Category Archives: Web Application Development

Unsure if your Enterprise needs a Website or a Mobile App?

The remark “There is an app for that” is so common nowadays and underlines the deep influence of mobile apps in our lives. But, when Apple went on to register a trademark for it, you knew it was more than that. 

So, you have decided to go digital and create an online identity for your business. But, you are stuck with the difficulty of choosing between a mobile app and a website. Eager to get a quick solution? Turns out, in most of the cases, both mobile app and website are not mutually exclusive but are complementary, with each serving a different purpose and target segment. So, there isn’t an answer that is universally correct. It depends on various different things.

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App First

Some cases are better served with mobile apps, especially the ones that need frequent or repeated use. For instance, e-commerce, food ordering, social media, chat, news, travel, productivity-related applications, utility apps, real-time tracking like stock apps.

App Only

Then there are those which, because of their dependency on the underlying hardware, can only be served through mobile apps. For instance, home automation, alarm, games, navigation apps, mobile wallets, AR(Augmented Reality) & VR(Virtual Reality) apps and games.

Website or Mobile App?

For the sake of this article, the above two categories need not be considered, for the obvious reason that the mobile app seems to be the default choice for them. However, for categories that can be served equally well by both the mediums, there are certain inherent advantages of using either an app or a website. Let’s understand them from the perspectives of a user and a business.

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User’s point of view, what really matters.

1. Convenience

Websites are convenient for informative and non-frequent use like finding details about a business, exploring a place, looking for services, R&D for projects, and yes, deciding the best app to download for a particular need. Basically, all the Google searches we do can be better served by a website. Mobile apps seem to be more convenient for activities that are performed more frequently. The initial hurdles of downloading and setting things up might seem daunting. But things ease out subsequently, and users get pulled into a more convenient, personalized, and engaging experience.

2. Data Consumption and Offline Mode

To use a mobile app one needs to download it first, an act pulls into the mobile resources that the app will need to function -images, icons, layout inbuilt, etc. Once done, there isn’t much left to download during consumption, which results in quicker loading and sometimes offline access too. In contrary to this, you can’t even load the website without an internet connection.

For mobile apps, during the offline mode, tasks can be queued up in batches and then be pushed to the server when online. Such a sophisticated way of dealing with the offline mode isn’t just possible in case of a website.

3. Performance

For CPU intensive tasks such as games, heavy graphics layouts, complex lists, mobile app scores way higher than a website for its close proximity to the device hardware.

4. Updates

Whether it’s an app or a website, it gets developed alongside. Hence the user expects updates. Pushing an update to the website is easy, you do it on the server-side and users get a brand new look and feel next time they check you out. If you can strategically manage the downtime, there is not much that bothers the user. On the other hand, the whole app needs to be downloaded all over again to get the update. Not to mention, the review process apps go through to be live in the app store which takes time.

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Business’s point of view

1. Customer base – Existing & Potential

Initial acquisition cost is high for mobile apps. You need to get the user to download your app first, to be able to use it. In contrary to this, anyone can visit your website through any browser and from any device having a browser. People can even find your website through Google search. This opens up a lot of possibilities for your business. In short, you can serve both existing and potential customers through a website. Whereas, mobile apps can only serve the existing user base.

2. User Engagement

Re-engaging with users using rich and powerful notifications and getting meaningful insights through analytics is better done with mobile apps than websites.

3. Learning Curve and Cost of Development

Mobile apps are highly customizable. In terms of features and capabilities, they can do a whole lot of stuff that a website can’t do, thanks to the close hardware integration. This, combined with the tons of possible unique use cases, helps create an ever-increasing range of UI/UX and feature possibilities. Thus, you have a steep learning curve even if you need to build a basic app. In other words, there is no such thing called an ‘App builder’. Even if you can find one, chances are, it will let you create a basic HTML type webpage app or an app functioning as a container of your website. In that case, you are better off creating a responsive website instead. Not to mention the whole point of creating an app is to create a tool for your users and you want it to be fully customizable in the first place.

