Insurance Customer Experience: What Trends and Priorities Matter Most

How to Level up the Insurance Customer Experience

Insurance companies have made meaningful strides in the digital realm over the last decade. For example, many have improved apps and websites for policyholders. They now use analytics to assess risk, detect fraud, and segment customers. Insurers are adding automation to streamline and improve underwriting, claims processing, and customer service. At the same time, usage-based insurance and other innovative products are growing more common. To compete in this evolving industry, companies must continue to invest in digital transformation and improving the insurance customer experience (CX).

Top Priorities for Improving the Customer Experience in Insurance

Strategic leaders and product owners know the importance of the digital experience for insurance customers. It’s about winning new customers and keeping the ones you already have. To do so, digital channels must extend their services, not just explain or promote them. Best-in-class experiences feature: 

  • Self-service options
  • User-centered interactions
  • Connected digital channels
  • Personalized, data-driven experiences

Let’s look at how to master each one.

Empower Insurance Customers with Self-Service

Customers want easy-to-use self-service options for getting things done. Policy renewal and updates, claims processing, document management, and customer support should all be available online. Adding these tools reduces the workload for agents. As a result, customers will no longer have to wait for the next available representative. Instead, they can manage policies and claims anytime on-demand. 

Design User-Centered Interactions

Applying user-centered design across platforms is essential to a good insurance customer experience. For insurers, the goal is to simplify something that was historically complex. Every task should be straightforward, from filing claims online to checking policy details. When an incident occurs, customers are already stressed. The last thing you want to do is make them feel worse. 

Think of digital claims filing and tracking as a starting point. It’s good, but it’s not enough. The next step is to streamline these and other processes. Specifically, you need intuitive interfaces and clear navigation pathways that help customers manage their insurance needs. 

When building and updating digital products, prioritize what is best for the user. User research and testing will help you pinpoint and address friction points in the customer journey. Straightaway, these efforts will reveal insights for revamping products and services to elevate customer satisfaction.

Unify the Insurance Customer Experience

Businesses often have websites, customer portals, mobile apps, chat systems, and more. Each platform should have streamlined workflows and a consistent experience. Ideally, your customers will be able to move between them with ease. User experience designers can help ensure this ease of use and consistency across channels. Creating seamless customer journeys will also likely require automating internal processes, improving data integrations, and modernizing backend systems.

Personalize Customer Journeys and Products with Data Analytics

One-size-fits-all policies are a thing of the past. Today, insurers use analytics to study individuals and strategic groups. They can learn about customer needs, behaviors, and preferences. This data can help personalize everything from how customers interact with digital channels to the policies and services they receive. 

Businesses can use data analytics to tailor their offerings and recommend policy changes that benefit customers. Insurance companies can also use analytics to create and target customer segments with personalized offers and communication. For example, predictive analytics can identify customers at risk of policy lapse or who need alternative coverage options. With these insights, you can proactively engage customers and address their needs. 

Moreover, data analytics allows you to continuously optimize digital experiences based on real-time feedback and performance metrics. By analyzing how customers interact with each channel, you can uncover areas for improvement and refine your strategies.

Digital Trends in Insurance Customer Experiences and Products

We’ve previously covered some critical digital transformation and CX opportunities for insurance companies. But while optimizing your product today, you must also prepare for tomorrow. Understanding changing customer preferences, technology advancements, and regulatory changes gives you market agility. In short, it keeps you from playing catch-up. To that end, here are some insurance customer experience trends and offerings that excite us.

Usage-based Insurance (UBI)

UBI is gaining popularity. It is especially prominent in auto insurance, where premiums fluctuate based on the actual usage of the insured vehicle. This trend follows the rise of telematics and IoT devices that track how we drive.

Ecosystem Partnerships

Insurance companies are forming alliances with other industries to bundle services and create more value for customers. For example, companies may offer insurance coverage as part of a car purchase or home rental.

