Why Build Offline- First Apps? Everything You Need to Know

January 5, 2021

Reading time about 6 minutes

In the world of increasing technology and the wake of numerous mobile gadgets, network quality is often flaky! As people making use of mobile and web applications, we might not have a smooth internet connection to cater to everyone’s requirements instantly. What next then?

Well, in times of relatively low network connectivity, users can have a frustrating experience while using mobile apps. Offline apps come to the rescue letting the users have a smooth experience even without strong internet connectivity. In this article, we will explore more on Offline-First Apps and how they can be a boon for the leading brands.

What are Offline-First Apps?

Most of the mobile applications today access a database located on sever and provide the required data to the users accordingly. The offline mobile applications will also need a server connection but it does not require a strong and consistent internet connection. In this case, the data is downloaded on the user’s device and can later be accessed offline. Understanding the same technically, the offline applications download updates from the server whenever the internet connectivity is available, it keeps on uploading changes made by users (even when they were offline) and carry forward the same accordingly.

Why design an Offline-First App?

According to a study, if an app does not load well, more than 75% of the users would leave it, and additionally, more than 45% of users feel that they would not return to the apps having higher load time.
Though adapting the Offline-First Approach isn’t on the list of every developer but since smartphones are a handy option providing their customers with internet connectivity anywhere they’re traveling to, building offline apps might not be a worthy investment! Mobile apps do provide internet connectivity but, the network doesn’t always stay reliable. It’s always better to have an offline architecture built for your app to avoid network failures and latencies. In today’s times, developers are shifting their focus towards Offline-First applications wherein the app can work without a strong internet connection and facilitate a user to sync their data, get updates, and a lot more. These offline architectures also allow certain advantages including cutting down the roaming costs while traveling, minimizing data usage, saving battery, and providing relatively quick loading time.

Offline-First Apps are the Apps of the Generation!

Well, you may have a confusion about how these apps are going to work when there isn’t any internet connectivity, will the data be updated and stored in the app when a user is offline? Not to worry! Offline apps are completely reliable and the need of the hour. Here’s the difference between the working of an online app vs an offline app.

In the case of an online mobile app, the operation runs around a simple process. The data on the app is usually stored on a server making it convenient since all the content is in a single place, this makes the synchronization smooth, though the approach requires a constant built up internet connection. On the contrary, offline apps do not require constant updating, the device does not need to request new information from the server every time. A chunk of imperative data is then stored on the smartphone device which lets users access already loaded information on the app.

Approaches to Develop Offline App Architecture

There’s a common misconception on the development of an offline-first architecture that the data is local. Though the data storage, synchronization, and access can typically vary depending on the kind of server, architecture, and devices. Here are a few common approaches which are used to develop offline apps-

  • Offline Data Storage

For letting the users access data offline, Caching is the best approach. It involves storing the data on the local server or the browser where the device can access the same. This helps the users to have an enhanced experience while using the app and that too in relatively lesser time!

  • Balancing the Offline- Online sync

Following this approach, the users can easily edit data offline, make changes, and add in whatever they require but, the updates and visibility are possible once the app gets internet connectivity.

Things to keep in mind while developing Offline Apps

As everything needs strong homework to support, your offline app strategy also must have the following parameters looked after-

  • Define your strategy you wish to adapt and where will you cache the data
  • Is the method of caching reliable enough?
  • How will the architecture handle concurrent data?
  • How can data conflicts be resolved?
  • How will the architecture deal with the change in network connectivity?

Recommended Tools and Framework

Here are the recommended tools and framework to develop Offline-First Apps. High-Level Tools includes the following-

  • Progressive Web Apps– Being a perfect blend of web and native apps, PWA is great at providing a smooth and convenient user experience with native-like capabilities and the complete feel of website browsing.
  • Polymer AppToolBox– It’s a part of Google’s Polymer Project including components tools and templates.
  • Couchbase Mobile– It’s another set of tools that includes Couchbase Lite that provides an API for storing data locally on Android & iOS platforms.
  • Hoodie– It’s an open-source project offering a complete backend solution for mobile apps including tools for developing frontend code which is later plugged in the API to get set go with the app.
  • Ionic– It allows developers to use Angular for creating hybrid apps. These apps can be deployed on iOS and Android with PhoneGap or Apache Cordova.
  • Mapbox Mobile– It’s an open-source SDK, Mapbox also allows developers to add detailed maps alongside adding in navigation features to work offline.
  • Realm Mobile Platform– It offers real-time sync between the Realm Mobile Database in the app (iOS and Android) and the Realm Object Server.

Low-Level Tools includes the following-

  • Service Workers
  • LocalForage
  • PouchDB
  • Cloudnt Sync
  • Cloudant Envoy

Final Thoughts

User experience is the key to drive great mobile applications and the unreliable network can completely overshadow the entire experience, no matter how interactive your app design maybe! Offline Applications are a great way to attract more users and use them as a tool to enhance the overall in-app experience. Thoughts popping in? Get connected with a mobile app development company and get started with your offline app development!

Get an Estimate for Your Offline App