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Drew is product lead, MongoDB Realm. He has spent the past couple of years helping make complex databases more intuitive. Since joining MongoDB, he’s worked on Atlas, and more recently on MongoDB Realm. Prior to joining MongoDB, Drew worked on distributed databases within Azure SQL Server and was a founding member of the Azure SQL Data Warehouse team.
Whether mobile app developers are creating exciting new customer-facing apps or productivity-boosting software for internal employees, they often have similar goals: They want to produce high-quality apps that users like to use, and they need to iterate rapidly to meet the evolving expectations of users.
Efficiency is key to achieving these goals. Developers need ways to streamline their work, reduce time spent on “glue code”and the complex code required for data sync, and eliminate duplication of efforts across teams.
But enhancing efficiency can be difficult, especially when teams are building apps for use in offline-first environments or that require a real-time view of data. These apps need local data persistence, a backend database and sync mechanism between the two, typically built using REST APIs, to ensure up-to-date information is immediately available across a variety of users and devices.
So, how can your organization improve efficiency and meet those goals for app quality and speed? By using a consistent tech stack across mobile projects and teams, and making strategic decisions to simplify your app architecture.
Key Challenges of In-House Mobile App Development
Many software development teams start down the path of building everything themselves, only to encounter significant challenges. Although every organization, and every app, is unique, these teams often run into similar stumbling blocks.
Working With a Database Not Designed for Mobile
When developers are faced with the daunting task of constructing an entire tech stack from scratch, most start with familiar technologies. But standard technologies may inhibit the team’s overall productivity and the mobile app’s performance.
If the technologies selected were not designed specifically to simplify mobile development, developers might ultimately produce large, inefficient apps that perform poorly or are unable to seamlessly sync with backend databases after running offline. They also spend time working with object–relational mapping (ORM), writing significant glue code and spending time translating between their API and the app’s native language objects.
These legacy approaches slow down the development team’s work and can result in an app that has a larger footprint, consumes more device energy and is more error-prone than an app built using mobile-first technology.
Managing Complex Architectures
Today’s mobile app architectures can become complicated quickly. When mobile apps require data synchronization, your team might initially choose to use REST APIs due to their familiarity and perceived simplicity. But when building offline-first mobile apps, this approach can create substantial work for developers, who must do the time-consuming work of addressing error-handling and retry conditions to prepare for connectivity interruptions or other communication issues.
As you add new features to your app and your data model evolves, you may need to modify a large amount of code. Over time, all that code will need time-consuming maintenance and debugging.
If you have multiple teams working on multiple apps, teams might duplicate this inefficient, time-consuming coding work to build data sync from one project to the next. Without standardizing data synchronization across your organization, you could wind up with several siloed teams writing complex code in parallel, wasting more time and resources.
Delivering Low-Quality Apps
If your developers have to spend time maintaining a complex sync service or see app performance limited by choice of datastore, they will be less able to focus on building and delivering engaging new features to production. Some organizations scale back their apps so they can still meet deadlines. But if you create an app that lacks key functionality or earns mediocre reviews in the app store, users will seek alternatives or abandon the app altogether.
Simplifying Mobile App Development
Adopting a natively integrated mobile app framework and using it across mobile projects and teams can streamline your app development. The goal: simplify your mobile app architecture, enhance development efficiency and keep your developers focused on rapidly delivering new, high-quality mobile apps and features.
What’s required is a lightweight, open source mobile database that is embedded directly on the client with an object-oriented data model that works across iOS, Android and other platforms.
But how to maintain complicated sync capabilities? It’s a matter of having comparable database environments that are both on the client and a cloud service to automatically handle all conflict resolution when devices come online. It must scale with usage so teams are freed from worrying about the backend.
And lastly, it’s important to avoid building, managing and maintaining a complicated architecture. With technologies designed for mobile apps, you enhance efficiency and reduce the need for extensive custom coding. And by adopting such a framework across your enterprise, you can eliminate duplicative efforts from one team to the next. Your team can deliver higher-quality apps to production faster and be more responsive to changing user needs.
Case Study: Overcoming In-House Development Hurdles
For Humanitix, the Realm Mobile Database and MongoDB Realm Sync service were key in building an offline-first mobile check-in app for large, ticketed events. Humanitix is a nonprofit organization that transforms ticketing fees into education programs for disadvantaged children. The company needed to build an app that could keep track of event attendees entering venues through multiple gates, even when network connectivity is spotty for the scanning devices the ticket collectors use.
Initially, the company’s developers began to build the app in-house using SQLite to store data on the device and REST APIs to sync data with the backend MongoDB Atlas database. But the app they created had performance and data sync problems. Moving to Realm and MongoDB technologies helped the company eliminate those issues, enabling developers to stay focused on delivering a highly effective app.
Reducing the Complexity of Mobile App Development
Creating robust, engaging mobile apps that fulfill user needs and meet their expectations is challenging enough. Attempting to build, manage and maintain every element of your mobile app tech stack in-house can add substantial, unnecessary complexity. Integrated technologies reduce that complexity, enabling your team to focus on innovation and to deliver high-quality apps and new features rapidly.
To learn more about how these integrated technologies can help you overcome mobile app development challenges, read the whitepaper, “The Offline-first Approach to Mobile App Development.”
Lead image via Pixabay.
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