Offline App Architecture: Building Offline-First Apps
Developing an offline version of an application isn’t a common issue among most developers. However, it is among the most significant undertakings any software or application developer can consider. The common reason developers develop an offline app architecture is uncommon among developers is the widespread mobile phones where a user can access a resource on the internet from almost anywhere provided the application can communicate with the server. However, there is a greater need why developers should always consider developing an offline architecture for any application. For instance, you wouldn’t expect mobile networks to be reliable and consistent at all times — sometimes, they fail. For this reason, any developer working on an application should stick to the consideration of the offline app architecture in order to develop a great application.
Enabling mobile phones to handle the accessibility of resources at any place regardless of the presence and absence of a network or internet is essential. From this consideration, mobile applications need strategies integrated into them to tackle the issues of latencies and network failures. It is at this point that offline app architecture chips into the development of applications.
The trend in application development is rapidly drifting to the “offline-first approach.” The approach focuses on developing mobile applications with offline capabilities where they can function regardless of network connections. Therefore, implementation and usage of such applications come loaded with advantages such as providing opportunities that enable more effortless data synchronization, update synchronization, and even more related services. With such architectures in any mobile application, end users will enjoy a cut down on roaming costs and reservation of battery power that would operate in line with their counterparts. In turn, it results in data usage minimization and reduction of loading times of different applications.
Various approaches in developing offline app architecture
For an offline-first architecture, the primary consideration is the locality of data servicing the application — data is local. Even though everyone understands that the data should be local, it is crucial to delve deeper into the data storage approaches, access methods, and syncing processes with their reliabilities on various servers, devices, and architectures. In this piece, we shall delve into some of the crucial approaches in developing offline app architecture. Let’s get the ball rolling:
Offline data storage
Access to data while offline is always possible through caching. Therefore, through caches, application users can always access data at any of their convenient times, even when there is no network connection. Such an approach entails storing data on some browser or a local server that services request from the device at any time. It is a great approach and advances user experiences because any user can access their desired data in a short time regardless of the absence or presence of an internet connection.
Edit offline and sync online
The approach is straight forward right from its name. In this approach, a user can always edit the application’s data or services offline, even with no internet connection. Once the internet connectivity picks up again, a push and pull operation enables syncing the edited data.
Editing other users’ data offline
With this approach, syncing is generally automatic. Resolution of conflicts in this approach is system-dependent during the change transfer between the mobile device and the server.
Best offline-first app -backend server communication approaches
Offline app architectures enable communication with the backend server through different strategies. The following are the common ways in which such applications communicate with the backend server:
With this approach, the offline-first app relies on predictions of whatever the user requires. The projections are then sent to the cache for storage in the presence of a network connection. The operation of the application is such that it works on offline mode, with the syncing taking place upon the availability of fast-speed internet connections.
Pushing data in
Communication with the backend server relies on the server sending a push notification to the end-user. Majorly, the push notification is simply an alert to the user to notify them of the availability of new resourceful data. Therefore, the end-user remains with an option of updating the local database through scheduled refreshment. Upon refreshing, the local database will update into a new version with additional information.
Communication between the offline-first app and the backend server is also possible through the synchronization of databases. Such occurs through consistent tracking of changes among the server and the application. Therefore, checking for potential changes by the offline-first app and the backend server ensures that data on both sides is in sync. With the application, the end-user can perform changes even in the absence of an internet connection. On resumption of an internet connection, the database synchronizes so that both sides have a shared state.
Factors to consider when selecting offline app architectures
The choice of an offline-app architecture depends on a range of factors. Therefore, developers should adhere to the following set of factors to ensure they create a proper offline mobile application architecture:
- Strategies to use and the areas to cache data — the sites should be reliable and consistent
- The reliability of the caching method
- The ability of the architecture to handle data concurrency
- Resolution of data conflicts in the architecture
The best tools and frameworks for creating offline-first apps
In developing offline-first apps, the developers should understand the need to use the best software and tools to create offline-first apps with many advantages. Therefore, we shall highlight some of this software both on the low-level scale and high-level scale and how they will always help serve different purposes that are of great advantage and therefore finding a reason to build them. Thus, the following offline-app development tools will enhance the reason for choosing offline-app architectures.
There are also low-level tools that are substantial in making offline-app development success and a priority. The resource also helps enhance the capabilities of the offline-app architecture, making it a more excellent choice. Some of the instances of such resources include:
PouchDB is a tremendous low-level tool with more incredible features that allow accurate data syncing. Such a feature would be complex with the implementation of mobile applications that only operate on online platforms.
The tool aims at incorporating strategic mechanisms into browsers so the browsers can easily cache information and other crucial resources usable offline. The innovative technological feature is the best choice for Progressive Web Apps. Therefore, most of the essential data required by the user will permanently reside in the browser, permitting easy accessibility.
Hoodie follows a no-backend architecture and aims to enhance backend solutions for offline mobile apps. Therefore, with Hoodie, we can create applications that allow faster access to backend services, making the mobile-first app more reliable, accessible, and a more outstanding option for the user. Hoodie entails front-end code development tools that can easily integrate with the available API and adequately make the application.
Progressive web apps
Such applications come with advantages more specific with other apps and have excellent viability in blending with native applications. Such is possible with and generates a great user experience. An increase in application usage brings about a corresponding rise in the acquirement of native-app capabilities. A good instance of an excellent renowned Progressive Web application is Google.
It is an excellent toolbox for developing applications and supports component templates and tools. Therefore, the agency is among Google’s projects and serves a role closely related to Google services. With the device, service workers can always access offline capabilities through caching.
Couchbase Mobile is another essential tool supporting the offline-first approach. It boasts more significant components that provide local API data storage services, especially iOS and Android. The tools will enhance the beneficial role of offline app architecture with the ease of accessibility of local data on the standard mobile device platforms such as Android.
With Iconic, developers can constantly develop reliable hybrid applications through Angular. Using this tool to deploy an offline-first app is always possible on a browser, and therefore, the app can always act as a PWA.
There is a need to focus on the user experience to make mobile applications more acceptable and reliable. Therefore, the usage of offline-first apps is just one way of enhancing the user experience. Such applications offer the convenience of accessing any information even in the absence of an internet connection. Therefore, such applications come with various advantages and thus making the burden on the user easier. For instance, with such an application, users should least expect frustrations, delays in accessing data they desire, low battery constraints (offline-first apps can help preserve battery life), and even provide better internet connectivity. Therefore, app development clients should ensure their application users enjoy a more excellent experience by building applications with offline architecture. The applications are fast, reliable, and need no internet connectivity. The future generations will always enjoy such technologies which will advance as technology keeps changing every day.
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