We all know about the fleeting attention spans and patience of the generation of users today. In 2018, 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones. Businesses delivering their services or products to clients are working incessantly on mobile apps as a way to enhance their customer service. To retain their market position and to stay connected to your customers 24*7, it’s important to have apps that function with and sans the internet. In reality, working with a mobile app today means permanent reliance on an Internet connection. This is because the user and the server need to exchange information on a regular basis in a fully-functional mobile app. However, along with privileges, there can be serious downsides to an app that needs a constant internet connection to function. The apps that rely on internet connections, stop functioning as soon as it gets lost. This can result in a disappointed user who is likely to avoid using your app in future. No far-sighted business can afford such a loss. A mobile app with offline support can help create a better overall UX. Such offline-first apps do require a connection to the server but do not characterize a need for constant internet connection. Here the data is downloaded from the server to a user’s device and can be easily accessed offline. Apps with offline support download updates from the server when the connection is available alongside uploading the changes made by the user while being offline to the server.
How To Integrate Offline Support into Your Mobile App?
Data synchronisation is a fairly broad concept which varies in terms of approach. Varies factors like the complexity of the app model and the amount of data transferred and stored etc define how data sync can be implemented to an app. The main challenge that comes with integrating an offline support in your mobile app is handling the absence of internet connection in the app. A mobile app that features offline support needs to store, sync and update local data. App developers can follow one of the routes enlisted below to do this:
If you are an app developer looking for the easiest way to have data available on an app even in the absence of a data connection, caching needs to be your preferred choice. Caching bears prolific results in relatively simpler apps. However, for an app that requires editing data and applying changes offline, there are better solutions in place.
II. Manual Replication
Another option for integrating offline support into a mobile app is to resort to manual replication of data. Here a user can change the viewed data while they are offline. However, when the app gets connected to the server again, the user can upload all changes and download new data manually. Conveniently labelled as a notch above caching, manual representation is still an unpredictable option and is prone to frequent crashing.
III. Data Synchronization in Real-Time
For any offline application, it is important that the user can easily perform functions in offline mode along with synchronizing it as soon as he is online. Data synchronization is real time is hardly different than manual replication, except in this case the changes are uploaded on the app and updated data is downloaded automatically. Apart from transferring the change version of the data, the steps taken to change it can also be transferred. This options minimizes data conflict and enhances app performance many folds. Today most apps feature client-side storage as well as server-side storage for a fluent flow of data between server and client. Not only does data sync ensures data storage but also continuous harmonization of the data over time. A successful app experience is the one that presents up-to-date on mobile and server side at the same time.
Things To Keep In Mind When Designing An App with Offline Support
An app that works offline as well as it does online needs innovative design prowess. This kind of app needs to work flawlessly online, maintaining the functionality of all its feature when the internet connection is withdrawn. Apps with offline support feature some unique characteristics and often face technical issues during the developmental process. While every app designer has a fixed trajectory that they follow to ace mobile app design for a client, there are a certain set of rules that apply when we are integrating offline support into the app we design. Here are the essential things to keep in mind when we are designing an app :
Predictable Data Conflicts Resolution
As a developer, your aim needs to be to provide a predictable data conflict resolution mechanism to your client. Imagine a scenario where the server has initiated changes to the database online, however, the user edits the same set of data offline. This can result in data conflict, unpredictable system behaviour and crash down. This is just one of the many scenarios which can result in a data conflict. This necessitates the need for an app which resolves conflicts predictably and configures the data of higher priority.
Introducing User to Distinction between Online and Offline Functions
As a developer, it is likely that you are well versed with the features of your app. However, we can’t claim the same for your users. While your users may be confident about the capabilities of your app, it is not likely that they can distinguish between which features are available offline and which are not. It is best practice to educate the user about possibilities through warnings and notifications.
We belong to the times when users are hooked to their phones for the simplest of tasks. These are the times when ‘good’ is not good enough. We are at a point in time where the excellence of a mobile app or any innovation of technology is measured by the speed with which it brings gratification.
The feature of ‘offline support’ is an essential component for any mobile app that is in the market to please its users. Integrating offline support will improve the mobile app user’s experience manifold and boost the team’s productivity too.
At Promatics, we have relevant experience of working on mobile application development projects that feature offline support. Let’s get in touch and curate a bespoke offline integrated mobile application for your business.
Promatics is an ISO 9001:2008 certified offshore web and mobile application development company with a strong team of 100+ highly skilled IT experts delighting SMEs across USA, Europe and APAC. Our services and solutions help clients to achieve tangible business value and remain competitive in today’s evolving marketplaces.