A review of Ionic Framework: pros and cons from a designer's perspective

Ionic Framework is a hybrid app development platform that uses Angular, Cordova, and JavaScript.

If you're a person with an app idea: Ionic Framework should be something you look into because you can launch your app on iOS and Android for less time and money. More users, quicker access to profit. Yay!

If you're a developer: Ionic Framework is great for transitioning your web development skills to app development. You already rock at JavaScript... why not use those skills to build a hybrid mobile app?

If you're a designer: you'll enjoy the prototyping tools and the extra control over the design process you get as a result. I love you, Creator!

I've completed two app projects using Ionic Framework now, so I thought it'd be nice to do a little pros and cons review. This is coming from my perspective as the UI/UX designer and overall project manager. I'm not a developer myself, but I enjoy working with developers to bring app ideas to life for my clients. On both projects, Ionic has been a great resource for all parties involved from the client, to the designer, and to the developer.

Pros:

  • Creator
    • A rapid prototyping tool built into the Ionic Framework? Yes please! Creator allows a designer to build out their wireframes and even add certain themes/styling elements with zero knowledge of code. The best part is that Creator allows the designer to export HTML and JavaScript for the developer to work off of later.
  • Ionic Market
    • Starters, plugins, and themes abound at Ionic Market. This helps streamline dev, especially when the designer can select and design the user interface and user experience around some of the resources offered at Ionic Market. Pricing is also reasonable, with most plugins costing between $10-$20.
  • Amaze-balls Blog
    • The team at Ionic does an incredible job updating and including their community. The blog has dozens of great video tutorials, product update announcements, and examples of apps that have successfully been built in Ionic.
  • Hybrid
    • Ionic allows the team to launch on both iOS and Android for a much lower cost than if the app were built natively on both platforms. Pretty sure all of my clients love saving money!

Cons:

  • Launching on 1 while 2 is in beta
    • When I was working on the Skin Saver app, Ionic 2 was just coming out. It's always a tough decision whether to build a new app on a system that is still in beta. We ended up choosing to build on Ionic 1 with tools that would make migrating over to 2 easier in the long run. When we're ready to migrate, this will, unfortunately, be an additional cost to the client, but these kinds of decisions are probably going to prevalent regardless of the platform.
  • Custom transitions/animations (the lack thereof)
    • Ionic is NOT a good choice for developing games or highly complex apps. There aren't a lot of built in tools for highly advanced graphics or highly interactive transitions. Apps like this should be built natively, not on Ionic.
  • Hybrid
    • Yep, this is both a pro and a con. Hybrid is great for saving money, but you'll encounter slower performance since it's not native. The app will feel a bit more like a mobile themed website than a fully custom app.

Overall, I'm really impressed with Ionic Framework. Our go-to developer had this to say about Ionic:

Ionic is basically CSS and JavaScript snippets that help you build an app faster.
— Ben Buie, Buink Web Development

Learn more about Ben's biz here. Enjoy exploring Ionic!


Sick of missing the boat on your app ideas?