20
Thu, Jun
3 New Articles

Usablenet's U-Experience Platform Aims to Maximize Mobile, Web, and Native App Performance

Development Tools / Utilities
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

 

Most mobile device users expect web pages to load as fast as they do on desktops and don't like when interfaces and apps perform sluggishly on their devices. Prioritizing mobile web page and app performance counters this problem.

There's significant support, particularly in the IBM i world, for the philosophy that the best way to move into the mobile arena is simply to provide mobile devices access to a single base of code for all websites. So entire desktop files are downloaded to the mobile-device browser, which suppresses unnecessary elements, and the output is tailored to the device's screen dimensions. This is called Responsive Design, and one concern with this approach is that most of the heavy lifting is done client-side on the device itself. This is less of an issue for desktop and laptop devices than smartphones because the former tend to have more computational resources available.

Responsive Web Design vs. Adaptive Delivery

Responsive Design has its appeals, like making sure every user is looking at the same content, centralizing development tasks by leveraging a single codebase for each screen type, and simplifying deployment tasks because all devices download the same web pages regardless of their target device.

What Responsive Design doesn't take into account is the subtle effect that using a mobile device has on the user experience as well as the mobile user’s expectations after getting used to accessing apps and web pages on the larger screens of desktops and laptops. For one thing, server-based app UIs and web pages have a lot more display space taken up by elements that mobile-device screens simply can't or don't show. Nonetheless, the mobile browser has to process and discard all that, which usually means slower load times, and often, a less-than-optimal visual experience for small-screen users. For another thing, mobile users may want to carry out only one specific function, not browse an entire app or site. They don't need all the extra clutter. Annoying your potential customers, and maybe even your employees, can easily become counterproductive.

A more sophisticated approach in development of applications for the web and mobile devices, called Adaptive Delivery, emphasizes the importance of how well web-based content performs on each respective display device. The idea involves letting the server differentiate between the types of mobile devices trying to access a site and then varying the UI and pages delivered to improve not only performance, but functionality. This approach has the advantages of tailoring user experience to focus on the functions mobile users most likely want to carry out and the added benefit of delivering content to the mobile device that best fits the smaller display size. That way, content loads faster and looks better. An example of this would be an airline that used U-Experience to consolidate its booking system. Previously, customers needed to consult three different URLs for flight information. By using U-Experience, the airline was able to consolidate flight information and booking functions into a single screen.

What's more, Adaptive Delivery works for websites without requiring changes to website coding because it delivers content as a web service that can then be modified for presentation to specific devices and even specific users/experiences.

U-Experience Earns its Name by Emphasizing the User Experience

A mobile development platform, Usablenet's U-Experience centers its attention on Adaptive Delivery and performance on specific devices. Available as a cloud-based managed service with access to the development tools (e.g., U-Develop) that can be licensed for internal development, U-Experience contains four main components. It has a backend that retrieves data from any source and delivers it as a web service, a frontend that consumes data and builds a customized UI for it, a control module (i.e., U-Control) that lets non-technical users build and publish content to content modules supported on mobile and tablet sites, and a U-Campaign element that lets non-technical users build mobile landing pages and campaign sites from scratch without requiring developer support. The platform can also integrate third-party functionality as needed to enhance the user experience (UX).

U-Develop, Usablenet's developer portal, assists developers who want to develop their own web-based content (e.g., websites and webviews in apps) using in-house resources. With U-Develop, clients can access Usablenet technologies and developer tools within a cloud-based staging and production environment.

U-Experience can consume any data source. Putting the data into a JSON or XML web service enables development of context-based experiences for each supported mobile and multichannel device without affecting the data sources in any way. The mobile content-publishing tools enable users to change and preview content before publishing and let U-Experience support integrated marketing promotions. What's displayed can also be adjusted, depending on whether the web-based content is primarily commercial or simply informational.

U-Experience can do this because it maps content and functionalities between the source and mobile device. So when accessing a desktop site on a mobile device, users are redirected to specific URLs where mobile-optimized experiences for that particular device await. Dedicated mobile sites provide users with a device-tailored experience and enable detail control for multichannel situations. This decreases page weight and also maintenance tasks because changes can be made to any device-specific web page without affecting every other device. As an option, device pages can also be handled via business rules that create a data layer from multiple sources to deliver a unique experience. In addition, custom pages for each device type can include streamlined navigation that, for example, presents only purchase and browsing options to mobile device users.

Client-side enhancements on user experience are coded via U-FX, a proprietary JavaScript library available in U-Experience. Developers aren't required to use this library; they can use any other frontend library they're comfortable with. Possible enhancements include changing page interactions, adding dynamically loaded content (e.g., images to an image carousel), and attaching standard-effects widgets (e.g., pinching and zooming on a given page). The platform also uses HTML5 application frameworks to help developers build lightweight experiences and compelling UIs.

U-Experience Customized Features

U-Experience's architecture enables customization of channels for each device type. For example, push notifications can be handled differently for mobile phones and tablets. Deep Linking can give device users access to specific pieces of content on a website and optionally bypass a website's home page or advertising. In addition, U-Experience is capable of building websites for desktop access, generating independent pages that aren’t part of a desktop-accessible website, or using any data source (e.g., APIs) to generate a U-Experience site.

Developer support is important in implementing Deep Linking, which is a two-step process. First, the client's infrastructure team articulates the existing business logic within either their network infrastructure or their web application. This enables the app using Deep Linking to detect user agents and forward requests from supported devices to the U-Experience platform. Second, U-Experience follows its established business rules to process the request and determine what's needed to deliver the proper experience and how the page should render on the specific device making the request.

Usablenet offers U-Experience standalone or as part of a suite of services that also include app and web development, QA testing, accessibility audits, UX research, user testing, prototyping, API development, and transformation of SOAP services into web services. Usablenet developers implement the business logic needed to process all available sources, convert them into a layer of APIs, and consume those APIs into an adaptive user interface. The company's infrastructure team sets up environments for each project and maintains Usablenet's staging and production infrastructure across four data centers.

Usablenet's products and services are consistent with the WCAG 2.0 AA web accessibility standards and support all major smartphones, tablets, and operating systems. UE is also PCI-DSS compliant, and Usablenet's hosting centers are SSAE 16/ISO audited and certified.

The Choice Is Yours

The suitability of using Responsive Design as opposed to Adaptive Delivery will vary from enterprise to enterprise, flow to flow, and area to area, based on factors such as app and website function, the ongoing need for change management, and whether server-side advantages outweigh those of focusing on mobile-device performance. The user experience must be balanced against business needs.

However, if Adaptive Delivery seems like the more important route to follow for your particular business type, Usablenet's U-Experience could be a viable solution worth considering.

John Ghrist

John Ghrist has been a journalist, programmer, and systems manager in the computer industry since 1982. He has covered the market for IBM i servers and their predecessor platforms for more than a quarter century and has attended more than 25 COMMON conferences. A former editor-in-chief with Defense Computing and a senior editor with SystemiNEWS, John has written and edited hundreds of articles and blogs for more than a dozen print and electronic publications. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:
$

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: