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Case Study: Navigating A Custom App’s Back-End Cost vs. Functionality

Project Type

Developing a new app

The Challenge

An Ideas2Executables customer was building a unique social media platform and faced a challenge when planning the back-end tools needed to power it. On one hand, these tools would be used by only a handful of administrators, so it seemed excessive to pour time and money into building them. On other, if those tools were too clunky to use the site may suffer and the user experience negatively impacted.

This is a common app builder’s dilemma: invest too lavishly on back-end tools, and the front end’s budget may suffer. Skimp too much on the back-end tools, and the whole site-experience may be impacted.

The Solution

Back-end tools, because they are used by specific, site-designated, administrators don’t need the same polish and pizazz the front-end user experience does. However, they require no less care when planning their functionality. In the case of our customer looking to build a social media platform, his site administrators would be called on to upload and update site content on a regular basis. Providing bare-bones tools to do this would make mass updates a frustrating and dreaded task. The ideal solution is to develop more feature-rich tools that can handle bulk updates.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. Building feature-rich administrative tools would be both cost and time prohibitive.

Fortunately, we were able to recommend a third option, one that provided more sophisticated tools without a notable increase in cost.

This option involved wiring Google Sheet synchronization into the back-end. Administrators could make changes to site content in Google Sheets, leveraging its advanced user interface, including real-time collaboration support. And when they wished to make this information live within the app, they clicked a synchronize button that we provided.

This solution was relatively fast to develop, because we needed to only focus on the synchronization procedure, leaving front-end editing functionality to Google Sheets. It met the need of the customer on two fronts: their administrative team could work in the robust Google Sheets environment, and the cost was below what their budget called for back-end tools, allowing more resources to be spent on front-end functionality.

Google Sheets synchronization is made possible by the Google Sheets API. This facility allows the customer’s custom app to programmatically talk to Google Sheets. This is one example of a larger strategy, where custom app builders use 3rd party APIs to efficiently add functionality to their offering.

This Google Sheets synchronization strategy has limitations. It’s relatively fragile and assumes that site administrators will closely adhere to required conventions that are prescribed ahead of time. With this in mind, as powerful as this synchronization strategy is, as your app grows, it will almost certainly be replaced by a more robust solution. However, from an app building perspective, being able to have high quality admin tools at a low cost is a huge win while you are just beginning development.

Key Questions to Consider

If you have questions about this Case Study, or how Ideas2Executables can you help you address a challenge in your own application, Contact Us. Or give us a call at (703) 688-3084.