There are millions of mobile apps available in the app stores and the marketing or sales teams work hard to make them stand out from all the rest. We download an app because we find it to be useful or entertaining but, in the long term, a mobile app also needs to be sustainable. Green software engineering provides some principles to minimise power usage while maximising performance and user satisfaction.
With today’s users becoming more and more environmentally conscious, taking the necessary steps towards building sustaianable apps is becoming crucial. To avoid users uninstalling an app or developing an unfavorable opinion on a brand, companies must incorportate green software engineering principles to maximise user satisfaction. In this article, we’ll identify the factors affecting the performance and user satisfaction of app from a sustainability point of view, and we’ll discuss strategies that developers can use to optimise them.
Power Usage Minimisation
Clean and efficient code is not only required for good software development, but it’s also crucial for minimising power consumption. This includes proper memory management, such as:
- De-allocating unused objects, to avoid garbage and save power usage.
- Optimising algorithms to reduce computational complexity, avoiding unnecessary iterations.
- Employing data structures that maximise efficiency.
It’s usually a good idea to use predefined functions available in the standard language library that provide efficient and concise solutions to common algorithm problems.
Utilising device sensors carefully is essential to avoid unnecessary battery drain. Sensors such as GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope consume significant energy when constantly active. Only activate sensors when required and consider utilising batching techniques, where multiple sensor readings can be grouped together to reduce power consumption. For example, it makes no sense to track the user’s location in the background if we are only interested in the current position when actively using the app.
Incorporating power-saving features in your app can enhance green software engineering. Dark mode, for example, uses a dark colour scheme that reduces power usage. Additionally, implementing features like low-power mode and sleep mode can optimise power consumption. Doing CPU-intensive work is not recommended in these modes if we want to respect the user’s wishes. So, this is not only important because of eco-friendly reasons but also to improve the user satisfaction.
Network usage can be a significant contributor to power consumption. To optimise power usage, reduce the payload size of network requests by sending only the portion of data that is really needed. Timestamps can be used to check whether the app has the latest data already or if it needs to request updated data. Implementing caching mechanisms also reduces the need for frequent network requests, minimising app battery usage.
The size of the app should be kept as small as possible. Reduce the amount of resources used by removing unused files, utilising just the absolute minimum number of third-party libraries, and favour vector pictures over other image formats. Faster download times, less memory consumption and higher performance are all benefits of smaller project files.
For a positive user experience, the user interface must be responsive and clear. Reduce the amount of UI elements, keep layout structures simple and steer clear of UI thread blocking to improve rendering. When developing for mobile platforms, using cross-platform frameworks may have an impact on how well the user experience functions, although that’s a different topic.
By lowering loading times or processing data requests while the device is not currently engaged in any other operations, you can further improve performance. Additionally, you can use the lazy loading approach, where data is loaded on demand or fetched in the background.
The performance of the device must be managed properly to reduce the influence of background tasks. Schedule tasks intelligently, prioritise important tasks, avoid excessive CPU and battery usage and avoid causing disruptions to foreground app usage. When the app needs to process video editing on many media files, it might be worth processing all videos synchronously to avoid making too much work at the same time. Also, keep in mind that the OS will automatically close a background application if it’s using too much unnecessary memory.
Utilise a thorough testing method to find and fix performance and power-related problems. Tools for measuring app performance and testing energy usage, such as Xcode Instruments for iOS and Energy Profiler for Android, can help mimic different scenarios. In order to assess performance in a real-world setting, actual device testing is essential. Having a QA team will help avoid production bugs and crashes that would frustrate your real users.
Actively gather user feedback and release new versions with improvements or user recommendations. Monitor user reviews, support channels and social media to understand user experiences and pain points. App analytics tools provide insights into usage patterns, performance metrics and user behaviour, enabling developers to optimise the app accordingly. The app’s future is owned by its users, pivot your ideas according to their necessities.
Green software engineering is about power efficiency and good use of resources, but it also involves creating a clean and sustainable project, while having the user’s satisfaction as the top priority. Sustainable app development is an ongoing process and app development shouldn’t end at version 1.0. Regularly monitoring and optimising power usage, performance and quality by analysing user behaviour, conducting A/B testing and staying updated with the latest technological advancements will help you keep your app standards high and consistent.
Pablo Gómez is a mobile software developer, with around 10 years of experience in the field. He is specialized in iOS and Android native development, as well as Flutter, and has a passion for software architecture.