Offline First (Web) Apps - Coldfront 2015

59eaaab5857051dedce6db7ebcaed94c?s=47 Alex Feyerke
September 03, 2015

Offline First (Web) Apps - Coldfront 2015

A couple of years ago, mobile devices became A Thing™, and it took us all a couple more years to realise what the design implications were. From this, we got responsive webdesign. It took a whole lot longer to grasp the structural implications: all of our (web)apps and sites have been potentially distributed systems for quite a while now, running on devices with varying degrees of connectivity.

However, we've mostly been building them with a pre-2007 desktop understanding of the internet. This has led to widespread frustration, a lot of wasted time, and many stupid error messages. This is a talk both about how that happened and why it's time to change. About what it actually means to design, structure and build an offline-first app. About the benefits, opportunities and challenges of the approach, and how it can make your apps faster, more fun, and more robust.

59eaaab5857051dedce6db7ebcaed94c?s=128

Alex Feyerke

September 03, 2015
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Transcript

  1. Offline-First (WEB) APPS Alex Feyerke / @espylaub Coldfront 2015, Copenhagen

    Good morning! This is „Offline First Web Apps“, my name is Alex, I‘m a web designer from Berlin, and I‘m very grateful to Kenneth and the Coldfront team for inviting me here. I‘m part of the team that makes Hoodie:
  2. HOOD.IE an open-source server that lets you quickly build complete,

    data-driven web apps from the frontend. It‘s like jquery for data storage. And Hoodie is a bit special, because these apps are offline capable by default, meaning they won‘t break when the connection goes down, and this is basically why we‘re so interested in this whole topic. This isn‘t a talk about Hoodie, although it does come up a few times, it‘s about this idea of
  3. Offline-First Concepts Interfaces Experiences Problems Offline First. So this is

    going to be dense and fast, but also not technical. This one is about higher level things like Concepts, Interfaces, Experiences, and about understanding what the problem is in the first place. There are actually several talks today should be a lot more hands-on than this one. But before we get started, let‘s take a small detour and talk about building things.
  4. From 1933 to 1957, there was a place called the

    Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Great thinkers and artists from all over the world wanted to remake education, make it holistic, give arts and sciences and crafts equal emphasis. One of the teachers there was…
  5. Bucky Buckminster Fuller. The Dome Guy. Seen here with a

    dome. He thought domes were the future of architecture.
  6. Bucky So he built one for the 1967 World Fair

    in Montreal. The future was coming, and he wanted to build in a way that reflected this: new forms of living, new forms of community, new materials. And the dome had lots of advantages: it was sturdier, used less material, needed less energy to heat, and seemed like the structure of the future. Efficient, robust, highly aesthetic, and geometrically perfect. So why don‘t we all live in domes?
  7. This one, for example, caught fire. But what about the

    idea in general? We‘re in the future now, after all. Turns out what people really want is a building they can make their own, that is robust, adaptable, and flexible. Brick, wood and concrete boxes: simple, dependable, proven. Utterly traditional. You may despair at how conservative people and their choices are, but you'll have to admit that in the end, you'd rather have the thing that works, the thing that acknowledges how your actual reality is. Doesn‘t have to be perfect. You‘re not perfect either. And ironically, when the Black Mountain College had to expand its facilities, this is what they built:
  8. A box. People want to have doors, and cupboards, and

    windows to lean out of. Awnings to sit under, and walls to screw shelves into. They'd like to be able to put in a dividing wall or extend the building. They want to make good use of the space they have to build on. And it turns out that, paradoxically, the most conservative option turns out to be the most adaptable, the one most suited to everyday life. That box? Could be any number of things for any number of people. It‘s adaptable to everyday needs.
  9. Now keep that in mind for a second as we

    zoom back into the present. Let‘s look at how we build, how we work.
  10. How we work IT‘S BASICALLY SCIENCE FICTION We make web

    apps. Or native apps, for our purposes, it doesn't make a difference. 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. But we‘re always saying: „In the near future, when this is ready, your life will improve a tiny bit“ And too often, our industry will communicate this like glossy science fiction:
  11. Small companies like plastc, this „20 credit cards in one“-hardware

    startup, and like most pre-order/crowdfunding companies, they have a vision, and they have a video. And it‘s basically a tiny slice of science fiction, a year or two from now: „here‘s how we imagine real human beings behaving in the near future“. And of course they show the tech and all, but it doesn‘t really matter what the product is, they all work by showing this evocative shiny, perfect and slick future. [plastc.com]
  12. And this scales throughout the industry. Microsoft, also loves imagining

    the future. They regularly release a so-called "Productivity Future Vision". Now, the name sounds as if someone just pulled three human resources buzzwords from a hat, but let‘s take a look at the current one:
  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-tFdreZB94 Microsoft‘s Productivity Future Vision 2015 But it feels… wrong.

