A Sneak Peek, & The Benefits of Modern Methods

CommissionCrowd mobile app
Here’s a screenshot of the CommissionCrowd companies’ dashboard, as viewed on a phone (and the agents’ dashboard looks very similar). As well as giving you a first glimpse of the system we’ve been talking about for the last few months, it also illustrates some of the important technical and design concepts that underlie our approach to building this system.

At CommissionCrowd we’re passionate about using the most modern technologies and techniques to create truly useful tools that are a pleasure to use. Two paradigms of design and development that are especially dear to us are responsive design and Rich Internet Applications.

Responsive Design

We’ve designed both the CommissionCrowd web site and the software application itself on the basis of responsive design. This means that you’ll be able to use the system on a variety of devices and screen sizes without having to download any special app. When you use CommissionCrowd on a laptop, it’ll be just the same web application you’ll use on a phone, except that some aspects of the layout and behaviour will change in response to the different sizes and capabilities of the devices.

We had to weigh up a few alternative approaches:

  1. Build a web application aimed at desktop and laptop computers, and a special mobile-specific web site
  2. Build a web application aimed at desktop and laptop computers, plus an iPhone app and an Android app, plus a special mobile-specific web site for those who don’t want to download the app
  3. Build a single web application that can respond intelligently to the various screen sizes people will use to access it

The trouble with options 1 and 2 is that they’re founded on the outdated assumption that large desktop and laptop screens come first, while support for other devices is an added extra. Not only that, but they require whole new sets of development tools just to recreate the same functionality. Much better, in our opinion, to begin with the assumption that we cannot make assumptions, that we cannot base our design upon some arbitrary screen size, just because we think that’s what most people will be using—this just doesn’t work any more. Responsive design is the modern answer to this situation and it allows us to put everything into a single development effort.

So the screenshot shown above is how the application will look on a phone, and we’re carefully testing the ease-of-use of the design across a range of devices, focusing on phones, iPads and other tablets, netbooks, and high-resolution laptop and desktop screens.

Rich Internet Applications

Now, some of you may realize that dedicated phone apps, such as the iPhone apps you download from the App Store, often have the great advantage of speed. Because they’re installed on your phone, these apps respond to your clicks immediately—there’s no waiting around for pages to load, which can be especially annoying for phone users, who often can’t rely on good internet connections.

Well, we think we’ve cracked this one too, again with the help of a cutting edge approach to web software development. CommissionCrowd is being built as a Rich Internet Application with a client-side JavaScript framework, so that we can leverage the full power of modern browsers. What this means is that although you’ll get to our application through your phone’s web browser, you won’t have to wait around for those frustrating page loads once you’re logged in, because after that happens the full CommissionCrowd application will be on your phone’s browser already, and will last for your entire session. Of course, you’ll still need a connection if you want to access and save data, but (a) the screen interface itself will be as quick and responsive as a native app, and (b) downloading small chunks of data behind the scenes is orders of magnitude faster than reloading a web page. (And (c) we also have secret plans to make things even better at a later stage by introducing more complete offline capabilities and data syncing for those on the move—do let us know if this is something you’d like to see).

We’re not going for new technologies just because they’re sexy; we firmly believe they’ll help us ensure that your day-to-day experience on CommissionCrowd is first-rate.

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Alistair Robinson

Developer and CTO for CommissionCrowd