The advent of HTML5 brought many new exciting capabilities to websites and web apps. From video and audio to local storage, new APIs make the web a powerful tool for designers and users. Combine a few of these features and you can create something truly new: the Always-Offline Web App.
A changing landscape
Ever since the dawn of the Interne(t), websites have had one thing in common: they were online. This had its advantages in the form of connecting users to information around the globe, but there were undeniable disadvantages. Online websites were dependent on an Interne(t) connection and that connection’s speed, and they also were vulnerable to hacking and other malevolent forces enabled by being connected to a centralized web of computers.
With our new HTML5 tool belt, these problems need not worry us anymore.
Blazing the new trail
It might be hard to imagine what an Always-Offline Web App might look like and do. Let’s think inside the box for a moment at some highly conceptual examples. Imagine a word processor like Google Docs, but all your documents are stored only on your local machine. Or perhaps an addicting card game app that promotes self-improvement as you compete only against your own personal high scores. The possibilities are really quite overwhelming when you consider it: a video playing app like YouTube that contains only your private home videos, a calculator, the list is endless.
Designing for stability
As designers and post-web professionals, there are many new concepts to explore philosophically and practically. I’ve come up with some guiding principles that should help your first Always-Offline be a success.
Mobile First Mobile Only
Ask yourself, can I pick up this device and run away to a bomb shelter for a few years, unaffected? These are real concerns for the modern web user. Don’t limit yourself by making a Sometimes Online Web App that is confined to WiFi ranges, ethernet connections, or even a functioning societal infrastructure.
Performance doesn’t matter
This is a real game-changer. No longer do we have to worry about gzip, minification, and all the endless hoops we had to jump through just to get our sites to be quickly usable through the slow, murky waters of a connection to the World-Wide Web. Think of the time you’ll save.
Now I can really blow your mind. Not only can we free ourselves from the bondage of the web, we can free ourselves from the bondage of the digital world completely. That card game mentioned above? What if it was made out of something completely different from 1’s and 0’s? Some medium so foreign to the digital world that it looks nothing like it? It’s impossible to speculate what new materials and substances science will create in the future, but if we keep our minds open, we won’t be surprised—we’ll be ready.
A new process
Web professionals loved to pontificate about process, but what will process look like for Post-Web Designers? I’ve personally started working in a shack in the deep woods. Not only does the isolation allow me to focus, but it keeps me Always-Offline and helps me empathize with a user-group that truly embraces the Always-Offline. Your process might include being frequently underwater, in a Time Warner Cable region, or other places where access to internet is virtually non-existent.
Meanwhile, I’m exploring exciting possibilities of developing for an Always-Offline smart watch.