    It's too smooth. It's not normal enough. But it‘s the future! Every flat surface is a screen! You‘re always connected, under water, in rural Cambodia, everywhere. The network is perfect, so your devices have no signal indicators. Your batteries are perfect, so your devices have no battery indicators either. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-tFdreZB94
  14. And this is how it envisions you talking to your

    dad, who, as far as I can tell from the video, is in the same bloody building. The whole thing is a choreography of wealth and status, and it‘s utterly improbable in its perfection.
  15. 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 All the systems in these videos are always flawless. „Everyone‘s happy…“, even old grandad with his wonky knee, because the humans may fail, but the systems always work. And by the way, you should absolutely look up Tobias Revells‘s work, it's eye- opening and very well done, which is why I'm stealing a bit more of it. Now, Google Glass used to be the future, now it‘s the past, but while it was still a thing, of course Google made a near-future sci fi video for it: [source: http://blog.tobiasrevell.com/2013/12/critical-design-design-fiction- lecture.html]
  16. 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 being late for a flight, 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. And again: the systems are perfect where the humans aren‘t. It again assumes a perfect, global network, even in the sky, so it‘s still improbable, but has hints of normality. And now:
  17. Let‘s go back a bit This next one is from

    1969, with a vision of the 1990s. Same era as the Montral Dome from a minute ago. 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…
  18. 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? Because it‘s not perfect. We see normal people at normal desks 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. Because it's London. It‘s normal. Listen: "suppose she makes an error". People don‘t make mistakes in Microsoft‘s future vision. Nobody has to ask glass to do something twice 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. What this shows is that thinking about the future is obviously a bit hard, because…
  19. […] for every miraculous iPad there are countless partly broken

    realities: WiFi passwords, connectivity, battery life, privacy and compatibility amongst others.
  20. 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
  21. And I just said this when speaking about this product

    sci-fi: „here‘s how we imagine real human beings behaving in the near future“ But what I really mean, and what you really want, is „here‘s how we imagine something utterly normal happening in the near future“
  22. 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.
  23. And the circumstances in which we work aren't normal either,

    they usually bear little relationship to how and where our products will probably be used. We build from behind shiny new macs with full-sized keyboards in well-equipped offices with fast connections, but the target environments are radically diverse and different. And that‘s just us in our normal offices. The closer you get to San Francisco, the exponentially less normal things get.
  24. Thing is: It used to be that if your device

    could consume the web, it could also make it. That‘s no longer true for the majority of people. So you had to learn that people‘s devices were different than your dev machine, and now you realize that their circumstances are also very different, and require a bit of an empathic leap. Because their experience of the web is not only different to ours, it‘s also different to our historical experience of the web. Their first contact is radically different than ours was. But what counts for us, now, is that:
  25. 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.
  26. BART 2 An extreme example: If you take a google/apple/ebay/facebook

    bus to work, you don't get the usual public transport experience. You've got free corporate wifi, air conditioning, leather seats… your commuting experience is far, far removed from that of basically everyone else. That‘s probably your baseline now. But in a way, we‘re all on the google bus. We‘re super privileged. And we frequently forget that we have to… [http://www.wired.com/2013/09/mapping-silicon-valleys-corporate-shuttle- problem/]
  27. Build for a normal world Normality is where most of

    life happens.
  28. 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 as a developer, is overwhelmingly mobile. Phones are mobile, tablets are mobile, this thing is mobile. This is a mobile device. Hundreds of thousands of people use these with 3G or LTE sticks. You might not, but they do. The big grey box is a relic. Mobile is normal.
  29. Normality is imperfect And you all know this: it's imperfect.

