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Offline First (Web) Apps

Offline First (Web) Apps

Presented at WebDirections Code 2014 in Melbourne

@espylaub / @hoodiehq

Abstract: Just assume for a minute that the technical side of building offline-capable (web) apps was really simple. Because it's getting easier every day, and it's obviously desirable: having a robust, reliable app instead of one that turns into a wonky disappointment when it's disconnected for a moment. But what does building apps offline first mean in terms of interfaces and experiences, in terms of your application's structure? What new things can you do? What problems can you solve? What problems does it cause? Is it too much trouble, or is it the future? A talk about patterns for offline UX, persistent local data, confident wording, pre-empting user needs, conflict resolution and ordering things in lists.

Video will be linked whenever it is available.

Alex Feyerke

May 02, 2014
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Transcript

  1. Offline-First
    BETTER (WEB) APPS
    Alex Feyerke / @espylaub
    WebDirections Code 2014, Melbourne
    Good morning!
    This is „Offline First Web Apps“, my name is Alex, I‘m a web dev from Berlin,
    and as such I‘m very grateful to Maxine and John for inviting me all the way
    over here. I‘m part of the team that makes Hoodie:

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  2. an open-source framework/library that lets you quickly build complete, data-
    driven web apps from the frontend. And these apps are offline capable by
    default, which is why we‘re so interested in this whole topic.
    Source: http://hood.ie

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  3. Offline-First
    Concepts
    Interfaces
    Experiences
    Problems
    So, first of all, what this isn't: a step by step guide to actually building offline
    first apps. For one, because John Allsop just held an all-day workshop about
    that the day before last, and, as I just said, hoodie‘s got the tech working
    already, so we‘re worrying more about what we can do with it. But first, let‘s
    talk about how we work.

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  4. How we work
    IT‘S BASICALLY
    SCIENCE FICTION
    We make web apps. Or native apps, for our purposes, it doesn't make a
    difference. Many native apps are just web views anyway, talking to servers
    over http. But we make, and while we make, we imagine those things we make
    in their completed, working, usable state. We imagine them in the future, where
    all the cool people are using our stuff and making us rich and famous. Or at
    least internet famous.
    But there are other ways of imagining the future. Microsoft, for example, is a
    big system, and it loves imagining the future in elaborate ways. They regularly
    release a so-called "Productivity Future Vision", like this one, for 2011. The
    name sounds as if someone just pulled three human reources buzzwords from
    a hat, but let‘s take a look:

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  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6cNdhOKwi0
    Microsoft‘s Productivity Future Vision 2011
    But it feels… wrong. It's too smooth. It's not normal enough. It‘s a
    choreography of wealth and status, and it‘s utterly improbable in its perfection.
    And maybe you noiced: the devices still have recognizable pixels, but none of
    them have battery or signal strength indicators.
    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6cNdhOKwi0

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  6. Everyone's happy, nothing is broken or
    smudged. There is infinite wi-fi with
    infinite bandwidth, no batteries run out,
    no traffic, no delays.
    —Tobias Revell
    Critical Design / Design Fiction
    You should absolutely read those lecture notes, by the way. It's eye-opening
    and very well done, which is why I'm stealing a bit more from it.
    Look at this Google Glass promo:

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  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1uyQZNg2vE
    Google Glass Promo Video
    This is marginally better: there‘s normal stuff like playing with dogs or a flight
    being late, but the basic symptoms are the same: the people, the lives, the
    circumstances: most of them are outliers, all very privileged people in a kind of
    post-scarcity scenario where, as Revell puts it, "it's a classic case of everyone
    suddenly being an ice sculptor and flying around in balloons". It's also not
    normal. It's a fantasy, and as far as goals and dreams to work towards go, it's
    all a bit odd.
    But it‘s more nuanceed, too. It has some degree of normality, and it‘s implying
    something interesting: people are using glass in places without network
    connections, as in, you know, the sky.
    Unless that balloon in the beginning was one of googles top-secret internet
    balloons providing wifi to the skydivers and the flying club, I think the
    implication is they‘re expecting it to work offline. So: still improbable, but has
    hints of normality.

