The rough edge of mobile

by Giuseppe Lanzi on 05/29/2013

The goal of nearly everyone who has attended our Instant Developer courses in the last few months has been to develop mobile applications. This is a really positive thing, because it’s a response to the huge demand for business applications in this arena. But there’s one risk we need to avoid.

The risk is to underestimate the situation, thinking that maybe all we need is a bit of graphics “for cell phones” to achieve good results. But nearly all business apps have to operate offline, so they need local databases on the device that have to be synchronized with the server DB. Basically, it’s a system with multiple distributed databases: that’s nothing to sneeze at. We’re not even used to thinking of data as physically divided and requiring consolidation at a later point.

If you’ve already started down the mobile road, you’ll have noticed immediately how important this is, because we’re forced to ask ourselves questions that we haven’t had to deal with before: How can I divide data between databases? What limits does a mobile device impose? How can I distribute just the differences? And then there’s also the problem of designing an interface for a small space, with process-oriented approaches instead of data-oriented.

From what I’ve seen, there are three helpful pieces of advice I can offer you:

  • only the data that is strictly crucial to the current user should be synchronized on the device’s database. All other data should remain only on the server.
  • while implementing, always asks yourself: “will the code I’m writing run on the server or on the device?”.
  • test as many mobile apps as possible. The ability to design a good interface can only come from a solid user experience.

Speaking of advice, a lot of you have asked me what’s the best way to train yourself to use Instant Developer. The answer is simple: first a bit of self-training on “traditional” database-oriented applications, followed by an intermediate course on Document Orientation, and only then a mobile course.

That may seem like a long road, but the best way to avoid a crash is to understand the entire route before you set off.


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