    Normality is imperfect. The web is very, very imperfect. The experience you're building? It's going to break for people. It's imperfect in ways you can't influence. You can write all the tests you want, but you can‘t fix 3G on the subway. And we do make attempts to import this reality into our work environments:
  30. I saw a talk the other day that showed this

    image, stating that „this is the internet now“. But that‘s not true. That‘s superficially what it looks like, on the surface, but what that is is a bunch of devices connected to a local dev server that‘s propably in the same room. But that iPad‘s never going on a plane, and that kindle will never be on the subway, and that game boy… doesn‘t matter. The point is not that you have to carry all those devices around in the world for testing, but rather that…
  31. …you can now build experiences to accommodate 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 you can provide good experiences regardless.
  32. Offline is not an error because Offline is not an

    error.
  33. Offline is a fact of mobile life and therefore…

  34. Offline is a fact of normal life It‘s just a

    state your app can be in. And a fairly likely one at that. It‘s not exactly an edge case. So here‘s the basic idea behind Offline First:
  35. Treat the network as an enhancement OFFLINE-FIRST IN A NUTSHELL

    Beyond the first load, just don‘t assume you have a network connection. So how does that work, conceptually? Let‘s take a quick look at Hoodie‘s
  36. Offline-First Architecture A SUPER SHORT OVERVIEW offline-first architecture. Just to

    see one way to do his whole thing.
  37. WHAT NEEDS TO BE OFFLINE? An App's offline capability is

    guaranteed through two separate aspects:
  38. • 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 electron. In a native app, this is a given.
  39. • The app and its assets • The app‘s data

    WHAT NEEDS TO BE OFFLINE? more interestingly, 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. Let‘s see how hoodie handles this.
  40. FRONTEND BACKEND Hoodie Sync

  41. FRONTEND App BACKEND Hoodie Sync

  42. 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.
  43. FRONTEND App hoodie.store browser store BACKEND Hoodie Sync [explain slide]

    As far as this concept goes, feel free to replace localstorage with any in- browser storage of your choice. This, by itself, is enough for an app. You can wrap that in node-webkit and sell it to people who don‘t trust the cloud. But let‘s assume you want more, you want user management and syncing.
  44. FRONTEND App hoodie.store Sync CouchDB REST BACKEND Hoodie Sync browser

    store [explain slide] We can do syncing 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, and we can easily keep people‘s data separate on the server.
  45. FRONTEND App hoodie.store Sync Plugins (node.js) CouchDB REST BACKEND Hoodie

    Sync browser store So, how does it work? [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, like passive aggressive roommates. 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.
  46. FRONTEND App hoodie.store BACKEND Hoodie Sync Sync Anyone home? Out

    for lunch, BRB browser store 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.
  47. FRONTEND App hoodie.store BACKEND Hoodie Sync Sync I don‘t care!

    Out for lunch, BRB browser store offline first apps are the web's honey badgers: they don't care, they just do their thing. Bees, tunnels, bad connectivity: the offline badger just keeps on going. It's how things should be on the internet: robust and fault-tolerant. Anyway, the point was:
  48. FRONTEND App hoodie.store Sync Plugins (node.js) CouchDB REST BACKEND Hoodie

    Sync browser store If you want true offline capability, your app shouldn‘t try to talk to the server directly, only through sync. And you always want to keep a local copy in browser storage. That‘s really the central point: the user‘s data on the user‘s device, always. Sync is pretty hard. Really. You probably don‘t want to be implementing this yourself, there‘s just so much to get wrong. But whatever tech you choose to solve this with:
  49. 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 So then, the big question: [http://aanandprasad.com/articles/offline/]
  50. How do I make this offline magic work? Magiiiiiiic spaaarkles

  51. //  Store  some  data hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'fly  to  copenhagen'}) Using

    Hoodie No magic, just a line of code. This is what using hoodie looks like. There‘s a hoodie object, with a store object, which has a couple of methods, like „add“. Add expects a type (todo) and an object with data in it.
  52. //  Store  some  data hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'fly  to  copenhagen'}) //

     Sign  up  a  new  user hoodie.account.signUp('yay@hood.ie',  'secret'); Using Hoodie Sign up a new user: use the API
  53. //  Store  some  data hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'fly  to  copenhagen'}) //

     Sign  up  a  new  user hoodie.account.signUp('yay@hood.ie',  'secret'); //  Listen  for  store  events hoodie.store.on('add',  handleNewObject) Using Hoodie Want to know when something changed so you can update the UI? Listen to events from the library
  54. //  Store  some  data hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'fly  to  copenhagen'}) //