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  8. Let‘s go back a bit
    This next one is from 1969, with a vision of the 1990s. So I‘d just like you to
    picture that in your mind for a second. The future, seen from the 60‘s. You‘ve
    all seen the movies. Ok?
    Now consider that this was made by the British Post Office…

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  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONESDY9KMes
    Post Office in the 1960s - A glance 30 years into the future
    from Dollis Hill Research Station
    It seems rather normal. Why is that? People aren't wearing futuristic clothing,
    doing extraordinary things, or even sitting at transparent desks with flashy
    lights everywhere. We see a normal man at a normal desk in an normal office.
    Also: the very first thing that happens: it doesn't work properly. The guy at the
    other end can‘t understand anything. And the weather's bad. It's London, Bad
    weather is normal. Listen: "suppose she makes an error". People don‘t make
    mistakes in Microsoft‘s future vision. Nobody asks „uh, Glass? Did you hear
    me?“ in the google thing.
    And the topics? Leases, bank statements, mortgages… normal normal normal.
    It's mundane, it's a bit wonky, but it's everyday life.
    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONESDY9KMes
    So thinking about the future is obviously a bit hard, because…

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  10. […] for every miraculous iPad there are
    countless partly broken realities: WiFi
    passwords, connectivity, battery life,
    privacy and compatibility amongst
    others.

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  11. The real skill of creating a compelling
    and engaging view of the future lies not
    in designing the gloss, but in seeing
    beyond the gloss to the truths behind it.
    —Nick Foster
    The Future Mundane
    Source: http://www.core77.com/blog/columns/the_future_mundane_25678.asp

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  12. We‘re not normal
    I'm showing you all this because we, as, and I'm sad to have to say this from
    up here, as well-educated, well paid people in the tech industry in a super-
    wealthy country, we're also not normal.

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  13. And the circumstances in which we work aren't normal, they usually bear little
    relationship to how and where our products will probably be used. We build
    from behind shiny macs with full-sized keyboards in well-equipped offices with
    fast connections, but the target environments are radically diverse and
    different.

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  14. Our circumstances
    define our mindset
    We have the best tools and the best infrastructure available to us, and of
    course, that informs our mindset when we build all the new shiny future things.

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  15. Build for
    a normal world
    Unless you have a super-specific elite audience, what you really want to do is
    build for a normal world.

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  16. Build for
    a mobile world
    And the normal world, with all the normal people it, that have average budgets
    and average resources, that world, from your perspective, is overwhelmingly
    mobile. Phones are mobile, tablets are mobile, this thing is mobile. This is a
    mobile device. I was sitting in a burger joint on Bondi Beach two weeks ago,
    two completely normal university students were sitting there with their little
    lenovo laptops with 3G-USB sticks plugged in. They'll be moving around,
    switching connections, losing connections, running into battery trouble just like
    people with smartphones.
    Mobile is normal.

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  17. Normality
    is imperfect
    And you all know this: it's imperfect. Normality is imperfect. The web is
    imperfect. The experience you're building? It's going to break for people, I
    guarantee it. It's also imperfect, and it's imperfect in ways you can't influence,
    mainly connection speed and reliability.

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  18. But what you can do, now, is build experiences to accomodate this normality,
    experiences that go beyond your apps just breaking, becoming unresponsive,
    showing empty views, losing data, making people nervous with panicky error
    messages. You can now build your apps in ways that acknowledge the fact that
    the web is imperfect, that your connections to it are also imperfect, and provide
    good experiences regardless.

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  19. Offline is
    not an error
    because Offline is not an error.

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  20. Offline is
    a fact of mobile life

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  21. A comparison: Mobile First is a design strategy to help cope with the vast,
    ungraspable variety of devices and capabilities, like these android screen
    dimensions here.
    In the same way, Offline First is a design strategy to help cope with the
    unknowable circumstances and connection states our users may find
    themselves in. We know next to nothing about them, and can take next to
    nothing for granted.
    Offline First is simply an acknowledgement that this lack of certainty extends a
    bit further than we previously thought.

