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Lining up for offline
Today, there is an app-for-everything and as consumers, we expect our apps to be working all the time, whether we are online or not. But in the real world network connectivity is not ubiquitous and going offline is unavoidable. This means, apps having offline access is essential to any app experience today and emerging low code platforms are making it fast and simple.

We are living in an era where If the network fails, most applications fail. Well but, can the network fail at all? It is indeed true that networks of today are far more reliable and fast compared to the PC era with dial-up links. But does that mean it’s factual that network
connectivity issues today are bygones and even if there are some, they are wide and few? Not really, because our experience tells us otherwise.

Network notspots (or) areas with no or limited mobile network connectivity are everywhere around us. When we are rescheduling a meeting inside an elevator, editing a presentation on our way to the airport, at an odd corner inside the meeting room, we all have faced notspots pushing us to a digital detox, when we don’t expect one.

Lining up for offline

Source: OpenSignal state of mobile networks, April 2018

While telecom companies in India are
promoting the speed of mobile networks,
data from OpenSignal shows that the
availability of networks (i.e how often
users can access a network) even
amongst top Indian telecom players (Jio
being an exception) is only around 60%.

 

Contrary to popular belief that network coverage is good everywhere, the snapshot below shows notspots (red dots) around Bengaluru.

Lining up for offline

Source: OpenSignal coverage maps

It isn’t just in India, notspots are rampant even in global business hubs like the UK. The truth is notspots today are unavoidable and we all subconsciously know it, we still retain our landline phones, and for important meetings we keep our presentations in our local hard disk or pen drives, don’t we? Yes, we care for our privacy but primarily, our fear of being shut by the network drives this behavior.

Our favorite applications today are mostly data intense, network heavy and we take them with us far outside the canopy of a steady network. So offline resilience is mandatory for any application developed today and companies are starting to do their part – Google recently
rolled out offline support for it’s Gmail users, eBay is exploring and Microsoft has made it’s translation services offline ready. Even outside the realm of applications, the offline capability is seen as a promising complementary strategy, for eg: digital payment major PayTM rolled out tap cards for NFC enabled offline payments.

If you are a company building applications for the next billion people, it’s hard to make people love your app experience if it can’t handle offline. So where do you start? Here are some
suggestions.

Enabling offline capability in an application essentially makes it a distributed system – there is a copy of data stored locally and another on the server. Because data can independently change
in both the locations, conflict resolution becomes complicated.
Most development teams tend to oversimplify this complexity by bluntly rejecting changes that come in when the app is offline which ends up creating frustrating app experiences. Some developers build custom offline systems ground-up which takes away engineering attention from app features to offline use cases.

With emerging low code platforms there is a simpler way out.
Today’s low code development platforms help to quickly add offline capabilities in an existing application without bloating the code base. They require minimal intervention from internal IT and can automatically handle critical offline considerations like how much data can be stored on the device (locally), for how long, what should be the sync-up mechanism (partial, full, modified data), etc., Because these complexities are abstracted by the platform, internal developers can focus on other business-critical use cases.

With low code platforms, the whole process of making apps offline-ready gets simplified and so they are the fastest and the most economical way to get applications offline ready.

Remember, your customers don’t like apps that pops up grey boxes with failed network alerts.
They have competing options and have zero switching barrier. Offline ready can’t be delayed anymore. Leverage low code platforms to align your applications right away.

Lining up for offline

Deepak Anupalli is the product owner of WaveMaker –
a low code application development platform that has
helped global enterprises develop mobile first
applications which handle offline as baked-in and not
as an afterthought.

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