     Sign  up  a  new  user hoodie.account.signUp('yay@hood.ie',  'secret'); //  Listen  for  store  events hoodie.store.on('add',  handleNewObject) Using Hoodie Wait, so how do I offline? 0_o So how do you make this work offine?
  55. //  Store  some  data hoodie.store.add('todo',  {name:  'eat  smørrebrød'}) //  Sign

     up  a  new  user hoodie.account.signUp('yay@hood.ie',  'secret'); //  Listen  for  store  events hoodie.store.on('add',  handleNewObject) Using Hoodie That‘s it. All you need to do is embrace a decoupled, event based architecture, which you probably do anyway. Talk to the api, let it sync for you, and listen to events from Hoodie to see if anything happened. 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:
  56. Hoodie Demo Middle: So you see, you don‘t only get

    offline for free, you also get multi- device-sync for free. End: this illustrates our underlying strategy: if you can make it unobtrusive, make it unobtrusive. The simpler it is, the more people can use it. [haven‘t uploaded the video for this yet, sorry]
  57. Sweet. Now what? So, we felt like we'd solved a

    lot of the technical aspects, and now we were wondering: what does this mean? Which opportunities does this give us, exactly? Which problems can we now solve? And in my research I noticed I was suddenly reading articles from an area of computer sciences I really wasn‘t expecting. Because if you have several data stores with the same data in your system…
  58. You‘re all in the distributed systems business now … you‘ve

    got a distributed system, for better or worse. And now a whole new range of interesting problems and opportunities arise. But before we even go there, we can look at some insights from the distributed systems world and see whether they can help us. And as we all know, there are only two hard problems in distributed systems:
  59. Seriously though. There are three things that pop up again

    and again:
  60. — Tyler Treat Distributed Systems are a UX Problem 1.

    The cost of knowing the „truth“ is prohibitively expensive A vendor is selling you a thing, but the vendor's system is not actually checking whether the item is actually present in the warehouse, or even if the warehouse still exists. It might be on fire, for all the web interface knows. But doing this check is prohibitively expensive and also quite challenging. There are other factors. Five other people may simultaneously buy something that is only in stock once. You could throw lots of money at engineering and try and make this perfect, and prevent four of those sales. But you're really pushing the limits of practicality. It is much more sensible to have your systems make educated guesses and assumptions, and make trade-offs on the few occasions when they're wrong. And then apologise to people, and recover from these edge cases and race conditions.
  61. — Tyler Treat Distributed Systems are a UX Problem 1.

    The cost of knowing the „truth“ is prohibitively expensive 2. There is no „now“ This is just physics. The parts of your system are not just distributed conceptually, there are actual physical distances between them, and there is latency between them. Your data realities can partition and end up on separate timelines that you have to merge again. And that means that…
  62. — Tyler Treat Distributed Systems are a UX Problem 1.

    The cost of knowing the „truth“ is prohibitively expensive 2. There is no „now“ 3. Failure is not only an option, it‘s an inevitability Warehouses catch fire. Connections go down. Networks partition. Hardware fails. The software is buggy. We can‘t know everything, we can‘t control everything. So how can we gain certainty about anything?
  63. — Tyler Treat Distributed Systems are a UX Problem 1.

    The cost of knowing the „truth“ is prohibitively expensive 2. There is no „now“ 3. Failure is not only an option, it‘s an inevitability Now Tyler here is urging us to stop trying to build perfect systems, but this is only half of our problem: You're building your app to be perfect, but at the same time, you're expecting the systems it runs on to be perfect, too. Just like in the Microsoft and Google videos assume a perfect world for their apps and services to run on. Anway, these three points aligned nicely with the problems people were having with offline scenarios:
  64. Because we held workshops and talks, wrote blog posts and

    spoke to lots of people about this. We were surprised at how many developers suddenly opened up about their offline troubles—realizing they’d had similar problems in the past, but never spoken to others about them, because it wasn‘t a thing. 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 super robust point-of-sale systems for places with bad connectivity. But we identified some central themes:
  65. Trust and reliability OFFLINE PROBLEMS 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:
  66. As a mobile app user, I want to be sure

    that my data is actually available when I need it USER STORY „As a mobile app user…“ and we‘ve seen that mobile is the new normal, so…
  67. As a mobile app user, I want to be sure

    that my data is actually available 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 the telekom. But you can often do a lot better, and offline first is the way to go. But first, let me illustrate the problem:
  68. 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)
  69. 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 connection is slow and intermittent, it fails, and it fails slowly. While the ticket inspector is breathing down your neck. A german ticket inspector. Bad user experience. The solution would be to store personal data and tickets locally, and not make the initial communication with the server blocking.
  70. Another symptom: screenshotting apps, because you can‘t trust them to

    retain their state. Who here does this?
  71. Lots of people do this. This is my camera roll

    from a recent trip to Japan. Most of my photos are screenshots from 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:
  72. 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. So, we can use offline first to get…
  73. More trustworthy and reliable apps OFFLINE FIRST OPPORTUNITY