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  22. progressive enhancement
    vs.
    graceful degradation
    Offline first assumes nothing about the users‘ connectivity. It‘s just another
    form of progressive enhancement, really. Offline is the default state,
    connectivity is a bonus.Treat the network as a potential enhancement. And in
    this case, progressive enhancement is the preferred strategy, because adding
    offline capability after the fact is problematic: the architecture is necessarily
    quite different.
    So, before we continue, a small foray into…

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  23. Offline-First
    Architecture
    offline-first archiecture. And because I promised this wouldn‘t be overly
    technical,

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  24. Offline-First
    Architecture
    A SUPER SHORT OVERVIEW
    I‘ll keep it short.

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  25. WHAT NEEDS TO BE OFFLINE?
    An App's offline capability is guaranteed through two separate aspects:

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  26. • The app and its assets
    WHAT NEEDS TO BE OFFLINE?
    - the app itself and its assets must be available offline. This is done through
    Appcache or Serviceworker, or through a native wrapper such as phonegap or
    node-webkit

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  27. • The app and its assets
    • The app‘s data
    WHAT NEEDS TO BE OFFLINE?
    - the app must handle data in a way that doesn't require a connection. This is
    best done by reading and writing through a local data store which syncs, when
    possible, to the server. Use Localstorage, localforage, PouchDB or, on a higher
    abstraction level, Hoodie.
    Let‘s see how hoodie handles this.

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  28. Hoodie Sync
    Here‘s how Hoodie does offline, and, in fact, everything.

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  29. FRONTEND BACKEND
    Hoodie Sync

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  30. FRONTEND
    App
    BACKEND
    Hoodie Sync

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  31. FRONTEND
    App
    hoodie.store
    BACKEND
    Hoodie Sync
    The app only ever talks to the hoodie API, never directly to the server-side
    code, the database, or even in-browser storage.

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  32. FRONTEND
    App
    hoodie.store
    localstorage
    BACKEND
    Hoodie Sync
    Feel free to replace localstorage with any in-browser storage of your choice.
    This, by itself, is enough for an app. Do you even need to store anything on the
    server apart from credentials? You might not. Your business model might even
    profit from not doing so.
    But let‘s assume you do:

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  33. FRONTEND
    App
    hoodie.store
    localstorage
    Sync
    CouchDB
    REST
    BACKEND
    Hoodie Sync
    We can do this because each user has their own little private database which
    only they can access. So it‘s very simple to decide what gets synced. It‘s the
    user‘s private data. Of course it should be on their machine.

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  34. FRONTEND
    App
    hoodie.store
    localstorage
    Sync
    Plugins
    (node.js)
    CouchDB
    REST
    BACKEND
    Hoodie Sync
    Explain a direct message moving through the system
    So we never have element talk directly to each other. They only leave each
    other messages and tasks, it‘s all very loosely coupled and event-based.
    Which means that it can be interrupted at any stage without breaking.
    Messages and tasks will be delivered and acted upon whenever possible. It‘s
    designed for eventual consistency.

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  35. FRONTEND
    App
    hoodie.store
    localstorage
    BACKEND
    Hoodie Sync
    Sync
    Anyone home?
    Out for lunch,
    BRB
    The nice thing is: in most cases, the frontend doesn‘t care whether the
    backend is actually there or not. It will hang on to your data and sync whenever
    it can, and if your UI allows it, users can keep working without interruption.

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  36. FRONTEND
    App
    hoodie.store
    localstorage
    Sync
    Plugins
    (node.js)
    CouchDB
    REST
    BACKEND
    Hoodie Sync
    So if you want true offline capability, your app can‘t try to talk to the server
    directly, only through sync, and you always want to keep a local copy in
    browser storage.
    And sync is hard. Really. Don‘t even think about implementing this yourself,
    there‘s just so much to get wrong.

