The Future of Mobile Apps is Offline-First

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On April 16 and 17, Mendix World 2019, the world’s largest low-code development event, took place in Rotterdam Ahoy. The session ‘The future of mobile apps is offline-first’ had a fully packed room. Although the motto mobile-first is common sense when you build an app, there is a growing demand for offline-first apps. Hence, Danny Roest, Mendix product manager for mobile, and Marcel Groeneweg, certified Mendix expert at ITvisors, inspired the audience to start building offline-first apps.

Offline-first apps
Why do we need offline-first apps? “In city centers, you expect reliable public internet connections, says Danny. In the summer, I like to listen to music via the internet when I cycle to work. However, I discovered that there is no reliable connection near the famous Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam where our Mendix office is. Suppose I travel to work by car and get an accident. I open the online insurance app to record my claim. Unfortunately, the app needs a connection, so I get an error message due to the lack of network coverage. That is frustrating. Therefore, at Mendix, we make it possible to build apps that work regardless of the network connectivity status.”

An offline-first app works because it interacts with a local database on your device. Mendix handles the eventual data synchronization with the server. To start building an offline-first app, you have to create an offline navigation profile. Based on this profile, Mendix performs consistency checks to ensure that your app will work. Besides, Mendix also supplies the mechanisms to run on your device the wire logic, interaction logic, business rules, and so forth.

Benefits
The main three benefits of offline-first apps are an increase in user experience (UX), reliability, and battery performance:

  • UX

When you open an online app, and the internet connection is weak, your app doesn’t work well as it frequently tries to connect. As a result, your UX reduces even if the app has a fancy user interface. Offline-first apps are the solution because you don’t need a connection. That improves your UX.

  • Reliability

Field service engineers, for example, use apps when they visit remote locations (e.g., factories, basements). These locations often have bad or no connectivity at all. Offline-first apps are a reliable resolution because these apps enable field service engineers to synchronize their data before, and after, visiting a remote location.

  • Battery performance

Online apps rely on an internet connection and drain the battery capacity of your mobile device. Offline-first apps enable you to work without an internet connection and save your device’s battery life.

“At Mendix, we make it possible to build apps that work regardless of the network connectivity status.”

Mendix 8
Mendix 8 offers lots of capabilities that empower you to build better offline-first apps faster. The five capabilities worth mentioning are:

Capability 1: Automatic sync improves your data synchronization. It determines all the entities synchronized to your device, and it also applies security constraints.

Capability 2: Configurable sync gives you control over the data you want to synchronize. You get an additional syntax dialogue in your profile that shows which entities you can synchronize. Also, you can add your entities, determine which entities you want to control, and create sync activities yourself.

Capability 3: Full control is still in the planning phase. It allows you to call a microflow from an offline app. For example, fetching data from an SAP system.

Capability 4: Pluggable nanoflow actions are JavaScript actions that allow you to build custom activities inside nanoflows.

Capability 5: XPath support in offline apps helps you to query data for your offline database.

It is crucial to handle all Mendix 8 capabilities gracefully. Danny: “Like in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. When calling a microflow from an offline app, you have to handle the instances of poor or no connection. For example, be aware to catch exceptions and ensure that pluggable nanoflow actions do not make your app less robust.”

Do’s and don’ts
Marcel has extensive hands-on experience with building offline-first apps. He shared a couple of do’s and don’ts during his presentation with Danny.

Offline-first apps do’s:

  • Do double check your business processes. “If your online and offline app users insert the same type of data, you get conflicts,” says Marcel. “Although Danny mentioned a module and patterns for conflict resolution, this error might be hard to solve. It’s better to check your business process for handling data upfront and to align it with the requirements for offline-first apps.”
  • Do double check your entity access. Generally, users have more rights than you realize. It is essential to review these rights to understand and solve the problems.

Offline-first apps don’ts:

  • Don’t rename a module or entity offline. An offline-first app in production breaks when the offline user renames a module or entity and the only recovery option is to undo the renaming and have all users synchronize again.
  • Don’t just delete data. If an online user deletes data on the server and an offline user changes the same data, you get a synchronization error. Marcel: “Solving this error requires that users do not physically delete data but put a status on it. That assures that the data still exists, although it is not visible anymore for the user.”

Do you want to know how offline-first apps can help you to build and deliver apps faster, and ultimately grow business? Contact: Danny Roest, Mendix product manager for mobile.

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Get a Head Start on Low-Code App Development

Rapid application development is a hot topic in many businesses. To keep up with market demands and competitors, it becomes more important to deliver new apps faster. Furthermore, due to a shortage of developers, low-code rapid application development is a smart approach to maximize the effectiveness of available IT resources. 

Mendix, a low code development platform, enables you to build, integrate, and deploy web and mobile apps fast. It allows you to visually create apps by using a graphic user interface and drag-and-drop components.

Based on Mendix, BPM Company developed a six-step roadmap and two starter packs. The objective is to help small and medium businesses, as well as enterprises, get a head start on low-code app development.

Six-step roadmap to success
The experience of BPM company with developing apps for customers at the Mendix low-code platform resulted in a six-step roadmap. This roadmap guides you, and your team, through the full app solution design and delivery process by asking and answering essential questions. Realizing better business results with rapid application development is a collaborative journey of business and IT resources.

Step 1: Portfolio
What apps can you build with the Mendix low-code platform? What do you want to make?

Step 2: Requirements
What are the requirements of your app?

Step 3: Design
What is the best design for your app? How do you design an intuitive user interface and an excellent user experience?

Step 4: Build
How do you build your app fast with the Mendix low-code platform?

Step 5: Test
How do you test your app?
What are the Mendix tools for testing and test automation?

Step 6: Tuning
How to collect feedback? How to track, detect, and resolve issues of your Mendix app?

Mendix, a low code development platform, enables you to build, integrate, and deploy web and mobile apps fast.

Innovate with Mendix

Starter packs to build low-code apps
Besides a six-step roadmap, BPM Company also developed a universe starter pack for small and medium businesses and an enterprise starter pack. These two starter packs provide companies a proven and structured approach to discover the Mendix low code development platform. It helps first-time users to experience the platform, and to build and deliver their first app fast.

Universe starter pack 
The universe starter pack focuses on small and medium businesses. It includes a scoping session, three sprints of seven days, a demo and evaluation session, and the formulation of the next steps. In a six-week time frame, you become familiar with the Mendix low code development platform and will build your first app.

Enterprise starter pack
The enterprise starter pack allows larger companies to jump-start the creation of a first low-code app with Mendix. It starts with a design thinking ideation session. The next steps are training, the configuration of development and cloud resources, and a boot camp to build your first app.

Besides learning how to build low-code apps, it is also essential to carefully think about the best way to integrate these apps into your current IT system. For example, how to position the Mendix platform and how to build the necessary skills? BPM Company helps you to answer these questions via knowledge transfer and best practices and enables you to create a Mendix competence center.

Do you want to discover how to build and deliver apps fast with the Mendix low code development platform, and realize better business results? Contact jan.ickroth@bpmcompany.eu

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