Prevention and Wellness

Insurers are increasingly helping customers prevent risk and improve their health and well-being. They offer wellness programs, discounts for healthy behavior, and other proactive risk management services.

Integrated Payment Solutions

Integrating payment methods into digital platforms is convenient for customers. Further, this strategy expedites premium payments, refunds, and claims payouts. Options include automatic bank withdrawals, real-time payments, and mobile payment apps.

Embedded Insurance

When insurance is embedded into transactions and products in other industries (e.g., retail, travel, automotive), paying for insurance products becomes part of the overall purchase experience. It becomes more integrated and less intrusive for the customer.

Pay-Per-Use Models

Similar to UBI, pay-per-use models adjust premiums based on the actual use of the insured asset or service, directly tying payment to risk exposure.

Achieve Lasting Success in Insurance

The checklist for great insurance customer experiences and products includes user-centered design, self-service, data-driven personalization, and interconnected digital touchpoints. Lasting success requires a comprehensive, forward-thinking strategy that prioritizes customer wants and needs. By doing so, insurance companies can meet evolving expectations and forge more substantial, meaningful connections, driving growth and success in the digital era.

If you want to level up your customer experience, Robots & Pencils can help. We work with leaders across industries to build high-impact digital experiences that create and accelerate business revenue. Complete our contact form or email to learn more.

2024 Kickstart: Our Top Resources for Business Impact

Revisiting our Most Valuable Tech Advice and Insights from 2023

AI has been a major focus over the last year, and more is still to come!

Bringing Intentionality to AI: Why today’s design methods fall shorts for LLMs and what to do instead
In this on-demand webinar, Executive Experience Director Tyler Klein challenges conventional approaches to user-centered design and explains why they fall short in Generative AI experiences. He instead proposes a new model for the design of emergent experiences.

Training Artificial Intelligence with Real Heart: Legitimize, Confirm, Reinforce
In this blog post, Client Strategy Analyst DJ Moody explores the challenges of designing AI chatbots. Drawing on lessons from the intersection of the sciences and the humanities, DJ shares three principles for training artificial intelligence to deliver personalized customer experiences.

Summoning the Ghost in the Machine: Intro to Prompt Engineering and Design
Watch this presentation to learn about prompt engineering, where creativity and ingenuity converge with cutting-edge AI technology to produce mind-blowing outcomes. Prompt engineering is a dynamic and rapidly growing product role that’s accessible to everyone, regardless of your technical background.

Unlocking AI’s Human Potential: Human First, Tech Second
This virtual summit on unlocking AI’s human potential featured our CEO Tracey Zimmerman and Executive Experience Director Tyler Klein together with guest speakers from Ingram Micro, Arizona State University, and Slack.

Our CEO shared her thoughts on the technology and business landscape.

CEO Report: Maximizing Impact and Future-Proofing Your Business in an Ever-Changing World
In the first of her blog post series, Tracey Zimmerman shares what she’s hearing and seeing in the marketplace, including the top factors influencing decisions and areas with the biggest opportunity for organizational impact.

From Chaos to Clarity: The Journey to Modernization
Join Tracey for a dive into digital modernization. Get tips on how to unify fragmented data and unlock hidden insights, to increase flexibility by addressing aging infrastructure, and prepare for the future by expanding interconnectivity in your systems.

Employee Efficiency Accelerators: The Power of Empathy, Automation, and AI
Where should you focus your efforts to boost efficiency? Tracey suggests looking to employee experience design, self-service tools, automation, and AI-human partnership. Most of all, approach every initiative with empathy and consideration for your team members. 

How to Win Big with Your Customer Experience
Explore how to create holistic, personalized experiences built around your customer journeys and preferences. Here, you’ll learn lessons on building brand loyalty, engagement, and community.

As you keep working to create forward-looking, innovative technologies and organizations, these insights can help.