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  37. We trust the CouchDB for this. It‘s a database that replicates, which is exactly
    what we want for syncing.

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  38. But there are others

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  39. But there are others

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  40. There‘s even JSGit!
    But whatever you do, don‘t do this by yourself. But remember: sync is the
    keystone of offline first:

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  41. Getting into the offline mindset requires only
    one key realisation: when you leave the world
    of timely, reliable communication, the local
    database, not the server’s, must be the
    gateway for all persistent changes in
    application state.
    — Aanand Prasad
    Offline Support is Valuable, and You Can’t Add it Later
    Source: http://aanandprasad.com/articles/offline/

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  42. How do I make this
    offline magic work?

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  43. //  Store  some  data
    hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'fly  to  australia'})
    Using Hoodie
    Store some data: use the API.

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  44. //  Store  some  data
    hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'fly  to  australia'})
    //  Sign  up  a  new  user
    hoodie.account.signUp('[email protected]',  'secret');
    Using Hoodie
    Sign up a new user: use the API

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  45. //  Store  some  data
    hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'fly  to  australia'})
    //  Sign  up  a  new  user
    hoodie.account.signUp('[email protected]',  'secret');
    //  Send  an  email
    hoodie.email.send(  emailProperties  )
    Using Hoodie
    Send an email: you know the drill.

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  46. //  Store  some  data
    hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'fly  to  australia'})
    //  Sign  up  a  new  user
    hoodie.account.signUp('[email protected]',  'secret');
    //  Send  an  email
    hoodie.email.send(  emailProperties  )
    Using Hoodie
    Wait, so how do I offline? 0_o
    So how do you make this work when it‘s offine?

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  47. //  Store  some  data
    hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'fly  to  australia'})
    //  Store  some  more  data!
    hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'steal  a  wombat'})
    //  Listen  for  store  events
    hoodie.store.on('add',  handleObjectAddition)
    Using Hoodie
    That‘s it.
    All you need to do is embrace the decoupled architecture of offline first. Talk to
    the api, let it sync for you, and listen to events from your browser store to see if
    new data has arrived.
    And that‘s it. It‘s not a special feature you have to explicitly invoke, it‘s how the
    entire architecture works. You get offline for free.
    Let‘s just see that in action:

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  48. Sweet.
    Now what?
    So, we felt like we'd solved a lot of the technical aspects, and now we were
    wondering: what opportunities does this gives us, exactly? Which problems
    can we now solve?

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  49. Let‘s ask
    around
    We thought we had a pretty good topic here, and we decided to try and see if
    other people agreed.

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  50. Gregor was on the Africa Hack Trip through Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and
    Tanzania anyway, so he met a lot of people with interesting offline problems

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  51. I wrote a blog post that got quite a lot of traction…

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  52. …some great resonses on twitter and a surprisingly friendly hackernews
    discussion

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  53. Then I wrote another one…

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  54. Mozfest
    OFFLINE FIRST-
    WORKSHOP
    We also had an offline-first workshop at Mozfest London, with about 40
    participants…

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  55. …and another in Berlin a bit later. As we started asking developers from all
    over the world about these issues, we were surprised at how many people
    suddenly opened up about their offline troubles—realizing they’d had similar
    problems in the past, but never spoken to others about them. Most battled it
    out alone, gave up, or put it off, but all secretly wished they had somewhere to
    turn for offline app advice.
    People had veeeery interesting and specific problems, ranging from building,
    and I quote, „runkeeper for fish“, for anglers in the norwegian wilderness, to
    several people trying to build robust point-of-sale systems for places with bad
    connectivity.
    But we identified some central themes:

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  56. Trust and
    reliability
    OFFLINE PROBLEMS
    But the first and most pressing issue people seem to have is that they can‘t
    trust their apps to do the right thing when the connection gets dodgy. You can
    summarize this with the following user story:

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  57. As a mobile app user, I want
    to be sure that the data I need
    is actually there when I need it
    USER STORY
    And this is quite fundamental. It‘s so fundamental it probably gets forgotten
    most of the time. Of course users want this. But it used to be a painful problem,
    and it was easier to just fail, show errors and let people blame it on their
    networks.
    But in some cases, you can‘t do that.