On the other hand, a single screen website with some basic viewable features can be made using website builders needing almost no technical skills. A few examples would include blogging sites, personal/resume type websites, a website showing just the details of your business. However, to create a customized and full-featured website, you need a lot of technical skills.

4. Multiple platform support

Because of the way they have been distributed around the globe, you can’t ignore any of the 2 major platforms of the mobile OS- iOS & Android. People in the US, Canada, Australia, and European nations prefer iOS, whereas, Android is the global leader in terms of market share. Apart from this, iOS users are generally high paying customers in any region. This essentially means, to get high ARPU(Average Revenue Per User) you need to support iOS and to get to the masses, you need to support Android.

Mobile OS preference across the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(credit: https://deviceatlas.com/blog/android-v-ios-market-share)

Supporting 2 completely independent OS will result in higher development and maintenance costs. On the other hand, a single set of code will result in a website which works universally for every device with a browser.

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Website vis-à-vis Mobile Apps! Can one replace the other?

No matter how tightly websites and apps are attached, they are uniquely placed with each serving a purpose different from the other. However, the matter of the fact is that they cannot replace each other. We might see things in the future that will bridge the gap between them both from the business and the user’s point of view. In fact, we already have things like Progressive Web Apps and tools like Flutter and React which are trying to bring websites and apps closer in terms of use and development.

Even Technologies like AR which is by far better served by mobile apps are finding their way to websites. By creating a new file type USDZ, Apple has made it possible for websites to enable users to try 3D virtual objects in their Physical space. This creates a compelling possibility for E-Commerce websites. Of course, for this to work, the website needs to be viewed on a mobile phone/iPad with a camera supporting AR.

To draw an analogy, mobile app and website are like parallel lines, they remain close to each other without overlapping in terms of their existence. We might speculate about their getting merged in the distant future but that distant future might just never come.

Final Thoughts?

Your website is your online identity. As businesses have an office address in the physical world, they have a website in the digital one. And, a mobile app is like a tool you provide to the user to get things done with ease, as well as engage. In most of the cases, you will need to have both.

Depending upon the nature and the stage a business is in, one medium might find itself positioned more favorably than the other. But, when the cost is not a deterrent, it has become customary to embrace both the website and the mobile app, almost as if they were an obligation. It gives a business the chance to meander seamlessly into the mental realms of its target customers, the users, and unleash many possibilities.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. To know more about our company, please click on Mindfire Solutions.  For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

 

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Web Accessibility

Overlooking Web Accessibility

The Internet is an ever-increasing storehouse of knowledge. The web and the internet as a whole serve as an important resource in many aspects of our lives: education, employment, recreation, commerce and more. Web Accessibility simply means that the web is to be made accessible to everyone. And that includes people with special abilities too – an aspect generally overlooked in haste. 

The concept of Web Accessibility has been around for a decade, but it is unfortunate that true meaning in its entirety has been lost on many of us, the web developers. It’s time that we built ramps to our sites so that it benefits not only people with disabilities but also enhances the experience of all types of users as a whole.

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Let’s see some examples:  When you are watching a video in a noisy environment and cannot perceive the audio correctly. Without being able to hear the audio, you have to guess what the whole video is about. It can be frustrating, right?


Let’s take another one:  If you have broken your arm in an accident and can’t use the mouse to explore the web. You have to remain cut off from the internet until you recover. Or find ways to manage to access it with difficulty, mostly through pain, or be at the mercy of people who would spare some time to assist you.

There are people out there who face these challenges at every instance of their attempts to access the Web. The true essence of Web Accessibility lies in addressing such concerns and ensuring that the Web is accessible by all, without any discretion. 

The World Wide Web Consortium(W3C) published a set of guidelines, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG 1.0 in 1999, as an initiative to the Web Accessibility Initiative(WAI) project. The revised version, WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008, which is more technology-neutral, and therefore, is widely accepted by the developers to make their site more accessible.