A Mobile Prediction Guide for 2024
This blog post from our Mobile Practice Lead Quinn Thomson examines the current stage and future evolution of the three most common uses of mobile apps.

5-Step Guide to De-Risking Innovation for Maximum ROI and Impact
Do your new ideas stall out because of organizational risk aversion? This ebook can help you go from idea to impact faster than ever before.

The Art of the Possible with Brad Fagan
During this podcast episode, Executive Creative Director Brad Fagan shares strategies and techniques for uncovering new ideas and defining your strategic and product vision.

A Practical Guide to Planning and Prioritizing Your Tech Investments
Are you torn between warring priorities and stakeholders with differing opinions? If so then this step-by-step guide to planning and prioritizing tech investments will get you refocused on your strategic objectives.

Change Management – Creating A Culture of Innovation
In this webinar, two Client Strategy Analysts discuss how to apply change management to support individual innovations and ultimately create a culture where innovation and change are the norm.

Reimagining Your Customer and User Journeys: 10 Essential Tools
If you know your customer journey is lacking but you’re not sure where to start, how to achieve your goals, or test your theories, this ebook reviews which tools can address your needs.

Want our thoughts on another technology or design topic? Get in touch – we’d love to chat!

A Mobile Prediction Guide for 2024

3 Types of Mobile Apps and My Predictions for their Future

By Quinn Thomson, Mobile Practice Lead

Mobile apps aren’t just about user convenience – they are catalysts for digital innovation, driving shifts in how individual businesses and entire industries operate. Today, apps on tablets, smartphones, and wearables continue to revolutionize sectors from transportation to healthcare and unleash unparalleled disruption in their wake. If you have no other takeaways from this mobile prediction compilation, know this: there’s much more change to come!

Over nearly 10 years of developing mobile apps and as Mobile Practice Lead at Robots & Pencils, I’ve observed three primary paradigms for mobile apps and their features:

  1. Replacing paper
  2. Creating new experiences
  3. Bundling content

Of course, apps don’t always fall only under one paradigm. An app may combine two or all three paradigms. For this blog, however, I examine each paradigm’s current state and future separately.

Paradigm 1: Replacing Paper

Current State: Mobile apps simplify many tasks for employees and customers.

The longest-established paradigm, paper replacement is a low-hanging fruit for building an impactful mobile app. Moving from paper to digital is often step one of a digital transformation. When companies require employees or customers to review or fill out boatloads of forms and information, creating a paper replacement app is an obvious win. A laptop works sometimes, but phones and tablets facilitate much easier data entry and retrieval for people not in front of a desk.

While making a paper replacement app might sound straightforward, remember that factors like UX, project planning, and change management are critical to the success of every app. If you’re not thoughtful about app planning and design, you can still fail at making an effective paper replacement app.

CASE STUDY: See how our Tailboards app enabled utility and construction workers to finally stop carrying heavy, paper-filled binders and laptops to job sites.

Mobile Prediction: Slow-to-change industries will increasingly accept the need to digitize and find immense value in mobile.

Paper replacement apps aren’t cutting-edge, but many growing industries still rely on paper and other physical media. These fields are ripe for digital transformation. Digitizing their workflows will enable companies to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and significantly improve employee and customer experiences.

Mobile Prediction: SAAS solutions and white-label apps will gain popularity.

SaaS products that offer white-label solutions for paper replacement applications are becoming readily available. By choosing one of these products, organizations can quickly introduce a mobile app to employees or customers with little coding work required. These solutions provide a cost-effective, though less flexible, option for paper replacement use cases. For complex uses, custom development remains the better choice.

Paradigm 2: Creating New Experiences

Current State: Mobile has revolutionized everyday life with features we now take for granted.

Mobile apps offer the perfect opportunity for applying innovative and previously unheard-of means to engage users. Brands can deliver personalized and engaging experiences incorporating things like gamification strategies and location-specific messaging. Mobile hardware allows us to augment experiences using a camera, GPS, motion sensors, near-field communication (NFC), and much more. From ridesharing apps to fully mobile banking to digital wallets, mobile apps have brought about immense changes that touch many aspects of our lives.

