Reduce App Crashes and Improve User Experience

There’s a lot of software and infrastructure behind every successful website or application. At Digital Scientists, we use Firebase to help improve the efficiency and user experience of websites and mobile apps.

Firebase allows our app developers to cross-reference programs and platforms and develop cross-platform apps without modifying the infrastructure. The tool’s analytics also help us reduce app crashes and improve the user experience.

Firebase logoThe Firebase platform provides several features, including cloud messaging, remote configuration, app indexing, AdWords, AdMob, authentication abilities and test lab. These capabilities allow app developers to advertise their product, deliver messages across platforms, and lead search traffic to their app across one service provider.

With Firebase, developers save time by using one platform to implement all these capabilities. This enables developers to focus on the unique aspects of apps and websites, rather than forcing them to learn new tools for each platform.

Firebase EnvironmentThe Firebase Realtime Database is a cloud-hosted NoSQL database, accessible from a web browser or mobile device. When you are offline, the apps still work with each other to provide app or website users with the proper server procedure. Once the device goes online again it re-checks all the data and fixes any adjustments that may have been made offline. With the database itself comes Firebase Realtime Database Security Rules that help maintain app database access and updates according to app rules and authentication. App developers can designate database access to others and manage their edit functions. The realtime database also ensures that apps execute as fast as possible, improving the overall user experience.

Firebase Authentication supplies  software development kits (SDKs) and user interface (UI) libraries to provide authentication. Firebase works with identity providers such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Using authentication developers can add a sign-in element to apps and websites. It also connects with Google sign-Ins and Facebook sign-ins. It saves developers time by eliminating the need to go in and singularly code each individual sign in element. FirebaseUI works with edge cases so that accounts to different platforms can be linked correctly and securely. Additionally, from the design aspect, the authentication interface be styled to match visual design of the app or website. SDKs allow email transfers for users to be able to connect their mailing if needed with an application. The integration system encompasses iOS, Android, Web, and C++. Once a user signs in through multiple different providers, a developer can access the minimum user information.

Firebase Authentication
Firebase Hosting
allows companies to establish content to a global content-delivery network easily and quickly. Firebase Hosting is deployed via zero-configuration SSL so that there is a guaranteed secure connection. Content can be sent quickly regardless of the location since there are CDN edges everywhere. The deployment includes different elements that help make the building process smoother. One-click rollbacks are an additional element that allows developers to undo mistakes and update the change for all users. Firebase Hosting gives all projects a subdomain on https://firebase.google.com/. Using their unique Firebase subdomain, companies can securely store application data for users. Optionally, companies can use their own domain after taking their project live, and Firebase Hosting transfers all the content securely. Proper configuration options are important to give the users a excellent experience and Firebase Hosting delivers just that.

Firebase Offline Sync
Offline functionality
is another reason why we use Firebase. It allows for app updates as soon as a user’s device returns online, providing a better, more seamless user experience. When the internet is not available, the offline event is saved to the local database, enabling access to offline functionality. The app then saves user updates to local storage while the user’s device is offline, and syncs the data back to the server when the connection is restored. The authentication aspect allows their app to support Facebook and email when buying tickets.

Firebase SDKs save app developers time by standardizing common application components, eliminating the need for developers to build functionality from scratch. Functionality like account creation and forgotten password are built into the SDKs. Additionally, using web sockets from Firebase gives the ability to run the functionality over a continuous period of time. This allows the company to always have the functionality running in the background even after closing down the program. These features are only some of the great reasons to use Firebase.

Firebase Alternatives: If Firebase is not a fit for your team or application, then Amazon Cognito is the next best thing. Amazon Cognito allows developers to create their own visuals and design app components. It also authenticates all the elements for the user capability. An appealing feature of Amazon Cognito is the ability to save data onto the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud so that external backing is not needed. Amazon Cognito providers User Pools, Federated Identities, and Sync.

Amazon Cognito
Amazon Cognito User Pools
allow developers to store data from the users that came from the sign in functions. User Pool allows the creator to use phone numbers, emails, or usernames to establish login identities instead of sister sites such as Google and Facebook. The User Pool saves time and reduces costs since login and register features are already implemented.

Federated Identities allows the developer to access AWS servers. Federated Identities supports different providers such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and SAML. Websites can use these providers to sync the data across their website features without having to create these functions from scratch. Lastly, the federated identities allows a company to use their own back-end provides for the registration process.

Amazon Cognito Sync allows fast syncing across multiple different devices, without using any backend user profiles. Any data is stored locally, no matter if the device is online or offline. If it is offline, the creator can enable push sync so that as soon as the app comes online it will synchronize. These features mirror Firebase Authentication, Hosting, and Realtime Database, so if Firebase isn’t a viable option for your team, Amazon Cognito would be able to support some of the same functionality.

GoFan - High school ticketing platform
Firebase in Action:

In partnership with Huddle Inc., we created the GoFan app for high school sports fans to purchase their tickets online with just the tap of a button. At numerous participating schools, fans can purchase game tickets weeks in advance, without having to wait in long lines. And on game day, fans can quickly gain access to an event without paper tickets.

The app is also optimized for the Athletic Director and event staff: With GoFan, the school and Athletic Director can keep track of ticket sales and event attendance throughout the season. Fast access to game funds and financial reporting features make the app ideal for a school’s financial admin as well. Through its proven success at several test schools, the GoFan app quickly grew in popularity throughout schools in the area, especially for big local games such as Milton High School vs. Roswell High School.

In GoFan, the Firebase Realtime Database allows fast syncing as part of the ticket scanning and validation process. Anytime a fan’s ticket is redeemed at the gate entrance to an event, the ticket information is automatically synced to the server, across the GoFan application, and synced with the ticket validator devices at each of the other event gates. So if a fan is entering a football game and there are two entrance gates, once they scan their ticket, it is updated and synced as redeemed at both entrance devices instantly. Also, since GoFan uses sockets instead of HTTP posts, the app does not need to request new data from the server.

Firebase also helps enable several offline use cases, including fan searches for tickets and synchronization of redeemed tickets by gate attendants. This lends to an improved user experience and a better-performing application.

It also automatically syncs user data, and helps developers create unique websites and apps with SDKs and UI libraries. Firebase ultimately helped make GoFan the efficient ticketing platform that it is today. It delivers a memorable experience that allows automatic updates as soon as a user scans his or her tickets at the door. Firebase supports developers’ needs, too, by making powerful app features available without additional coding or learning curves.

Veena Jaipradeep is a Digital Scientists intern from Milton High School.