DevCon WebDirect Series 4 of 4: Plan for Non-iOS Mobile Devices

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Missing FileMaker Go on non-iOS products? Well, FileMaker WebDirect opens up some opportunities to start working on those platforms.

Although technically not supported, we have done some basic testing and have found it is possible to load WebDirect on these devices. Here’s our 9 WebDirect tips for non-iOS mobile devices

Use already-supported browsers

Starting with the most obvious. You have a greater chance of support if you use one of the browsers that has already gone through testing on the desktop. Of course the default browser is going to be set by the device you buy. Chances are Android-based devices will most likely come with Chrome, and Windows devices will probably have IE 10 or 11. Since Safari is generally locked to iOS, at that point, FileMaker Go might be better to deal with.

Emulate target devices

One of the coolest features of Google Chrome’s Developer’s Toolkit is the ability to mimic a page on numerous devices straight inside the browser window. Not just the screen size, but also the actual rendering characteristics of the device! This is super cool, as it allows you to test how your WebDirect solutions will look and behave on mobile devices without owning any of the devices yourself! To run the emulation:

  1. Open up your WebDirect solution to the layout you want to check in Google Chrome
  2. Open Developers tools under View > Developer > Developers Tools
  3. Under Developers tools, look for the emulation bar along the footer area
  4. Select your emulation settings. Screen emulates the screen size of the target device. User agent emulates the browser engine of the default browser. Sensors can emulate GPS coordinates, touch screen and accelerometer actions.

There’s a whole world of testing available. Read up on the Google Mobile emulation instructions.

Hide the toolbars

This has been a general practice for me for all of my WebDirect solutions so far. It’s much easier to create only the buttons you need than to train users on how to use a toolbar inside the browser window. A lot of Web users are not used to that concept. Also, mobile screens will not fit the toolbar that well.

Develop layouts specific to the target device

Use either Get(SystemVersion) to check by browser and browser version, or Get(PersistentID) to check by user’s device. For phone devices, layouts are only in the 300 to 360 px-width range, so you will need to plan accordingly. Have objects that resize width wise, or make entire rows in list views into buttons, like how button-driven applications work on mobile apps. Need a good icon set? Check out ionicons for plenty!

Always use best practices

It always bears repeating! The more you plan your layouts, data and scripts for WebDirect the more it will pay off in performance and usability. Keep layout objects to the minimum needed to operate.Using native FileMaker 13 themes will also help keep the CSS clean and simple. Limit custom object styling as much as possible. Try to apply theme object styles to many objects, rather than having a separate object style for every object on your layout. Limit the use of scripts and triggers.

Remember the exit and timeout

Since we are using WebDirect, remember that your concurrent connection limit on FileMaker Server will be affected when someone logs in. Having an exit button that uses either the close file or exit application script steps will help your users log themselves out. Remember to set your idle timeout in the privilege set as well so that a user is forcefully disconnected if they are inactive for a period of time.

Use shortcuts and bookmarks

Using the homeurl parameter in your WebDirect URL will return a user to a specific page when you use the close file or exit application script steps. Also, setting up a bookmark will make it easy for your users to access your solution. Check out our other blog on homeurl and autologin.

Consider login security

Depending on your usage, you might already have file options configured to auto-login. For more secure applications, consider using an autologin system. Remember that the default WebDirect login isn’t optimized for small browser windows and it is not customizable.

Shoot for the stars, accept the moon

Since WebDirect is still a new platform, we can expect that a lot will be done in the compatibility department throughout WebDirect’s lifecycle. However it still is not guaranteed to be supported. If your Blackberry Bold from 2008 doesn’t load WebDirect, then look into alternatives that are supported. Be ambitious and innovate!

Hopefully we’ll see your work in the FileMaker Year in Review at next DevCon!