It may seem like a huge task to accomplish at first, but in reality, it takes only small steps to make your website accessible to all. Steps that should be undertaken are 

  • Using alternative texts, and descriptions for the images.
  • Adding subtitles and transcripts for videos.
  • Ensuring that your site is fully and equally accessible by the keyboard.
    Making use of the Accessible Rich Internet Tags (ARIA) tags.
  • Having a good color contrast.

These are some tools which can help to make your website more accessible:

So, let’s look at the bigger picture and start taking the necessary steps towards building a platform that is more accessible and more usable, and fulfill our responsibilities as web developers. It’s high time we focused on the masses who might be unable to access the internet just like normal people can. The onus lies with us to take individual responsibility of the same and spread the awareness to others. The realization that mere oversight or negligence on our part can be the source of much trouble for others should guard us against it. 

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. To know more about our company, please click on Mindfire Solutions. 

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AWS-Lambda-Computing

Getting started with AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda is an ingredient in amazon serverless computing. Lambda allows us to run server-side code without thinking about the server. It abstracts all of the other components i.e. servers, platforms, virtual machines, etc. that are needed to run server-side code. So we can just focus on the code and not the server. That way the time to production or deployment becomes very less. We can write a lambda function, configure it and run it in minutes.

Another great benefit of lambda is that we just pay for the compute time we consume. That means it will charge only for the time that our code is actually executed. Also, the first one million requests are free. We have to pay for request thereafter. This a very cost-effective way to run the server-side code. To get started first we need an AWS account. After creating the account we need to go to the AWS management console.

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Create a Lambda function with Node.js

Let’s create a lambda function that picks a random number between 2 given number. First of all, login into the AWS console and then click the “Lambda”  button under the compute section. Then you can come to the “Select blueprint” section. Then, under the select runtime combo box, select the latest node.js version. Amazon gives you some basic blueprints there. We will just select the simple hello world function to start with.

Image1-Lambda

We will skip to the configure function section to create a new function. We will name our function random-number-generator. Then specify the description. Then the run time that is node 4.3. Our function is a small function so we will select to Edit code inline. The blueprint of amazon gives a very basic function.

We will change this default code to generate our random number between two given numbers.

In the beginning, just add console.log(‘Loading function’). This will help in debugging the code.’ In the default amazon function, there are some event values that are logged and in the end, it returns the first value in the callback function. Then we will add a handler function to the exports variable. And this function receives 3 variables. I.e. event, context, and callback.

 exports.handler = (event, context, callback) => {
            console.log(‘value 1 =’ , event.key1);
            console.log(‘value 2 =’ , event.key2);
            console.log(‘value 3 =’ , event.key3);
            callback(null, event.key1)
}

The callback is something we will call when our result is ready and we want to send some result back to the user. It takes 2 parameters. 1st one is the error and the second one is the success message. The variables could be string or JSON object.

We will delete all these default codes and write our own code. So, first of all, we will define and set the minimum and maximum number.

 exports.handler = (event, context, callback) => {
           let min = 0;
           let max = 10;
}

Now we will define another variable for the random number.

exports.handler = (event, context, callback) => {
            let min = 0;
            let max = 10;
            let generatedNumber = Math.floor(Math.random() *  max) + min;
}

Mmath.random() generates a random number between 0 and 1. And it’s a floating-point number, so we multiplying it by max and the round it and add the minimum. That gives us a random number between the minimum and maximum number.

Now we are done and want to return the random number. So we will call the callback function.

callback(null, generatedNumber);

 Here there is no error handler implemented so we will just return null in place of the error parameter. And the  generatedNumber.

That’s it, the code part is done.

Now scroll down. And let’s define our handler. The default is index.handler. Index refers to the filename and handler is the name of the variable that is attached to the exports. We will leave this by default.

Now, we will create a new Role and give the role name as ‘basic-lambda-execute-role’. Then under the policy template, we will select ‘Simple Microservice Permissions’.

Next is the advanced settings.

Each lambda function will run in a container & that container will have some memory allocated to it. So here we can pick how much memory should be allocated to our function. Our function is a basic function. So will select 128MB. That is more than enough for our function.