CASE STUDY: Varo has broken down the walls of the brick-and-mortar banking with disruptive conversational interfaces and data-driven insights.

Mobile Prediction: Teams who know how to de-risk ideas will consistently push the boundaries of mobile.

Having an app or feature idea is great, but don’t skip straight to investing time and money in development. De-risking requires systematically iterating, testing, and experimenting. You need to find out if users actually want this feature and how to deliver it. What aspects are the most and least important? Will you see a strong return on investment, or should you prioritize a different idea instead? Challenge your assumptions about user needs and behaviors early and often. Testing novel ideas and collecting user feedback will help organizations create experiences that truly benefit and excite users.

Mobile Prediction: New technology and hardware will change how we use software in countless ways.

As ChatGPT continues to command everyone’s attention, generative AI is set to revolutionize the world of tech and beyond. This will particularly become evident when organizations combine generative AI with augmented reality, mixed reality, and spatial computing tools–which will also drive increased usage of voice interaction. Together, these technologies will unleash a flurry of unexpected opportunities for using mobile devices to engage with individuals, organizations, and the environment around us.

Paradigm 3: Bundling Content

Current State: Organizations are beginning to bundle content to support users overwhelmed with information and apps.

As increasing numbers of companies have launched mobile apps, users are experiencing app fatigue. They are burnt out and frustrated by hopping between apps and websites, each with a shard of the desired information. For example, college students must use different apps and websites to access course materials, registration information, schedules, financial aid details, and student groups. Employees are using numerous apps to track time, manage their paychecks, request time off, look up policies, and many more tasks. Juggling these tools gets old fast.

Bundling or integrating content has arisen as a solution. Industry best practices and consumer demand have led to APIs that bundler apps can connect to. Bundlers offer a primary user entry point and acquire content or information from providers. Apple TV users, for example, can add HBOmax, Showtime, Disney+, HULU, and other services so that they see all their favorite series on one watchlist.

CASE STUDY: Powered by Salesforce, Student Apps is empowering schools to reimagine the learner experience.

Mobile Prediction: Bundling and consolidation will be growing trends.

It’s early days for bundlers and providers, but I expect a lot of activity in this area. For bundlers to attract new users, they’ll need to get more providers on board. The more a bundler can simplify and streamline targeted user journeys and experiences, the better positioned they are to build a large and loyal base of users. The goal is to create one place for users to get all the tools and information they want. As bundlers seek to expand and grow, many will acquire the companies whose content they want. 

For providers, the key to growth will be to integrate with as many bundlers as possible. Having content accessible to bundlers is also an opportunity to bring increased attention and awareness to smaller-name content providers that might be overlooked on their own.

Want a deeper dive into the future of mobile?

Watch my on-demand webinar for more on these mobile predictions and download a shorter version of my deck for referencing anytime! You can also contact Robots & Pencils at or through our online form.

About the Author

Quinn Thompson Author Photo

Quinn Thomson has 16+ years of experience in software, a master’s in aerospace engineering, and a PhD in biomedical engineering. He’s worked in a variety of fields and with organizations from small start-ups to large enterprises. With his breadth of knowledge and passion for applied solutions, Quinn helps clients leverage technologies such as mobile development, numerical optimization, machine learning, and image processing. As Mobile Practice Lead, Quinn is a leader, mentor, and coach to our iOS and Android developers. In his spare time, he enjoys playing soccer, writing, and spending time with his family.

Tailboards App Spotlight: Making Job Sites Safer

How Utility and Construction Companies Use our Tailboards App to Improve Safety and Reporting

When utility and construction companies want to streamline job-site safety meetings and help employees identify, document, and mitigate hazards, the Tailboards app from Robots & Pencils is a trusted tool.

