Why Offline Matters for Mobile Apps & How to Leverage It
Although online business activities are increasing, life continues to go on offline. Unfortunately, when most companies want to build an app, offline is too often overlooked. As important as online is, online-only thinking leaves functionality and usability on the cutting room floor.
Why Offlines Matters
Online accessibility is improving overall, but slow speeds and connecting to the internet on-the-go continue to be relevant problems for commuters on subways, workers in underground projects like mining or construction, people with limited data plans, and those in areas with limited high-speed connectivity.
The ability to work offline is a key differentiator between mobile apps and mobile sites. Mobile web is limited to caching pages for offline use, whereas applications can provide all sorts of functions and uses. Failing to provide offline functions means you’re not using your app to its full potential.
In some instances, an online-only app limits your usability. For example, many people interact with entertainment apps on their commute to work. If your app doesn’t allow for offline use, you can miss out on viewers, losing them to offline services. That’s why Netflix allows downloading episodes for offline viewing, and some news apps allow users to auto-download stories relevant to their interests.
In other cases, lacking offline functionality can completely devoid the purpose of the app. For example, apps for onsite reporting or employee sign-in/outs are common in construction and mining. For these applications to be functional in all environments, they should be able to work on or offline.
Having offline capabilities can be a big advantage over competing products. It increases usage, usability, and usefulness by developing a mobile app that is available when others aren’t.
Tips for Developing Apps With Offline Functions
Choose Offline Functions Carefully
Offline, your app does not need to do everything that it can do online. Determine what things can be most useful and capable, without compromising security or user experience.
For example, secure data available through banking apps may be safer behind cloud and blockchain technology. As such, it’s better to leave sensitive and secure information to online functions. Instead, consider other useful features, like mortgage calculators, for offline use.
How does the app synchronize work done offline when it reconnects to online, and vice versa? The more seamless you can make this transition, the better. Although it helps to store some information offline, it’s usually best to back that up or move it online when possible. This way, you avoid using up too much storage space and risking removal from phones with limited data.
As well, consider how your app stores and caches data. If the network signal is suddenly lost or reconnects, how does the app transition to prevent interruption in functions and user experience?
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