Mobile apps are super easy and convenient for banking customers to use. But to build and maintain them? Not so much. Here are a few tips to make a developer’s job easier.
Mobile banking apps conveniently deliver real-time account information for each customer on demand. This data often spans multiple distinct banking products that are consolidated into a mobile app’s account dashboard. Making that bit of wizardry happen requires a technical feat of unfailing precision and skill. We offer a few tips and tricks that can help developers who work on financial applications deliver the illusion of magic with the solidity of real-world substance.
First, it’s important to get a handle on the challenge. Banks and other financial institutions, such as savings and loans (S&Ls) and credit unions, have a lot of different product lines. The product lineup typically includes checking accounts, money market accounts, savings accounts, certificate of deposit (CD) accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, auto loans, home loans, mortgages, and other financial instruments and transactions.
Each of those products typically rises from a separate business function, such as the mortgage department, the investment department, or standard banking business line. Each function or department has its own long-standing legacy infrastructure to support it – including its databases.
That’s a lot of disjointed pieces. They need to be customized and assembled instantly in each of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of consumer banking app dashboards. With all that comes a lot of issues to solve, some foreseen and some forgotten.
“What developers often forget is load latency,” says Richard Luna, CEO of Protected Harbor, an IT firm that works with software and application developers. “Running a summary query against a table when only a few users are connected is quick; the result is returned immediately. The situation changes when there are hundreds or thousands of connections. Now the load of replying to the summary traffic must contend with the user load – slowing down the ability to see the dashboard results.”
To solve the latency problem, developers should use tools that can prefetch account balances and recent transactions once or twice a day from each database. That gives you a way to deliver those insights to the app with sub-millisecond latency.
“There are two solutions we recommend. One is to use high availability and run the summary dashboard queries against the second server in the high availability pair to avoid being directly affected by user load. Two, maintain a table that only contains the summary values. Those values are reloaded from the main table on a timer or as-needed basis,” says Luna. “This is a faster and more efficient approach.”
But there are other tips developers can use to smooth the processes involved in pumping the data from databases to dashboards in mobile banking apps.
In an effort to cover all the bases, you can bog down a banking app’s performance by choosing the wrong data sources or by connecting too many sources.
“It is crucial to carefully select the data sources that you will connect to your mobile app dashboard,” says Mohit Maheshwari, co-founder of outsourcing firm NMG Technologies. “Consider factors such as data accuracy, reliability, and relevance to ensure that the information displayed on the dashboard is accurate and up-to-date.”
At first glance, this tip appears to be a no-brainer. In practice, it requires considerable thought.
“Establish clear relationships between your data sources and the product fields you want to populate,” advises Vaibhav Kakkar, CEO of Digital Web Solutions, a company that handles backend tasks for digital marketing agencies. “This involves mapping out how different pieces of information should be structured and stored, as well as defining rules for accessing and updating that data in real-time.”
Optimize performance by caching data on the device.
“Fetching data from multiple sources and displaying it on a mobile app dashboard can impact performance,” says Maheshwari. “Caching involves storing a copy of the data locally on the app, which can be quickly accessed without making repeated requests to external data sources. This can greatly reduce the load on the app and provide a smoother user experience.”
A good user interface (UI) has structure, yes, but be careful that the structure doesn’t choke data feeds.
“Ensure that your app’s user interface can accommodate multiple types of data inputs and display formats seamlessly. This means designing flexible templates or layouts that can adapt to changing user needs while maintaining consistency across all screens and devices,” says Kakkar.
It always is essential to test apps thoroughly before release. With banking apps, Kakkar recommends, the quality assurance process should include running automated tests on several combinations of input values, as well as a thorough check for inconsistencies or errors in how data is displayed or processed.
It’s easy to get confused over which data sources feed which input. To cut the confusion before it starts, create a data dictionary.
“It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of all the data sources, fields, and attributes,” says Youssef El Achab, a cloud security and DevOps consultant and blogger. “Creating a data dictionary can help you keep track of everything and avoid confusion or duplication.”
You’ve heard this mantra a million times, but it’s especially essential for banking apps where regulations literally rule: In order to be reliable, data must be cleaned, standardized, organized (labeled), validated, and integrated. It’s crucial to validate data quality before integrating it into your app.
“When working with multiple data sources, it’s common to encounter different data formats, such as CSV, JSON, or XML. Therefore, it’s important to standardize the data formats to ensure consistency and ease of integration,” El Achab adds.
It’s one thing to provide for growth in data sizes and user counts. It’s quite another to plan for changes you can’t quite see coming yet.
“As your app grows and evolves, the data requirements may change. Plan for scalability and flexibility in your data integration approach to accommodate future changes,” advises Maheshwari. “Avoid hardcoding data sources or data formats; Instead, use configuration files or dynamic data mapping techniques to make it easier to switch or add new data sources in the future.”
Redis Enterprise can help IT teams build lightning-fast, scalable, and reliable mobile banking apps, complete with cross-product account dashboards. Read Redis Enterprise for Mobile Banking for the details.