An Opportunity to Improve the Worker Experience and Safety

Many electrical engineers, meter inspectors, construction employees, and other field workers face hazardous work sites daily. To ensure job safety and quality, field workers typically review risks and safety procedures in routine on-site meetings with their supervisors. Many organizations call these meetings tailboard meetings. Alternatively, some teams call them toolbox or tailgate talks.

Either way, these meetings require workers to carry and review heavy binders full of complex safety documentation. There is always a lot of information to cover! Employees also go through long, multi-page paper forms and checklists related to the job. Whenever a process changes, team leaders have to create, print, and distribute new forms and binders. In the unfortunate case that an incident occurs, management must sort through and review all of this paperwork. Basically, all of this paperwork becomes a big hassle.

After learning about these meetings and the extreme paperwork from a client, our team realized that moving these paper-based processes digital would be a huge win for organizations. A digital transformation would make work altogether safer and more efficient.

A Digital Solution for Hazard Mitigation and Reporting

Using insight and guidance from our clients, Robots & Pencils created an iPad app that eliminates the burden of physical paperwork and gives workers access to digital documents and workflows. The app is ideal for use by distributed managers, safety engineers, and other employees in ever-changing job site conditions.

Users can leverage the Tailboards app to review:

  • Required tasks and procedures
  • Job-specific safety forms and documentation
  • Assessments of potential hazards and threats
  • Relevant hazard mitigation techniques 

Field workers can easily complete and submit the necessary forms, including recording and reporting changes to hazard conditions. Form entries and submissions are automatically stamped with GPS location, date, and time, ensuring that documentation is never altered after an issue arises. 

For managers in particular, the app provides visibility into what’s happening in the field and what works remains. It also is a source of valuable data for analysis, reporting, and auditing–data that would be much slower and more difficult to access if it was on paper. Another benefit is the ease of updating safety processes or forms. No longer do companies have to worry about outdated forms or printing and distributing new documents. Instead, forms are updated instantly in the app and automatically distributed to all employees.

Driving Organizational Efficiency and Safety

As of 2023, the Tailboards app has been a valued industry tool for 10 years, with hundreds of daily users. By eliminating paper at tailboard meetings, companies have increased employee safety and efficiency, including reducing lost-time incidents. 

By streamlining hundreds of paper forms and documents into one mobile app, these organizations reduced manual errors and avoid the burden of completing and managing paper forms. If an issue does arise, workers can communicate quickly with management from remote sites, including via options previously unavailable like saving and sending video, pictures, and text descriptions of hazards in real time. The app also allows organizations to decrease their environmental impact and spending by drastically cutting the amount of paper printed.

Interested in Using the Tailboards App at Your Organization?

Robots & Pencils can customize and scale the Tailboards app for your unique job site and safety needs. We also offer a complete range of digital transformation services, including product ideation and strategy, design, development, change management consulting, and more. Contact us today at to start the conversation!

WWDC 2023: What Matters for Users, Developers, & Businesses

WWDC 2023 revealed a lot for users, developers, and businesses to look forward to! Let’s dive into the WWDC news and highlights for each group.

What should users be excited about from WWDC 2023?

Hardware Announcements

A new Macbook Air is available with a larger 15″ display. If you’re looking for a larger screen, this could be an attractive option. However, if you already have a Macbook Air 13″, it might not be worth upgrading at this time.

Mac Studio and Mac Pro are for power users and come with some serious performance updates. Processing intensive tasks like video editing can greatly benefit from this type of power. With its high price point though, it won’t fit into many people’s budgets or add the value needed to justify the cost.

iOS 17

iOS 17 will be available to users in Fall 2023 on devices that have the A12 or newer processor. Unfortunately, this means that devices like the iPhone X and 8 will not be able to update to iOS 17. Below are the major new features and benefits of iOS17.