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  58. So here‘s the german railway advertising that you can apparently book tickets
    and use their app under any circumstances, even when free soloing in the alps
    (remember, in the tech future, everyone is into extreme sports and ice carving)

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  59. vs.
    and then there‘s the normal world with this guy who can‘t access his ticket,
    because the app won‘t start up when the connection is bad. It‘ll work in
    airplane mode, but on an actual high-speed train, where the phone can
    connect to the occasional cell but not do anything with it, it fails, and it fails
    slowly. While the ticket inspector is breathing down your neck.

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  60. Another symptom: screenshotting apps, because you can‘t trust them to retain
    their state. Lots of people do this. I went through the photos on my phone and
    found quite a few of these screenshots, where I was afraid that the data I‘d just
    fetched would vanish the next time I opened my phone. Because this kind of
    thing happens a lot:

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  61. Those views were full of data just moments before I took these screenshots,
    but then I made the mistake of, I don‘t know, switching apps or putting my
    phone away for a minute. And what happens? The apps ditch any data they
    may have had, then fail at loading new data, and then the user suddenly has
    no data at all. That‘s just not cool.

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  62. And even if an app stores stuff locally… how clear is this? How clear is it
    whether and which data is there, and will continue to be there, and under which
    circumstances? I can‘t trust this.

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  63. More trustworthy
    and reliable apps
    OFFLINE FIRST OPPORTUNITY

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  64. Always-online
    architecture
    OFFLINE PROBLEMS
    The second issue is that many apps are designed to only work while
    connected, even if there‘s absolutely no intrinsic requirement to do so.

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  65. As a mobile app user, when I‘m
    offline, I want to be able to use
    features that don‘t require a
    connection
    USER STORY

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  66. If you‘re only adding data yourself, why doesn‘t this just always work, online or
    offline? You should be able to add a meeting, mark a task as done, write a
    message, check in, post a picture… create stuff. Store now, sync later, but
    don‘t get in the way of getting things done if it isn‘t necessary. And again, this is
    an opportunity:

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  67. More useful and
    more usable apps
    OFFLINE FIRST OPPORTUNITY
    This is directly linked to the next one:

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  68. My data
    isn‘t with me
    OFFLINE PROBLEMS

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  69. As a mobile app user, I want
    to have my personal data
    on my device at all times
    USER STORY
    It is my personal data, why should it not be on here? I might need it, and you
    don‘t know when. Plus, in most syncing scenarios, I‘m the authority over my
    data, so just let me keep a local copy. Granted, this gets problematic if your
    app is highly collaborative, but if you have a use case where user data is fairly
    well isolated, you can easily do this.

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  70. Always-accessible
    personal data
    OFFLINE FIRST OPPORTUNITY

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  71. Apps require
    advance planning
    OFFLINE PROBLEMS
    One more thing that frequently irked people: apps not being smart about what
    data they store locally. In short:

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  72. As a mobile app user, I want
    apps to pre-empt my needs
    in a sensible manner
    USER STORY
    Because I don‘t know in advance when I‘ll need what

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  73. Once out of bed, internet and apps are
    used almost constantly, peaking during
    the daily commute with 70 percent
    usage.
    — Ericsson
    Traffic and Market Report, June 2012

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  74. RSS readers should already
    have new data in them
    when you open them
    With non-smart apps, you‘re regularly caught in the subway with day-old
    articles, because you explicitly have to fetch them yourself. But what else
    would you want in an RSS reader except new articles whenever you open it?
    When do people read on the go? While travelling. When are connections
    worst? While travelling. So the apps should fetch the data before you need it.

