository, which is shared by a team of testers to detect problems early. There are many automation tools for iOS app development that can help you solve various app development problems.

Top Automation Tools for iOS

Automation Tools Jenkins Xcode Server Travis CI
Description Software Tool that allows continuous integration. Access source code repositories and configure bots to perform continuous integration. Distributed CI service for testing and building projects hosted at Github
Programming Language Java Ruby
Supported Languages Shell, Bash, Perl, Python, Powershell, Compiled Java Programs, Groovy C, C++, Objective-C, Objective-C++, Java, AppleScript, Ruby, Swift Android, C, C#, C++, Clojure, Crystal, D., Dart
System Control Full System Control Very Less System Control
Version Control SVN, GIT GIT
Platform Support Windows, Linux, Mac Linux, Mac

12. iOS app testing best practices

As we discussed earlier, iOS is limited to Apple devices and hardware. Hence, testing is a huge relief compared to Android testing best practices. However, this doesn’t mean that testing your iOS app for various purposes isn’t necessary. You should be aware of different types of iOS app testing and ensure you follow these testing practices in your iOS app development projects.

Manual and Automation Testing for iOS app development

Manual Automation
Using Device Using Emulator Automation Testing
System Testing Unit Testing Regression Testing
UIUX Testing Integration Testing Compatibility Testing
Field Testing UI Testing BVT Testing
Security Testing Performance Testing

Now that we have a quick overview of the various iOS app development tests, let’s quickly dive into the iOS app testing best practices:

iOS App Testing Best Practices

  1. Forget Emulators
  2. Capture the crash and console logs
  3. Use Screen Capturing

1. Forget emulators

Had we mentioned this for Android, we would have gotten a collective gasp from all mobile app developers. However, with iOS, this makes sense. While you can also use emulators to test your iOS app, it is always better to test on real iOS devices to check your app’s impact on network availability, battery consumption, memory allocation, usage performance, and more. Hence, you should try your app on real devices for as long as possible.

2. Capture the crash and console logs

Capture logs can play a vital role in identifying a mysterious circumstance under which your iOS app malfunctions or freezes up. Console logs give a consolidated overview of all apps on an iOS device. This information can be useful to see how your app impacts the overall hardware performance and resources.

3. Use Screen Capturing

It is always easier to understand the issue if it is visually represented. You should record the screen or take multiple screenshots of the issue for helping the development team understand the problem better.

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Wrapping it up!

You can refer to this definitive guide of iOS app development best practices, irrespective of your experience level to always brush up your skills and understanding of the iOS app development platform to these best iOS app development practices. Follow these guidelines and rules to minimize the chances of creating just another iOS app but creating a scalable, deployable, and marketable iOS app solution.

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    Ronak Patel

    Ronak Patel, the CEO of Aglowid IT Solutions, is a NASSCOM member and a published writer in top tech publications like DZone and Hacker Noon. With a background as a full-stack developer, he brings a wealth of technical expertise. Ronak's marketing acumen complements his technical skills, ensuring the delivery of innovative IT solutions that excel in the market.

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