  74. 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. This is a relic from the age of the big grey box, of the terminal and the thin client, where all the computing power was probably far away from you. Now it‘s in your pocket, and we can do things differently.
  75. 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
  76. If you‘re only viewing your own data, or 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:
  77. More useful and more usable apps OFFLINE FIRST OPPORTUNITY This

    is directly linked to the next one:
  78. My data isn‘t with me OFFLINE PROBLEMS It‘s probably on

    a server in the US somewhere, if you‘re lucky it‘s on a CDN on the same continent as you.
  79. 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. Or rather, your server only gets to back up my data. 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. So, the potential benefit is:
  80. Always-accessible personal data OFFLINE FIRST OPPORTUNITY Super fast, always available

    and simply reliable.
  81. Apps require advance planning to be useful OFFLINE PROBLEMS One

    more thing that frequently irked people when we talked to them about their offline woes: apps not being smart about what data they store locally. In short:
  82. 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 be offline. If I knew, it wouldn‘t be a problem, because I could prepare for it.
  83. Apps should ideally have recent data in them when you

    open them Nowadays you expect your podcast app for example to download new stuff as it appears, so it‘s there when you need it, without delay. And this is wonderful for offline, too. So think about whether your app could hang on to data, or even pre-fetch new data for your users before they need it. Similarly:
  84. 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. You could take this further though…
  85. Smart, offline maps WOULDN‘T THAT BE NICE So sure, you

    can have offline maps, but you need to know that in advance. Get an offline maps app, or get google maps to cache your surroundings. But… 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 city than usual.
  86. Smart, offline maps ALSO A BIT SPOOKY And on the

    other hand, this nicely demonstrates some of the issues 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? Or, for you as a developer: can you make it trustworthy while hiding all the complexity? Interesting questions, but a cool opportunity:
  87. Smart apps that pre-empt user needs OFFLINE FIRST OPPORTUNITY But

    that was already pretty tricky, and brings us to:
  88. 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
  89. If your app behaves differently depending on whether it‘s connected

    or not, you‘ll probably 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. Another big issue:
  90. save vs. sync How do we communicate the states data

    can be in? Stored locally, scheduled for sync, synced, possibly out of date, conflicting… possibly out of date is a state you‘ll get quite often in offline-capable apps, and you‘ll have to decide how crucial the age of data is, and how you communicate it. Because old data can still be useful while potentially being wrong. Think train schedules. Could be wrong, but communicate intent. And that‘s valuable.
  91. 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:
  92. Save AND SYNC LATER Or you could just let users

    save either way and inform them about the state of things after the fact. Or, you could be super-secretive…
  93. …and just handling everything in the background, autosaving constantly and

    auto-syncing whenever you can. And if it doesn‘t work…
  94. Saved locally (offline, syncing later) …apologise and deal with it.

    There are loads of ways to solve this problem, depending on the use case, who you‘re developing for, and how crucial the data is to them. But one thing you‘ll probably have to do is
  95. Informing users about sync outcomes …inform 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, for example when it comes to chronologically sorted data, like chats or other streams/threads.
  96. Informing users about sync outcomes So, I said that if

    users only add data, why not always just let them do that and sync later? Well, it turns out that things aren‘t quite as simple, and that context really matters. Here‘s a fairly simple chat example that illustrates some of the things you‘ll have to keep in mind:
  97. 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 Now imagine that B‘s second message was written while one of the two was offline. On a train, in a tunnel or something.
  98. 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? 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.
  99. 10:00 - Hi 10:01 - Yo A B 10:02 -

    Meet on Thursday? A 10:04 - Ah wait, meant Tuesday. A … 10:05 - Hey A C Then the offline user reconnects and the messages sync up again. A receives B‘s missing offline message. So where do you put it? 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.
  100. 10:01 - Yo B 10:02 - Meet on Thursday? A

    10:04 - Ah wait, meant Tuesday. A … 10:05 - Hey A C 10:06 - Hi C 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? 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.
  101. 10:02 - Meet on Thursday? A 10:04 - Ah wait,

    meant Tuesday. A … 10:05 - Hey A C 10:06 - Hi C A 10:07 - Hey, you free on 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? 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.
  102. 10:04 - Ah wait, meant Tuesday. A … 10:05 -