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  75. Obviously important data
    should probably
    be stored locally
    Dropbox is good in this regard. Fave something on the phone? It‘s now on the
    phone, always. And that‘s a good assumption to make on their part.
    Now, i suppose that most of you are from australia, so you maybe didn‘t have
    this problem at this conference. But if you travel a lot, you‘d probably want this:

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  76. Smart, offline maps
    WOULDN‘T THAT BE NICE
    So sure, you can have offline maps, but you need to know in advance. Get an
    offline maps app, or invoke a bizarre ritual to get google maps to cache your
    surroundings. Have you seen this?

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  77. Go to the search box, enter „ok maps“

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  78. even has a funky loading animation

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  79. Great. Cached maps. It‘s obviously an experimental hack, but it‘s quite useful.
    But you could go further. Maps knows where you live, right? Imagine if it would
    pre-emptively download your surroundings as soon as it notices you‘re on wifi
    in a different country than usual.
    On the other hand, it nicely demonstrates some of the problems with caching
    local data: you need new UI elements, plus you need to answer some pressing
    questions: how long will the cached map be retained? Does it get flushed at
    some point? Can I remove it when I don‘t need it anymore? Can I cache more
    than one at a time, and if yes, is there some sort of limit? In short: how does it
    work and can I trust it?

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  80. Smart apps that
    pre-empt user needs
    OFFLINE FIRST OPPORTUNITY
    Which brings us to:

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  81. Offline-First
    Challenges
    It‘s becoming obvious that there are a number of new things you could be
    doing, and that these new things require new interfaces and in some parts
    even a new design language, because you have to communicate stuff to
    people you haven‘t had to communicate before

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  82. save vs. sync
    How do we communicate the states data can be in? Stored locally, scheduled
    for sync, synced, possibly out of date, conflicting…

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  83. We all know this is usually a lie. It means lots of things, but in the end it only
    means:

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  84. You wouldn‘t
    understand…
    „I‘m not ready, and it‘s to complicated to explain why“.
    But we want to reassure users, remember? We need to find a good language,
    possibly visual, to do so

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  85. If your app now behaves differently depending on whether it‘s connected or
    not, you‘ll have to make this clear somehow.
    Threema does this by displaying an always-visible connectivity stripe at the
    top, red for disconnected, yellow for connecting and green for connected, and
    teaches you beforehand what the consequences of each are.

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  86. Save
    But you could just as well selectively disable, hide or re-phrase features.
    Imagine a save button that knows whether it‘s connected to the server, and
    changes accordingly:

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  87. Save
    AND SYNC LATER
    Or you could just let users save either way and inform them about the state of
    things after the fact:

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  88. Saved locally
    (offline, syncing later)
    There are loads of ways to solve this problem: be super-secretive and just
    handling everything in the background, or inform the users before, during or
    after they‘ve done something. Depends on the use case, who you‘re
    developing for, and how crucial the data is to them.

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  89. Informing users
    about sync
    outcomes
    Lastly, informing users about sync outcomes. Not just whether they succeeded
    or not, but how and possibly why data has changed in their browser. This is
    probably one of the hardest UI problems related to sync, especially when it
    comes to chronologically sorted data, like chats or other streams/threads.

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  90. 10:00 - Hi
    10:01 - Yo
    A
    B
    10:02 - Meet on Thursday?
    A
    10:03 - Sure, I‘m free.
    B
    10:04 - Ah wait, meant Tuesday.
    A
    Here‘s a fairly simple chat example. Now imagine that B‘s second message
    was written while one of the two was offline. On a train, in a tunnel or
    something.

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  91. 10:00 - Hi
    10:01 - Yo
    A
    B
    10:02 - Meet on Thursday?
    A
    10:04 - Ah wait, meant Tuesday.
    A

    Then the offline user reconnects and the messages sync up again. A receives
    B‘s missing offline message. So where do you put it?

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  92. 10:05 - Hey A
    10:06 - Hi C
    C
    10:07 - Hey, you free on Tuesday?
    A
    10:08 - Lemme see…
    10:09 - I asked B too, btw
    A
    10:04 - Ah wait, meant Tuesday.
    A
    A
    C
    You can put it in the chronologically correct place, which makes sense in a
    thread context, because the order carries meaning. But that might mean the
    message appears somewhere out of the user‘s current view, way up there
    somewhere. That‘s a new UI challenge in itself. Or you could do what
    Imessage sometimes seems to do: display it in the flow according to the time it
    arrives at.

