6 Essential BaaS Features Every Mobile App Needs

Whether you’re building a new mobile app or updating an existing one, adding BaaS features will drive an increase in user engagement and retention, not to mention provide competitive edge over other apps.

Today, apps are connected with an expectation of easily storing information across multiple platforms and devices while still providing immediate and instant access to users’ data and files. Backend as a service (BaaS) provides developers with functionality such as cloud-based storage, user account management, push notifications, push triggers and file management. Using a set of cloud-based APIs, developers can add this kind of cloud functionality to mobile and desktop apps without having to code from scratch.

Cloud-Based Data Storage

Accessing data and object storage in the cloud is one of the most popular BaaS features today. Cloud storage allows you to create, read, update or delete your data in the cloud without a dependency on a local, embedded database. The same data used in your mobile app can easily be accessed and administered within the BaaS admin panel, providing on-the-fly row, column and role management.

Role management defines the access rights for each user or group of users for your data collection. You can easily create business rules via the admin panel that are automatically enforced each time a user attempts to change or add a record. This allows you to carefully manage the type of data that is stored in your data collection. 

Editing and inserting data can also trigger an automatic push notification, combining the power of cloud-based storage with push notifications for added user engagement.

User Management

Users expect to be able to link their social media accounts to register with your application. User management via social media credentials increases retention rates by simplifying the user experience of registration and administration processes. Be sure to also allow for traditional user registration via email for those not wishing to utilize a social media account.

Further, managing your users in the cloud provides a range of options that allow you to change, update or remove functionality without disturbing the user experience. With centralized, cloud-based user management you can update account info, define permissions and automate back-end processes (like emailing) without affecting the user's interaction with your application.

Push Notifications

Push notifications are a key element of many applications today and are a critical method for notifying the user of new and interesting content. For enterprise apps, push notifications can be used to notify users of immediate action that needs to be taken (such as a new sale) or to provide alerts (such as for an expiring sales contract). 

For consumer apps, use push notifications to alert users of timely changes to content--for example, hotel deals based on booking history or alerts dealing with flight delays. 

When push-enabling your applications, it is important to provide users with functionality for customizing the types of notifications they want to receive. If users are not happy with the rate at which they are receiving push notifications and can’t change it themselves, they will likely disable push notifications altogether or delete the application. Be sure to add a settings panel to your application that allows the user to define the type of alerts they want to receive and the rate at which they want to receive them. 

For enterprise apps, users should be able to enable and disable notifications based on their type. This leads to the broadest adoption--from management to the field.

For general messages, use an in-app message instead of a notification. Overuse of the notification system will cause the mobile device to constantly wake up and will result in increased battery drain (and may annoy the end user, as well).

Push Triggers

Push triggers is a key tool for automating push notifications. With push triggers, you can send regular notifications that increase user engagement within your app by “triggering” a push notification any time a change is made to your app’s data. Triggers can be linked to fire when an existing record is updated or to insert a new record. 

The change to the data collection pushes a notification to all or specific end users. The notification contains information on who made the change and what was changed in the data collection. This is extremely useful in collaborative applications, such as a team notes app or a social gaming app. Define push triggers inside your BaaS admin panel and base them on engaging content that the end user will be interested in seeing regular updates for. 

File Management

Today’s end users expect their files to follow them, and they rarely consider device space in their app usage. The last thing you want to do is destroy your app’s adoption because there isn’t enough space on a user’s mobile device or if moving to a new device results in losing user files. 

Cloud-based file management allows you to store images, videos and other data in the cloud without having to depend on limited local device storage. Use the file store APIs to define the type of files you want your end users to be able to store in the cloud, removing the dependency on local device storage or an embedded database. 

If your app is graphics-rich--such as an image- or video-editing app or a database app--and makes frequent use of imagery, use cloud file storage to make those images available when they are needed. When allowing a user to sync files onto the local file system, be sure to include a process to allow deletion of files off the local store through the app. File downloads can require high bandwidth, so be sure to include an on Wi-Fi only mode.

How to Integrate These Features

The most successful apps are hitting all these BaaS marks to keep users engaged. Information flows freely from one device to the next--and increasingly beyond to the ever expanding Internet of Things. They automate and streamline account administration through social media and cloud-based services to avoid frustrating users. They keep users informed of changes in their data with timely alerts through push triggers and notifications. Integrating these essential BaaS features into your app will give your users the user experience they have grown to expect.

As you integrate BaaS into your apps, look for developer tools that enable access to these features. Developer tools like Appmethod  radically simplify the process of integrating these essential features into your app by providing an optimized set of services that are accessed through a common, platform-independent API. This approach allows you to not only deliver these essential app services, but also leverage BaaS services in your apps across multiple platforms and popular providers using a single code base.

It’s never been easier, nor more timely, to BaaS-enable your and delight your users.

Brian Alexakis Brian Alexakis is a Product Marketing Manager at Embarcadero Technologies. He is focused on leveraging the connected world of technology to build new experiences in areas such as gaming, web, enterprise solutions, and the Internet of Things. Brian graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Computer Science: Computer Game Design. Go Slugs!

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