  • NameDrop will allow you to easily exchange contact information using AirDrop.
  • Live voicemail will show you what someone is saying on your voicemail live, so that you can decide if it’s important enough to take the call immediately.
  • Autocorrect and dictation will be more accurate.
  • A new Journal app will provide smart suggestions to help you journal about your day.
  • Check In will allow you to tell friends or family when you’re heading home and automatically notify them when you get there. If you’re delayed, you can adjust your expected arrival time. If you don’t reach your destination, your loved ones will get a notification so they can check on you.

iPadOS 17

iPad is adding a customizable lock screen and live activities. The Health app is also now available on iPad. Furthermore, Apple significantly improved PDF editing, collaboration, and autofill.

macOS Sonoma

With macOS Sonoma, you’ll be able to add widgets anywhere on your desktop. Video conferencing will also allow video overlay, so that the speaker won’t lose video while presenting. Safari improved privacy and added profiles so that you can separate your work, home, and school experiences. Additionally, you can create a web app from any website to make your favorite sites easier to access!


Adaptive audio will allow you to stay present in your surroundings and adapt to them. Also, AirPlay is coming to select hotels. Soon, you may be able to play content from your devices easily on the TV in your hotel room.

watchOS 10

The UI improved for watchOS 10. This version will have better tracking for cycling and hiking and a few updates to Health including mental and vision health.

tvOS 17

tvOS now features a redesigned control center and offers the option to use memories as the screensaver for your TV. Most significantly, you will be able to use FaceTime on AppleTV using Continuity Camera from your iPhone or iPad.

Apple Vision Pro

Finally, the big reveal at the end of the WWDC 2023 keynote was a new piece of hardware: Apple Vision Pro. It is Apple’s response to an AR/VR experience known as Spatial Computing. Many iPad and iPhone apps will be available on the headset as windows with little changes required from the developers of those apps. You will have full control of where these apps appear in your space.

The design is well thought out. By and large, competing devices integrate batteries into the headset, making their headsets heavy and uncomfortable. Instead, Apple Vision Pro uses a cable that connects to an external battery pack. This choice significantly reduces their headset weight. The device also comes without external controllers, relying on eye and hand tracking for interactions. Eye tracking is kept private from apps and is processed at a system level to keep your interactions private and secure.

The specs are also above and beyond any of the devices already out there. With 23 million pixels across two panels, you get more than 4k resolution per eye. The processor that powers the device is Apple’s familiar M2 chip alongside a new R1 chip allowing for real time processing.

This device starts at $3499 USD which will be a large barrier to becoming a device seen in every home. Still, Apple has always focused on creating world class products and devices that truly change the world. Based on what I’ve seen today, the Vision Pro has the potential to change the world just as much as the iPhone has over the past 15 years.

What should developers be excited about from WWDC 2023?

Swift Macros make it easier than ever to add common functionality to your app without writing boilerplate or repeatable code.

C++ interoperability is now supported in the latest SDK

SwiftUI updates include those that developers most requested like improved animations, animated SF Symbols, and an easier way to manage state using the @Observed macro.

A Swift implementation of CoreData was one of the biggest reveals and something that developers have long been waiting for. SwiftData makes it easy to write your model code without having to repeat your data structures in a separate model object.

A new API TipKit was introduced that allows you to highlight features in your app to your users at the right time.

AVCapture performance improvements will make using the camera easier in your apps.

Developers are getting access to some new APIs including HDR, video conferencing, ScreenCaptureKit and Continuity Camera.

Updates to tools like App Store and StoreKit will make it easier than ever to create a consistent and familiar interface for products and subscriptions.

Xcode is getting some great improvements as well, including code completion improvements that are more aware of the code you are writing and suggesting more accurate modifiers or functions.

Test reports in Xcode got a huge overhaul and now contain much more detail and in-depth insights into issues in your app and its tests. You can step through points in your test and even reference an accompanying video to see exactly what went wrong that caused the test to fail.

