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A Guide to Flutter App Development: Getting Your App Running

Hive team posted on July 6, 2023

flutter app development

Flutter, an open-source UI toolkit developed by Google, has revolutionized the way software development teams create visually stunning and high-performance applications for various platforms. Right now, Flutter is on the top 10 list of the most popular development frameworks, reflecting its wide use among developers and the potential for improving the app development process. With its ability to build mobile, web, and desktop applications from a single codebase, Flutter has become a top choice for developers worldwide.

Together with our experts, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of Flutter app development and delve into the process of building apps using the Flutter framework. We will also iterate that the success of a Flutter project relies heavily on the expertise and skills of the developers involved in the project. Flutter's capabilities can be fully harnessed by experienced developers who are well-versed in the Dart programming language and deeply understand Flutter's architecture and best practices

Table of Content

  • What is Flutter?
  • React Native vs Flutter: How to Choose the Right Platform?
  • 10 Benefits of Flutter App Development and What Makes it Unique
  • The Drawbacks of Flutter to Keep in Mind
  • How Does Flutter Work Under the Hood?
  • When to Use and When Not to Use Flutter
  • How to Make and How to Install a Simple Flutter App
  • What are the Best Tools for Flutter App Development?
  • FAQ
  • Start Your Flutter App Development Journey with Hive

What is Flutter?

Flutter is an open-source UI toolkit developed by Google. It allows developers to build beautiful, natively compiled mobile, web, and desktop applications from a single codebase. Flutter uses the Dart programming language, also developed by Google, to create stunning and responsive user interfaces. With its rich set of pre-designed widgets and a highly customizable framework, Flutter application development experts can easily create visually appealing and high-performance applications.

Flutter's framework provides developers with a highly flexible and customizable environment. It offers a hot reload feature, allowing real-time updates to the codebase without restarting the application. This feature significantly speeds up the development process, enabling developers to iterate quickly and see immediate results as they make changes to the code. The ability to experiment and fine-tune the application's behavior and appearance in real-time enhances productivity and efficiency.

What is Flutterflow?

Flutterflow is a visual app builder that simplifies the process of building Flutter applications. It provides a drag-and-drop interface that allows developers to design UI layouts, add functionality, and generate Flutter code automatically. Flutterflow eliminates the need for writing complex code manually, making it a valuable tool for both beginner and experienced Flutter developers.

What are Flutter 2 and Flutter 3?

These are different editions of the Flutter application development framework. Flutter 2, released in March 2021, introduced web support, allowing developers to create Flutter applications that can run on desktop browsers. Additionally, Flutter 2 enhanced performance, reduced app size, and introduced new features such as null safety. Flutter 3 further refined the framework with improved tooling, enhanced stability, and added support for iOS 15 and Android 12. Each consequent experience builds up and improves upon the previous version of the platform.

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What are the top Flutter apps?

Flutter has gained popularity among developers worldwide, leading to the creation of numerous successful applications. Some notable apps that use Flutter include:

  • Google Pay
  • Reflectly
  • Hamilton Musical
  • Tencent Now
  • Nubank

These apps demonstrate the capabilities of Flutter in delivering high-quality user experiences across various industries.

React Native vs Flutter: How to Choose the Right Platform?

When deciding between React Native vs. Flutter, several factors come into play. React and Flutter are popular frameworks for building cross-platform mobile applications, but they differ in their approaches and underlying technologies. Our experts share hands-on experience providing a comparison of React Native vs. Flutter, including their benefits, drawbacks, and unique use cases.

