I'm in the process of thinking through an offline state for one of our apps; this app, like others, requires an Internet connection to do pretty much anything. To get started, I did a quick audit of several apps I use regularly to see how they handled the same situation. I excluded apps that work offline.
Here is a sampling of those screen states; click or tap to see larger versions.
What I saw
I noted three primary paradigms.
- A system alert
- A memory state with an in-app alert banner
- A dedicated offline state
Some had a combination of states, e.g., a system alert with memory state. System alerts generally offered the option to open Settings.
Some apps retrieved old content (a memory state), but would present a message — usually in banner form — alerting me that I was offline. Facebook, for example, let me see old posts, and even draft new posts — nice.
Some apps presented a refresh button or other similar action to re-test my connection. Others, like Medium, were vague and offered little help. Some apps, like Yelp, took this as an opportunity to use a little humor.
In reviewing the apps, I asked myself the standard usability questions:
- Was it obvious what had happened?
- Was a solution provided?
- Was it clear what to do next?
Why it matters
Even though it's 2015, there are no guarantees your app will have online access. Designing for this edge case is critical if your app requires it.