This does not only defines the memory allocated to the function but also the amount of processing power amazon uses to execute our function. If we have a more resource-intensive function then we can increase the memory usage and we will get a faster performing function. Then for the timeout, we will leave it to 3 secs that is enough. If our function does not finish within this timeout then Amazon will return an error message. We will leave the VPC to no VPS and move next. In the next page, amazon lets us review our configuration for our function. And then click the create function. There we will get the msg that our function is created. And we can see the dashboard for our function.

On the dashboard we can see our code, configuration, triggers, and also we can monitor our function as well

Let’s test it by clicking the Test button there. If we scroll down we can find that the function has executed successfully and also we can see the result random number.

So that’s it. We have our random number generator lambda function is running now.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. To know more about our company, please click on Mindfire Solutions. 

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Image-Accounting Software Tools Information Exchange

Integrating Multiple Accounting Tools for Information Exchange

This article will be helpful for those developers who are trying to integrate multiple accounting tools with a custom web or desktop application; with the accounting tool database exposed either using ODBC/JDBC or APIs.

The solution was explored when I worked in a project where there was a need to automate the data transmission (bi-directional) between different accounting tools (like Adagio, QB Desktop and Online version, etc.) interfacing with a central database. And make it possible for devices (like iPhone) to transmit data to the central database and subsequently to the accounting tools. In a nutshell, the main application, devices and multiple accounting tools needed to be in sync all the time/whenever required.

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The Solution

The major features that were provided/implemented:

  • Connector: it acts as a bridge between web API and desktop/online accounting tool.
  • Data transmission between different entities using customized XML
  • Logging request and response on each event with a different status
  • The parser in the background (it basically parses the data from XML and maps it with the database)
  • Common database structure to handle request and response for different tools

Following diagram shows the flow and integrations process-:

 

Here, the user has the freedom to use different custom applications based on need. For e.g. in some cases where the API is exposed to the outside world for web accounting tools, we can merge the request-and-response processes in one place along with the parsing of data.

#1 Window Service

It is being used for parsing data coming internally from accounting tool in a specified format. Here, the approach can change as per need because sometimes the customer doesn’t want to put extra load on the server; then we can do it at the same level (i.e. in the request-and-response process).

#2 Web Service/Web API

It is used for running the connector. Actually, the connector will act as a bridge between the accounting tools and the central database.

#3 Main web or window application-

Here we need to have one page which will facilitate the user to generate requests in specified formats (XML or JSON) for required entities (like retrieving customer data or adding a new customer in the Accounting tool).

#4 Accounting tool

Accounting tool which exposes database/API to the outside world. Nowadays most of the applications have shared API or database to the outside world for integration with other applications.

The diagram below describes the data flow between different applications in a stepwise manner:

 

 

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Error handling and Logs

Since accounting tools are being used here, it means there are bound to be information pertaining to the flow of money involving different vendors and stakeholders. This section thus holds a lot of relevance. The provision for logging is done either in the database or somewhere else on the disk. Since there different levels and sublevels like web service/API for connector  has 4 important  sublevels (Authenticate(), SendRequest(), ReceivedResponse() and CloseConnection() ), it is highly relevant to know at every step exactly what data got processed. Also, the availability of results opens up the provision for performing analyses later, whenever needed. Logging makes it possible to handle internal errors as well.

Security Handling 

The whole solution should follow the security rules as per the industry norms like SSL implementations for all web-based calls, Cryptographic methodology (wherever required), AntiForgery checks once session established, etc.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. To know more about our company, please click on Mindfire Solutions. 

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Python Web Frameworks To Learn In 2018

Python Web Frameworks 2018Unlike other web programming languages, Python enables developers to build web applications with concise, readable, and maintainable code. In 2018, many web developers will prefer Python to other server-side scripting languages to speed up web application development and simplify web application maintenance. But Python does not provide the built-in features required to accelerate custom web application development. The programmers use a number of Python web frameworks to write custom web applications in Python quickly and efficiently. Continue reading Python Web Frameworks To Learn In 2018

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