September 24, 2009

Mobile App Dev Tips: Usability When data is Unavailable

This article is applicable mainly to mobile applications that are designed to fetch fresh data upon launching (ie news, scores, weather, finacial info...). A little feedback to the developers out there: please allow your application to maintain and display the prev downloaded information if data connection is unavailable. This minor tweak can bring lots of joy to users and improve mobile experience when data connection is unavailable ( ie air plane mode or underground subway).

Take a look at two examples below:

USA Today app (left) allows me to view the news articles I updated a couple of hours before I boarded my flight. Whereas Yahoo Finance app (right) just craps out and blanks out all the stock quotes because I'm using airplane mode. If you look at the way Apple built their default apps, they tend to go by this rule as Mail, Stocks, and Weather apps will all be functional up to thee point of your latest update.

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