Deep dive into React Native app development

React Native is a popular framework developed by Facebook that allows developers to build native mobile applications using JavaScript and React. It provides a way to write cross-platform code that can be compiled into native components,It provides a way to write cross-platform code that can be compiled into native components, resulting in efficient and performant apps for both iOS and Android platforms. Here are the key features of the frameworks:

Benefits of React Native:

  • Large developer community: React Native has a vast community of developers, which means there are abundant resources, libraries, and support available.
  • Code reusability: It allows sharing of a significant portion of code across different platforms, reducing development time and effort.
  • Native-like performance: The platform applications leverage native components and APIs, enabling them to deliver a native-like user experience and performance.
  • Live reload: React Native's live reload feature allows developers to see instant changes without rebuilding the entire app, resulting in faster development iterations.

Drawbacks of React Native:

  • Bridge communication: React Native relies on a bridge to communicate between JavaScript and native code, which can introduce performance bottlenecks in certain scenarios.
  • Platform limitations: The platform may lack access to certain platform-specific APIs or features, requiring developers to write custom native code or rely on third-party libraries.
  • UI customization: While React Native provides a wide range of UI components, customizing the user interface beyond the provided options can be challenging.

Unique features React Native:

  • Code sharing: React Native app development is an excellent choice for projects that require code sharing across different platforms, enabling faster development and cost savings.
  • Existing web developers: The usage of JavaScript and its similarity to React make it suitable for web developers who want to transition to mobile app development.
  • Rapid prototyping: Live reload feature, and extensive component library make it ideal for quickly prototyping and iterating on mobile app ideas.

Let’s explore Flutter

Comparing React Native vs. Flutter, we have to acknowledge the similarities between the two. However, there are considerable differences that create the debate around the benefits of React Native app development and Flutter app development:

Benefits of Flutter:

  • Fast development: Flutter's hot reload feature allows developers to see changes instantly, resulting in faster development cycles and increased productivity.
  • Single codebase: Flutter enables building applications for multiple platforms from a single codebase, reducing development time and effort.
  • Native performance: Flutter apps are compiled to native code, providing high performance and a smooth user experience.
  • Rich UI: Flutter offers various customizable UI components and widgets, allowing developers to create visually appealing and consistent interfaces across platforms.

Drawbacks of Flutter:

  • Smaller ecosystem: Compared to React, Flutter has a smaller ecosystem and community, which means fewer resources and libraries may be available.
  • Limited platform-specific APIs: Although Flutter provides a rich set of UI components, it may lack certain platform-specific APIs or features available in native development.

Use cases for Flutter:

  • Cross-platform development: Flutter's ability to build applications for iOS, Android, web, and desktop from a single codebase makes it ideal for projects that require multi-platform support and rapid development.
  • Custom UI designs: Flutter's extensive set of customizable UI components and flexibility in UI design make it suitable for projects that demand unique and custom user interfaces, such as branding-heavy applications or visually distinctive apps.

React suits projects with dynamic user interfaces or PWAs, while Flutter is advantageous for cross-platform development and projects requiring custom UI designs. The choice between React and Flutter ultimately depends on your needs and priorities.

10 Benefits of Flutter App Development and What Makes it Unique

Flutter application development stands out due to its unique ability to provide a single codebase for building high-quality native applications across multiple platforms. By leveraging the Dart programming language and its rich set of customizable UI components, Flutter allows developers to create visually appealing and powerful user interfaces. The framework's hot reload feature enables real-time code changes and immediate feedback, facilitating faster iteration and development cycles.