Updates to Xcode cloud will make workflows 2 times faster and link speeds 5 times faster.

How to bring apps to the new visionOS is one of the main questions developers might have this year. Here are some of the things to know:

  • Apps can be made available on visionOS using SwiftUI, RealityKit and/or ARKit. Existing iPad and iOS apps will be available to be seen as a window in visionOS, but you must take into account that the screen size of that virtual window containing your app can be adjusted by the user. This means your layout must be able to accommodate a dynamic range of screen sizes.
  • You can also craft 3D scenes in visionOS using volumes. You can use RealityKit to show entities in 3D space, and combine it with the power of ARKit to understand your physical surroundings.
  • RealityKit is adopting the MaterialX open standard for geometry shaders which makes it easier to write complex shaders.
  • Developers will be able to preview their visionOS experiences using Xcode simulator. That functionality is coming to Xcode sometime later this month.

This week, there will be a total of 175 sessions that developers can watch to dig into all things new this year. 40 of those sessions alone are related to the new visionOS!

What should companies be excited about from WWDC 2023?


Now is the time for first mover advantage with AR on Vision Pro. This is the high risk, high reward play. The safer approach is to wait and see if there’s teething problems with the new tech. The “Pro” tag on Vision Pro likely means that a more affordable non-pro version will come at some point. I’d recommend holding off on buying them for the office unless you have a compelling need for them until a more affordable version is available.

The 15” MacBook Air is a good option for employees in need of more screen space without the need for more processing. Think people who are working with presentations, zoom, word processing, and spreadsheets all of the time.

Mac Studio and Mac Pro got upgrades for those who need high performance. However, there are only a few use cases where employee workflows require this type of power. Intensive video processing is one example.


On the software side of things, lots of new developer APIs were announced and lots of existing APIs have been improved.

If your app does image processing, it might be worth checking out Apple’s new HDR API.

StoreKit and SKAdNetwork are getting updates. If your app uses either of those frameworks for ads or in-app purchases, you may want to look further into what new features those frameworks will include.

A new framework called TipKit was released that will allow you to add timely tips for your users, helping them to easily discover new features in your app.

What else? What’s next after WWDC 2023?

The new features and updates announced Monday at WWDC 2023 include much more than the ones covered here, and we are excited to dive in deeper into each topic over the next few months to get a better understanding of how they will help us build better apps!

If you’d like to talk about any of the news coming out of WWDC in 2023 and how it impacts your business, reach out to the Robots & Pencils team at

This blog post was written by Andrew Erickson, an iOS Robot at Robots & Pencils.

WheelUI: An Alternative to Cross-Platform Development

You know that mobile is important to your business. Maybe you’re considering an idea for a new app or mobile strategy. Or, perhaps your existing app needs a refresh. Either way, you have a limited budget you need to use effectively. As you look to optimize costs, deciding between cross-platform and native app development will be one of the early decisions you need to make. Robots & Pencils has a solution: an alternative to cross-platform development that provides the best of both worlds.

Comparing Native and Cross-Platform Apps

If you’re unfamiliar or need a refresher, native app development uses first-party tools created and provided by Apple and Android. You build one app for Android and another for iOS, each using their own programming language. With native, you can ensure that each app meets UX standards specific to its platform. Natives apps can also access all the features that an Android or iOS device offers.

On the other hand, cross-platform development uses third-party tools as an added layer on top of the native tools. These tools let you build one app that works on both Android and iOS. The premise for using cross-platform is simple. Rather than developing one app for each platform, you build once, deploy on multiple platforms, and save money. Sounds great, right? The issue is that experts widely acknowledge native apps, not cross-platform apps, as providing the best user experience and greatest feature availability. A better user experience means higher user adoption. Higher adoption equals more business value and more return on your investment, which obviously is what you want.