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  93. 10:00 - Hi
    10:01 - Yo
    A
    B
    10:02 - Meet on Thursday?
    A
    10:03 - Sure, I‘m free.
    B
    10:04 - Ah wait, meant Tuesday.
    A
    This guarantees that the message will actually be seen by A, but this approach
    has the potential to change meaning, because message order is meaningful.
    And this is only text-based, one-dimensional data. What to do with deleted
    items, things that can’t be organised in lists, objects that aren’t in themselves
    immutable? There‘s a lot of potential for complexity here, so that‘s something
    to beware of.
    It‘s not a magic bullet, by any means. But as we‘ve seen, there are a number of
    problems you can solve this way. And there are a couple of additional
    advantages, too.

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  94. Offline-First
    Advantages
    Let‘s talk about those.

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  95. • Performance
    OFFLINE-FIRST ADVANTAGES
    First: Peformance. We put stuff in CDNs to move it closer to the user, but the
    closest thing to me right now is this (phone in pocket). Move your app in here.

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  96. • Performance
    ZERO LATENCY
    OFFLINE-FIRST ADVANTAGES
    That's zero latency for me. This is the way to the snappiest experience.

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  97. • Performance
    ZERO LATENCY
    • Robustness
    OFFLINE-FIRST ADVANTAGES
    Robustness. Offline capability protects from service interruptions. Interestingly,
    we hadn‘t even anticipated this. We have a fairly large service running on
    Hoodie and had to briefly take it down for maintenance, and most people using
    the app at that moment didn‘t notice.
    It doesn‘t matter if your app can‘t reach the server because the user is on the
    subway, or because the server is down. It‘ll still work.

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  98. • Performance
    ZERO LATENCY
    • Robustness
    SERVER DOWN? I DON‘T CARE
    OFFLINE-FIRST ADVANTAGES
    Also: want to swap your backend? You can. They‘re swappable commodities
    now. As long as they speak the same API, you can just… swap to another one
    anytime.

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  99. • Performance
    ZERO LATENCY
    • Robustness
    SERVER DOWN? I DON‘T CARE
    • Better experiences
    OFFLINE-FIRST ADVANTAGES
    Better experiences. Apps don‘t lose data. Apps are more trustworthy. Apps are
    more usable and useful. Apps cause less frustration.

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  100. • Performance
    ZERO LATENCY
    • Robustness
    SERVER DOWN? I DON‘T CARE
    • Better experiences
    SAVE ALL THE TIME
    OFFLINE-FIRST ADVANTAGES
    And remember, you‘re saving to a local store first. You can save after every
    single keystroke if you want, and sync to the server every couple of seconds.
    There‘s a lot to be gained from an offline-first architecture that‘s not completely
    obvious at first glance.

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  101. Do you need
    your users‘ data?
    Plus, it gets you thinking more about the data you‘re collecting, since you have
    to decide upon syncing strategies. And you may even find that you don‘t
    actually have to or even want to store your users‘ data on your servers. This
    can do wonders for scalability and privacy concerns, and may even be a
    business benefit for you.

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  102. So, is Offline-First
    worth it?
    You may be looking at all this and thinking: „this seems like a lot of work for a
    reeeally specific issue, and networks are getting denser and better all the time,
    so why bother?“

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  103. Well: Think of your everyday mobile experience, in your wealthy, well
    connected first-world cities, think of your mobile experience in the countryside,
    while travelling, in other countries, and then realise that global mobile traffic is
    on this kind of growth curve, and we‘re just in the middle of that at the moment.