  1. Cross-platform: The framework allows developers to write code once and deploy it across multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, web, and desktop. This cross-platform capability significantly reduces development time and effort.
  2. High performance: Performance is commendable, thanks to its use of Dart and a highly efficient rendering engine. It enables smooth animations, fast loading times, and excellent responsiveness, contributing to a superior user experience.
  3. Older devices support: Flutter supports older devices, ensuring that applications built with Flutter run smoothly on various devices. This compatibility eliminates fragmentation issues and expands the target audience for an app.
  4. Reduced code development time: Developers can achieve faster development cycles by utilizing features like hot reload. Hot reload allows for real-time code updates, enabling developers to see the changes immediately without restarting the app.
  5. Widgets: FRich set of pre-designed widgets simplifies the process of building complex user interfaces. These highly customizable widgets provide a consistent look and feel across different platforms.
  6. Top-notch user experience: Flutter excels in creating visually appealing and responsive user interfaces. The framework enables developers to build apps with smooth animations, sleek designs, and intuitive interactions, resulting in an exceptional user experience.
  7. Hot reload function: Hot reload feature allows developers to make changes to the codebase and instantly see the results in the app. This rapid feedback loop greatly enhances productivity and facilitates iterative development.
  8. Cost: Flutter offers cost advantages by enabling the development of a single codebase for multiple platforms. This reduces the need for separate development teams and results in cost savings during the development and maintenance phases.
  9. Google as a guarantee of long-term support: Flutter is developed and maintained by Google, which provides developers with a sense of stability and long-term support. Google's commitment to Flutter ensures regular updates, improvements, and a thriving community.
  10. Elevated performance: High-performance capabilities result in apps that are faster and more efficient. The framework leverages GPU acceleration and renders UI components directly to the screen, leading to superior performance compared to other frameworks.
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The Drawbacks of Flutter to Keep in Mind

While Flutter offers numerous benefits for app development, it's important to consider some of its drawbacks:

  • Steep learning curve: Flutter requires developers to learn the Dart programming language and the Flutter framework, which may pose a learning curve for those unfamiliar with them.
  • Limited libraries: Although Flutter has a growing ecosystem of packages and libraries, it may have fewer options compared to more established frameworks like React Native.
  • Large app size: Flutter apps can have a larger file size than native apps due to the inclusion of Flutter's engine, which can impact app download and storage space.

How Does Flutter Work Under the Hood?

Flutter uses a layered architecture to provide a rich and flexible framework for building applications. It consists of four key layers: the Flutter framework, the engine, platform-specific embedders, and the host operating system. The framework layer provides APIs for building user interfaces, handling gestures, and managing state. The engine layer handles rendering, animation, and input events. Platform-specific embedders connect Flutter to the host operating system, allowing access to native APIs. Finally, the host operating system layer provides the necessary system services for running Flutter applications.

One of the unique aspects of Flutter is its use of widgets. Widgets are the building blocks of Flutter applications. They are like LEGO bricks that can be combined and customized to create the desired user interface. Flutter provides a rich set of pre-built widgets that cover a wide range of functionalities and design elements. When a Flutter application runs, it compiles the Dart code into a native ARM machine code that runs directly on the device's processor. This native compilation allows Flutter apps to achieve excellent performance and responsiveness, giving users a smooth and native-like experience.

To ensure consistency across different platforms, Flutter uses its own set of widgets that mimic the native components found on iOS and Android. This means that Flutter apps can have a consistent look and feel, regardless of the platform they are running on. The hot reload feature significantly speeds up the development process. It allows developers to see the changes they make to the code almost instantly without needing to restart the entire application. This feature enables developers to iterate quickly and fine-tune their app's user interface and functionality.

When to Use and When Not to Use Flutter

Flutter is an excellent choice for various app development scenarios. Use Flutter when:

  • Developing cross-platform applications with a single codebase is a priority.
  • High-performance UI and smooth animations are essential.
  • Rapid development and iteration cycles are required.
  • Building an app for multiple platforms simultaneously.
  • Google's long-term support and regular updates are desired.

Avoid using Flutter when:

  • The project requires extensive access to native APIs that are not yet supported by Flutter.
  • The team lacks expertise in Dart or Flutter, and the learning curve cannot be accommodated.
  • The app primarily targets a platform that Flutter does not support.

