Building Offline-First Mobile Apps to Unlock Productivity
It’s no longer enough for apps to only work when they’re online. Developing offline mobile app platforms is gaining attraction and becoming crucial to business productivity and performance. When your mobile app loses connectivity and fails to synchronize data seamlessly, users abandon your app.
A 2018 Google study found that a slowdown of just 1 to 3 seconds caused a 32% loss of users, and an Amazon study from more than 10 years ago found that every 100ms of latency cost it 1% in sales. Imagine the consequences today. That’s why apps today should be built with an offline-first approach, ensuring an experience where the app keeps functioning and syncing data, regardless of connectivity.
If you’re building apps for use by consumers, offline-first delivers a better experience. And if your business relies on frontline employees using your app — whether they’re in retail, logistics, food services, or manufacturing — consistent connectivity is not guaranteed, and you too need to build an offline-first app.
Whether you’re a single developer working to stand up for your idea or part of a larger team shipping your latest release, you already know that building an offline-first mobile app is filled with a number of challenges.
How do you ensure a consistent user experience when a connection drops? How do you design and architect for full connections, dropped connections, poor connections, and no connection at all — all in the same app?
What is offline-first?
Offline-first is a development principle that emphasizes designing apps, from the beginning, to work without an internet connection. With offline-first, data is synchronized between multiple devices, and your app keeps working, regardless of connectivity or connection speed.
How do you ensure that your data stays synchronized, your users can continue to work, your data stays secure, and your app just keeps working, even as connectivity changes?
Offline Apps That Work
You’ve probably been there — you’re remote, on your mobile app, being productive and getting work done, when suddenly your connection drops.
Wi-Fi goes down, your flight takes off, or you’re in an Uber moving through a city and flipping from 5G to 4G to LTE.
Whatever the reason for a change in connection, your mobile app will start to lag, stop syncing data, or cease to load.
You’re stuck waiting for your phone to reconnect and your work to resume.
When dropped and slow connections hobble an app, it kills productivity — and revenue. That’s why in 2015 Facebook
introduced 2G Tuesdays — an initiative where engineers’ internet speed was massively reduced so they could experience what many of their actual users do every day: slow, unreliable service.
Consider that, even beyond the dreaded dead zones that exist in warehouses, schools, and offices, in early 2021 30%
of states in the U.S. still have less than 90% coverage for mobile broadband. For businesses with large frontline workforces that rely on mobile apps to do their work, or that would benefit from replacing manual processes, this has significant implications for app architecture.
That’s why most modern apps — whether used by your employees or your customers — are increasingly built with an offline-first approach.
Benefits of Offline-First
An improved user experience is just the start. The benefits of apps that work well offline are clear. For consumer apps, users have a better experience. They can continue using your app through interruptions and outages and may enjoy the better performance when apps are online.
Outside of the consumer space, businesses invest in apps for their workforce with the expectation that the app will be widely adopted and boost worker productivity.
But if an app doesn’t sync correctly, or frequently fails because of lost connectivity, then workers may abandon the app and revert to whatever method they were using to fulfill their tasks before the introduction of the app.
One of the defining features of an offline-first app is a local store of data, allowing for reads and writes directly on the mobile device.
An app with server-based data must make a round trip to the server with every request. Accessing local data has near-zero latency, so an app that only calls on the client-server for data when absolutely necessary is much faster to respond.
Better conserve battery life
The less CPU, screen usage, and bandwidth used by the app, the better the battery usage. Battery usage is another key factor impacting app adoption and user retention and is important for both consumers and frontline workers who rely on a device to do their job.
Have better user adoption and retention
When an app runs faster and it efficiently uses battery life, users are more likely to continue using it for the long term. A good user experience — a significant factor in positive app reviews — creates a positive feedback loop of further app usage.
Whether a business is building mobile applications for a consumer audience or a frontline workforce, mobile app users
always have an alternative if they don’t find it helps them be productive, whether that is abandoning the app or returning to an older, status-quo tool such as pen and paper. Contact Musato Technologies how our innovative ICT solutions and products can boost your business productivity and performance while improving profitability.