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  104. There will be more and more active smartphones, and the cheapest ones are
    selling best. And each subscriber‘s data use is expected to multiply over the
    coming years.
    Source: http://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/whitepapers/wp-wcdma.pdf

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  105. 51 percent of smartphone users are very
    satisfied with their operator’s network
    and only 3 percent are outright
    dissatisfied, leaving almost half in a
    position where their satisfaction could
    easily be improved.
    — Ericsson
    Traffic and Market Report, June 2012
    Half of everyone is already somewhat unhappy with their coverage.

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  106. And admittedly, carriers are pushing HSPA like crazy, but they‘ll never reach
    full practical coverage. The graph shows population coverage, not actual
    connectivity. And even if your city is blanketed in cell towers, you won‘t always
    be in that city. And if you are, there will still be subways, dense buildings and
    other dark spots. There will still be travel, extortionate international roaming
    charges, uncovered countryside, boats, planes, an overpopulated radio
    spectrum… And people need the proper devices to take advantage of these
    new technologies, too.
    I live in the capital of one of the most developed nations on earth, and even
    with a modern 600€ phone, I frequently only get unresponsive EDGE
    connections, or none at all. And that‘s before I even start travelling anywhere.
    Source: http://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/2012/
    traffic_and_market_report_june_2012.pdf

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  107. Don‘t just wait it out
    and hope it will
    solve itself
    Because the networks aren‘t the only thing. Apps and web apps are popular.
    They‘re competing with old-school native desktop applications that save to disk
    in many fields. They can iterate quicker and cover more platforms. People are
    moving their stuff to the web and to web services in droves. It‘s only going to
    increase:

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  108. Any application that can be written in
    JavaScript, will eventually be written in
    JavaScript.
    —Jeff Atwood
    „Atwood‘s Law“
    Today we‘re collaboratively editing and syncing simple text between multiple
    devices, next year it might be something quite different. Graphics. Music. Data
    tables. Anything.
    And if it‘s in the browser, trust me, it‘s going to be used mobile, and it‘s going to
    be offline at some point.

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  109. And the browser is the place to be.

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  110. At some point recently, the browser
    transformed from being an awesome
    interactive document viewer into being
    the world’s most advanced, widely-
    distributed application runtime.
    —Tom Dale
    Progressive Enhancement is Dead
    It‘s a very attractive platform for developers for many reasons, and as web
    apps gain complexity and mobile native app usage increases further, users will
    simply expect a mature and solid experience. Waiting for more cell towers to
    be built won‘t help them.
    Source: http://tomdale.net/2013/09/progressive-enhancement-is-dead/

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  111. We can’t keep building apps with the
    desktop mindset of permanent, fast
    connectivity, where a temporary
    disconnection or slow service
    is regarded as a problem
    and communicated as an error.
    So, in closing:

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  112. We can
    and should
    do better

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  113. It‘s early days,
    and there‘s a lot to
    talk and think about

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  114. There are still
    many techncial
    challenges
    With Hoodie, we have a solution for data scenarios, but it may not be what you
    need. It‘s still early days, and more people will find new and different ways of
    solving the problem for different scenarios. When if comes to apps,
    serviceworker is still far from ready, and appcache is really quite painful.

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  115. We still need
    a design language
    for offline first
    There aren‘t really any UI pattern libraries or established design metaphors for
    save vs. sync, sync states, connectivity states, simple conflict resolution etc.

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  116. We need more
    awareness that
    this is a thing
    More awareness of the problems, especially those we ourselves may not be
    exposed to, more awareness of the technical possibilities, and more
    awareness of the opportunities of embracing this paradigm

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  117. We started offlinefirst.org to start bringing people together on this. We‘ve got
    some discussions going on github, we hold workshops and talks and travel
    around and talk to people. We‘ve started collecting other resources and
    projects, as well as people‘s feedback, and we‘re aiming to add more. And
    we‘d like to invite you to add your own ideas and issues.

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  118. Please join in!
    And also:

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  119. Don‘t panic,
    use Hoodie
    And come talk to me if you want to know more

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  120. Thanks!
    Please come see me for info and stickers!
    @espylaub
    And please check out http://hood.ie

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