How to Make and How to Install a Simple Flutter App

Developing a Flutter app involves several steps that allow developers to create cross-platform mobile applications efficiently. Here is an overview of the process:

  1. Installation: Before starting with Flutter app development, you need to install Flutter and set up your development environment. The installation process involves the following steps:
    • Download Flutter: Visit the Flutter website and download the Flutter SDK appropriate for your operating system.
    • Extract Flutter SDK: Extract the downloaded Flutter SDK to a suitable location on your machine.
    • Set up Flutter's PATH: Add the Flutter SDK's bin directory to your system's PATH variable to access Flutter commands from anywhere in the terminal.
    • Verify Flutter installation: Run flutter doctor command in the terminal to ensure Flutter is correctly installed and check for any additional dependencies.
  2. Create a new flutter project: Once Flutter is installed, you can create a new Flutter project using the Flutter command-line tools or integrated development environments (IDEs) like Android Studio or Visual Studio Code. Run flutter create <project_name> command to create a new Flutter project.
  3. Develop the user interface: Flutter uses widgets to build the user interface. The Dart code generated during project creation contains a default widget structure. Modify the widget tree in the lib/main.dart file to define the UI layout, incorporate styling, and add interactivity. Flutter provides a wide range of pre-built widgets that can be customized and combined to create visually appealing interfaces.
  4. Implement application logic: Using the Dart programming language, implement the business logic of your application. This includes handling user input, making API requests, managing state, and performing any necessary computations or data manipulations.
  5. Test and debug: Flutter provides a rich set of testing and debugging tools. Use Flutter's testing framework to write unit tests, widget tests, and integration tests to ensure the reliability and quality of your app. Utilize the debugging capabilities offered by Flutter and IDEs to identify and fix any issues in your code.
  6. Build and deploy: Once the app development is complete, you can build the Flutter app for different platforms. Flutter supports building apps for iOS, Android, web, and desktop. Use the Flutter command-line tools or IDE integrations to build the app's binary or web artifacts. Deploy the built app to the respective app stores or web hosting platforms as per the desired deployment target.

By following these steps, developers can leverage Flutter's capabilities to create high-quality cross-platform mobile applications efficiently.

What are the Best Tools for Flutter App Development?

Flutter development is supported by a range of tools that enhance productivity, facilitate testing and debugging, and provide a seamless development experience. Here are some of the best tools for Flutter app development:

  • Visual Studio Code (VS Code): A lightweight and highly customizable code editor with extensive Flutter support, including IntelliSense, debugging capabilities, and useful extensions like Flutter and Dart plugins.
  • Android Studio: A full-fledged IDE built on IntelliJ IDEA, providing powerful Flutter integration, code analysis, refactoring tools, and an intuitive UI for building Flutter apps.
  • Flutter SDK: The Flutter SDK provides essential command-line tools for creating, building, and managing Flutter projects. It includes utilities like flutter doctor for checking system dependencies, Flutter run for running apps, and flutter build for creating release builds.
  • Flutter DevTools: A suite of performance profiling and debugging tools for Flutter apps. DevTools provides insights into app performance, memory usage, widget hierarchy, network requests, and more. It can be accessed from the browser or integrated directly into IDEs like VS Code and Android Studio.
  • Flutter Inspector: Built into Flutter's development tools, the Flutter Inspector allows developers to visually inspect and manipulate the widget tree, inspect widget properties, and diagnose UI issues during runtime.

These are just some of the tools that contribute to the robust ecosystem surrounding Flutter app development and help streamline the development process. Using these tools, Flutter application development experts can improve code quality and enhance the overall Flutter development experience.

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Is Flutter good for app development?

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What is Flutter app development?

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Why is Flutter best for app development?

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How much does it cost to develop a Flutter app?

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Will Flutter replace React Native and Xamarin?

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Start Your Flutter App Development Journey with Hive

In conclusion, Flutter app development offers numerous advantages, including cross-platform compatibility, native-like performance, and a rich set of customizable UI components. However, to ensure the success of your project, it is crucial to collaborate with a reliable software development partner. Hive is an excellent choice in this regard, as we possess the expertise and experience in Flutter app development. Our team can provide guidance, support, and a deep understanding of Flutter's capabilities to create robust and innovative applications.

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