I was recently travelling to a place in Srilanka on work and this place had limited internet access. I usually do all my work online and was not aware that this area that I was visiting,falls under a bad network zone! I ended up doing almost all my work in the old fashioned way i.e. writing stuff down, saving it on the computer and making sure that I uploaded all this once I reached a place with good connectivity. This was the time I realized the importance of offline mobile apps! So here I am, trying to express my views about what it means to run a mobile app in offline mode and why it is important.
Saving the data on local device until the internet is provided:
The basic consideration for a mobile app to run in the offline mode is that it should be able to store all its data in the local device until the internet is available. It should ensure that it has all the necessary permissions required to access the storage device. This helps the user to be able to use the device even when there is no internet and the app will sync all the data once the internet is available. The data should be securely synced and care must be taken not to lose any data during the sync process.
Retrieve synced data:
Once the data is synced, it should always be available for the user irrespective of whether he or she is online or offline. The user at least should be able to view the data in case it is not possible to allow them edit the data that has been synced previously.
Showing valid messages about “No Internet” instead of showing blank pages:
Yes. It very often happens that there is some problem with the internet connection. But this doesn’t mean that mobile apps can show some random or blank pages to the user whenever he is out of the network coverage zone. Either a predefined page should display every time there is no internet or the user must be redirected to the last page in which he was working when there was internet connectivity with a message stating that accessing new information or page requires internet.
In today’s scenario where everybody is busy, having mobile apps that can be operated in the offline mode is a very good plus point for the mobile app. This ensures customer retention and also makes the app more popular amongst the users.
We did an app called Kepish at Yugasa sometime back which is expected to check the health status of athletes and sports people, if they get injured while they are on the playground. Expecting an internet connectivity on playgrounds is not that common and hence app was needed to be working well in offline mode too. Need for this features was envisioned during the early stage of product development and hence the data syncing and local data storage was well implemented in the beginning of the project. There are many more such use-cases which need apps to run in offline mode but development teams generally ignore it and clients do not foresee its needs until they experience the problem. So it is important that offline running of the app must be considered as an important feature right from the day one.
Now that you know why should you consider building an offline app, lets discuss how you can do this:
You need to follow following two steps for building an offline app:
Use local storage/ database to cache data on the user’s device
Enable data synchronization with central repository
In the first step, you can use local data storage to store the data to either device’s file-system or relational database like SQLite. These data can also be stored in encrypted format to enhance security. The content can then be directly served from the local storage, when no Internet connection is available.
Data synchronization will add more interactivity to your app in offline mode. This means users can perform a certain tasks when they are offline and sync the same after they gain connectivity.
Developing an offline app certainly involves more amount of time and money. This can be taken care of by hiring experienced developers for your mobile app product. The profits out of the offline app are always on the higher side because of longer and promising engagement of users with such apps as compared to those apps which fail to handle offline mode in a better way.
You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org for discussing your mobile app project with us. We shall be more than happy to assist you in your product development.