The other concern is that the preferred choice of cross-platform tools changes frequently. This instability can make it hard to maintain cross-platform apps and find skilled cross-platform developers. Also, despite the promise of a single set of code, cross-platform tools often require the use of native code as well. As a result, cross-platform apps can have iOS and Android code in addition to the cross-platform tool. Ultimately, cross-platform apps may be cheaper to build at first. However, they are expensive to maintain and less attractive to users.

WheelUI: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

So, how can a budget-sensitive company provide the best possible user experience and utilize the full range of features on each platform to get the highest ROI? Enter WheelUI. Created by the mobile team at Robots & Pencils, WheelUI helps you build a native application on each platform for less total cost than cross-platform development. It’s the most affordable cross-platform development alternative out there!

How WheelUI Works as a Cross-Platform Development Alternative

The majority of a mobile app is often a handful of commonly used screens and UI components. Say the login view, menus, and a news feed, to name a few. This is where WheelUI comes in. WheelUI is an in-house R&P framework that provides common UI (user interface) screens and components for our clients.

All WheelUI components use native code. The code is Swift for iOS and Kotlin for Android. Because WheelUI is native, the UX of each screen matches the platform. (Having screens that don’t match user expectations for iOS or Android is a common UX pitfall of cross-platform apps.)

Additionally, each WheelUI screen has already had the Pencil touch, with our talented UX and UI experts leading the design of these UI components. All WheelUI screens are also easily configurable to your color palette, font, and other brand needs, so that your brand still shines through in your app.

The major benefit WheelUI offers clients is that a team no longer needs to design or build each screen anew. This means that you can get the UX and feature benefits of native code for a much lower cost. And by saving money on those common screens, clients can apply a larger portion of the budget to creating custom code and UI for the unique features that makes their app stand out.

WheelUI Time & Cost Savings

Depending on how many of the WheelUI app components you use, we estimate up to 40% cost savings compared to a full custom native project. (Think–you’re saving on design, development, project management, QA, everything. It adds up!)

Many businesses expect cross-platform development to cut costs in half since it (in theory) requires one codebase instead of two. However, costs like design, QA, and project management are relatively equal between cross-platform and full custom native. Plus, because cross-platform apps are built on top of another software layer, oddities sometimes slow down development and increase total project cost. Based on our experience, cross-platform is more likely to save only around 20% from native development. Therefore, even when you add on custom development to a WheelUI project, you can still save money compared to a cross-platform project. You will have the budget to build that killer feature that elevates your app above the rest.

On top of cost savings, WheelUI also cuts your time to release. The WheelUI screens are built, thoroughly tested, and ready to go. All we need to do is load up your data. Using WheelUI as a cross-platform development alternative could cut as much as 40% off your total project timeline.

WheelUI vs Cross-Platform: Talent Availability and Maintainability

Cross-platform tools have shown themselves to be widely adopted for short periods of time. As the desire to use a specific cross-platform tool wanes, companies who built apps in those platforms have to decide whether to keep supporting the tool or rewrite their entire app. That’s a big risk to weigh if you’re considering cross-platform development.

Native code, which WheelUI uses, has shown itself to last. At R&P, we’ve supported native apps for 10 plus years with no signs of support ending. By keeping WheelUI native, we’re looking out for the long-term viability of our clients. On top of maintainability, the ephemeral nature of cross-platform tools has led to a lack of talent availability. Many developers are uninterested in mastering a platform that could end up disappearing within a handful of years. Comparatively, native iOS and Android developers are readily available, so you’ll have a much easier time finding a developer who can work on your native app built with WheelUI.

Getting Started with WheelUI

WheelUI keeps all the strengths of native code, but offers it at less cost than cross-platform or a full custom development project. WheelUI lets you prioritize your app user experience to maximize the business value of your app while also saving money and time. At R&P, we’re already using WheelUI in our own products.

It’s said that cross-platform is built to release and native is built to maintain, but we believe that WheelUI can do both.

To learn more and discuss your mobile strategy and pricing for app development with WheelUI, email us at