Product Development, Manufacturing, Mobile / Device

Metals Service Center Institute Mobile App

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Building a Better Mobile App with Xamarin for MSCI

The project — mobile app for trade association

This past June, Solid Digital, LLC launched a second version of a mobile application we’d originally built four years ago for one of our non-profit clients, Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI).

MSCI is a trade association based in Rolling Meadows, IL that’s been around for more than 100 years serving businesses in the industrial metals industry across North America. With more than 32 chapters in the US, Canada, and Mexico, MSCI hosts frequent conferences and events throughout the year around the US for its members. It also produces industry reports, research,  and membership surveys, and provides executive education courses, as well as advocates on policy issues affecting the metals industry.

We built MSCI’s first app in 2013 to enable its thousands of members to access in-depth, up-to-the-minute information about MSCI conferences and resources on their smartphones and tablets.

In our multi-phase approach, we first created a prototype iOS application (at the time, many of MSCI’s members were iPhone users) and then field-tested it at MSCI’s annual meeting. Our programmers then took the feedback we received from users (an increasing number of them were using Android devices, too) to make design and functionality improvements, and built out a second app for the Android platform.  

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The Challenge

The app has been a big success in helping MSCI promote its conferences and thought leadership to its members, who also use the app to network with peers and potential customers.

And over the years since its launch, we’ve partnered with MSCI to make updates to the app’s content and functionality. But as the mobile app world has rapidly advanced, what we built for MSCI in 2013 was starting to show its age.

  • The design needed a refresh.
  • Syncing content updates on two different platforms was a complex, time-consuming process that required writing and modifying two sets of code for two separate platforms. With every new feature MSCI wanted to add, our programmers had to write it in two versions — adding to the length of time (and cost) it took to work out any bugs on each of the platforms before going live with the updates.
  • And, the different platforms gave users a slightly different esthetic (though no less quality) experience, depending on the device they were using.

Challenges:

  • Outdated design
  • Managing 2 separate apps for iOS and Android

Goals:

  • Ability to make more updates to both platforms, faster
  • Create a way for data to sync and be retained on the device without long download times

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Our Approach: Microsoft Xamarin

At the heart of every one of our projects are two goals: employing the best solutions to deliver an outstanding user experience, and saving our clients money.

Fortunately, we had a better solution in our arsenal: Xamarin. Xamarin is a set of Microsoft tools that allows programmers to write code in one place and share it across multiple platforms, including Android, Windows and iOS. In 2016, Solid Digital became a Xamarin Premier Consulting Partner, earning the distinction after our programmers completed Microsoft’s year-long [intensive] training.

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Xamarin is the platform of choice for us. It is a significant time saver for programmers, makes updates easier, and is a huge cost savings for our customers.

Jesse McCabe Jesse McCabe CEO, Solid Digital, LLC

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The Result

Our team of Xamarin-certified programmers were now able to add functionality to the app from one place, making coding easier and shrinking the time it takes to test and implement new updates.

Employing the Xamarin platform also allowed us to change the way the data works within the application. In its previous incarnation, all updates would have to first be downloaded to the server to sync [before uploading to the two separate platforms] which was slowing down the app’s performance.

We solved this problem by employing Couchbase database software, which has a built-in syncing mechanism that keeps the data local to the application, so that even changes to content made offline will automatically sync to both platforms.

For our programmers, the Xamarin platform has been a huge plus.

And the results for MSCI? Their members have a newly designed interface and a better experience for users, whatever device they are using. The Xamarin platform has also reduced the cost of keeping MSCI’s content always up-to-the-minute and relevant to its members.