    Hey A C 10:06 - Hi C A 10:07 - Hey, you free on Tuesday? A 10:08 - Lemme see… C Then the offline user reconnects and the messages sync up again. A receives B‘s missing offline message. So where do you put it? 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.
  103. 10:04 - Ah wait, meant Tuesday. A 10:05 - Hey

    A C 10:06 - Hi C A 10:07 - Hey, you free on Tuesday? A 10:08 - Lemme see… C 10:09 - I asked B too, btw 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? 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.
  104. 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. A simple chat, one of the simplest examples I could think of. 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 be aware of.
  105. 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. A simple chat, one of the simplest examples I could think of. 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 be aware of.
  106. Because the web platform is becoming more an more powerful

    and capable. Here‘s a photo editor. It‘s not photoshop, nor is it trying to be: it‘s quick, easy, no installation, cross-platform, auto-updates, and does most of the things you want in a simple photo editor. You‘d probably want it to work offline, though.
  107. This is an experimental collaborative multitrack recording app, with synths

    and drumkits and audio, and it runs in the browser. This is part of a masters thesis by Jan Monschke, and it‘s really bleeding edge, but just imagine where this tech will be in a year. Cross-platform garage band? That‘s pretty damn cool. But again, it can‘t be used offline, and that‘s a disadvantage in comparison to the native apps it competes with. But aside from competing with native apps, what are the…
  108. Offline-First Advantages advantages of offline first?

  109. • Performance OFFLINE-FIRST ADVANTAGES First: Performance. 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). Put your app in here. Put your data in here.
  110. • Performance ZERO LATENCY OFFLINE-FIRST ADVANTAGES That's zero latency for

    me. This is the way to the snappiest experience. The data may be old, but at least it‘s there. And in many cases, time isn‘t doesn‘t even invalidate the data, so there‘s still a benefit to having it.
  111. • 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 very moment didn‘t notice. Turns out: 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.
  112. • Performance ZERO LATENCY • Robustness SERVER DOWN? I DON‘T

    CARE OFFLINE-FIRST ADVANTAGES
  113. • 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.
  114. • 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. Forget save buttons altogether. There‘s a lot to be gained from an offline-first architecture that‘s not completely obvious at first glance. Anyway:
  115. The web platform is amazing This is just the start.

    Image manipulation, maturing web audio APIs, and there‘s a lot more to come. At JSConf EU last year, there was a lot about ServiceWorker, client side storage and web crypto: all just coming in to existence then, cutting edge, but wildly promising. And now?
  116. The very next talk today will show you how to

    use these things to build apps. Today. And it‘s only going to get better.
  117. Any application that can be written in JavaScript, will eventually

    be written in JavaScript. —Jeff Atwood „Atwood‘s Law“ And if it‘s in the browser it‘s going to be used in a mobile context, and it‘s going to be offline at some point. And it‘s not just about increased mobility any more:
  118. 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 The web is 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. Your apps have to work regardless of the circumstances. Here‘s the conclusion: Source: http://tomdale.net/2013/09/progressive-enhancement-is-dead/
  119. 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:
  120. The future is already here — it's just not very

    evenly distributed —William Gibson Don‘t forget you‘re from the future, and what‘s normal to you probably isn‘t normal for the rest of the world
  121. • The world is imperfect • Your app is imperfect

    • Make the best of it FORGET PERFECTION Learn to let go a bit more. Find a sensible middle ground between certainty and assumption.
  122. Dive in Last year, I finished a prototype web app

    that works completely offline, it has offline maps, and it can even take photos while offline and store them until you‘re back online. It runs well on my dodgy, nearly 4 year old android phone. It‘s only going to get easier, faster and more stable from here on out.
  123. Raise awareness that this is a thing. Among developers, yes,

    but also among users: People need to get used to their browsers and websites working offline. And finally:
  124. Please join in!

  125. We started offlinefirst.org to start bringing people together on this.

    We‘ve got a pretty active slack channel and there‘s a newsletter I can really recommend. In any case, come join us! So finally:
  126. be proud of that dependable boxy thing! And also:

  127. Don‘t panic, use Hoodie Don‘t panic, use hoodie. And come

    talk to me if you want to know more about offline first or hoodie.
  128. Thanks! Please come see me for info and stickers! @espylaub

    Slides: tinyurl.com/offline-first-coldfront And please check out http://hood.ie ❤ I‘ve also got really sweet stickers :) Thank you and enjoy the rest of the day!