If your circle of friends doesn’t consist of acronym spewing development types with hoodies and calloused keyboard fingers, then you may not know what Google Firebase is, much less care. Actually, that’s not fair; many savvy business people appreciate the value of Firebase and are joining the ranks of companies, large and small, who see the importance of developing their own app. You’re absolutely correct – there’s the link right there.
Firebase is Google’s super-simple answer to building a mobile app for your business. Did you know that the latest stats indicate that there are around 2.2 million apps on the Apple App Store and 2.8 million – give or take a few – on the Google Play Store?
Do those numbers have you scrambling for the phone to find a reputable company to build your business an app? Do you feel a creeping sense of FOMO?
Well, before you make any big decisions, why not find out a little more about Firebase, why it is such an immensely popular tool, and if it would be worth considering for your business?
What is Firebase?
Simply put, Firebase is an app development platform backed by Google, also known as a Backend-as-a-service (BaaS) solution. Firebase takes the time-consuming aspects of backend development and does the heavy lifting, freeing up your developer’s time to create an awesome front-end user experience and a brilliant customer journey.
The Firebase suite promises to assist in building great apps, improving app quality, and growing your app. Okay wait one sec, we have a question.
Define Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS)
Cloudflare sums this up beautifully for us, saying “Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) is a cloud service model in which developers outsource all the behind-the-scenes aspects of a web or mobile application so that they only have to write and maintain the frontend.
“BaaS vendors provide pre-written software for activities that take place on servers, such as user authentication, database management, remote updating, and push notifications (for mobile apps), as well as cloud storage and hosting.”
So, the nutshell version is that Firebase provides the switches, cogs, and levers which go into making a fully functioning mobile app. The developers can then tweak, add, or remove what they need based on customer requirements.
As you can imagine, this frees up a massive chunk of man-hours which would ordinarily be spent on the necessary (also dull and time-consuming) elements such as database development, authentication protocols, storage, security, and analytics.
Unpacking Firebase Features
What features can we expect if we decide to dip our toe in the Firebase pond? Well, folks, there are a lot, so we’ll just highlight a few for the moment.
- Realtime Database
- Cloud Firestore
- Google Analytics integration
- Crash reporting
- Performance monitoring
- Firebase hosting
Firebase Realtime Database
The first database offering is Firebase Realtime Database, which is a stable, cloud-hosted database. Data is stored in a lightweight JSON format and synched with every connected client.
The second database option is Cloud Firestore which takes many of the successful elements of Realtime Database and offers fast queries and awesome scalability.
“Like Firebase Realtime Database, it keeps your data in-sync across client apps through real-time listeners and offers offline support for mobile and web so you can build responsive apps that work regardless of network latency or Internet connectivity.” Immediate gratification? We like that.
Any platform with the ability to leverage the power of Google Analytics should have us pricking up our ears.
The sheer volume of data available to businesses via these tools is mind-boggling and terrifically exciting.
Gain insight into client behavior, demographics, user interactions, devices, user journeys and so much more. This information is a goldmine for businesses that see the value of testing and measuring for the best results.
The reporting options are a thing of beauty. Firebase grants access to around 500 different events and allow unlimited reports on these. Custom reports are relatively simple to set up, depending on your requirements.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes do, we want to know what, where, and how. Crashlytics allows for fast and actionable insights to enable quick fixes and fewer user frustrations.
Cleverly integrated with Google Analytics, Firebase Crashlytics has the remarkable ability to spew out tons of useful data on app crashes and how these are affecting your users.
With a straightforward console, the Firebase performance monitoring tool focuses on issues that users may face when not operating in an optimal environment. What happens when the network speed is slower? How do key elements display on older devices with different screen sizes? Where are the bottlenecks?
You must agree that we have to carefully balance data security and the constant pressure to make signing up and using an app as easy and humanly possible. This makes Firebase Authentication a welcome addition to the sweet suite of features.
Firebase tells us, “Firebase Authentication provides backend services, easy-to-use SDKs, and ready-made UI libraries to authenticate users to your app. It supports authentication using passwords, phone numbers, popular federated identity providers like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and more.”
Customer data is managed and stored securely in the cloud which lessens the burden of data security on you.
Again, with the speed and security? (Are you loving this as much as we are?) Firebase hosting offers fully managed, production-grade web hosting with built-in SSL ensuring content is always delivered securely. With the ability to connect custom domains, test, and preview changes before deployment, serve dynamic content, and host microservices, this certainly is a no-brainer.
Is Google Firebase Free?
Firebase starts out free with some pretty decent functionality, but you will need to scale up (and pay up) as your requirements grow. Which is fair, we feel, for what you’re getting.
The free Spark Plan offers essentials such as A/B testing, analytics, app distribution, and app indexing as standard. You also benefit from a generous hosting environment, in-app messaging, Crashlytics, and performance monitoring tools.
The paid or Blaze Plan has been set up as a pay-as-you-go option, which allows businesses to budget according to their traffic and app usage. The more activity on your app the more you’ll pay. However, more app usage means more conversions, right?
A breakdown of exactly what is included and how much you can expect to pay is detailed on the Firebase payment page. However, they also have an awesome little tool that allows you to adjust a slider on the changeable aspects of Firebase such as document writes and reads, cloud storage, verifications, etc, and thereby calculate your anticipated expenditure for the month.
Let’s put the tech-talk aside for a moment and look at a real-world benefit of offering an app to your customers.
Streamline Customer Conversions
No matter how mobile-friendly a website is, when it comes time to check out and we have to sit and fill in those teeny fields with our suddenly enormous fingers, frustration tends to creep in.
Smart Insights agrees with this particular gripe, and lists the following five reasons for lower conversions on mobile apps compared to websites:
- Security concerns
- Cannot see product details
- Difficulty navigating
- Can’t compare or browse multiple screens
- Too difficult to input details.
This is where an app really shines – thanks Firebase! Easy and secure input of customer details plus the removal of additional, repetitive hoops equals a better customer experience and higher conversion rate. After all, this is the whole point of being in business, right?
Do I Need an App?
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “This is fascinating and all, but do all businesses really need an app? Sounds like a lot of work!” There’s no definitive answer to this question, but we’d like to offer up some salient information which may help you come to the right decision for you.
The entrepreneur tells us, “TechCrunch has estimated that U.S. consumers now spend five hours a day on mobile devices. And 92 percent of that time is spent using apps — with only that remaining 8 percent devoted to a web browser.” Those are numbers worth considering, don’t you agree?
Ah, but there’s a flip side to that particular coin. The same article highlights the fact that after three months of installing an app, 80 percent of consumers no longer use it. Which brings us to the next point.
Is your website optimized for mobile? If so, and there’s no major benefit or additional functionality to your customers (or your business) in developing an app, then put your money back in your pocket. There’s no point in paying for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
What are the Benefits of Using Firebase?
That’s an excellent question, and if you’ve determined that your business needs a mobile app, then here’s some happy news for you:
- Firebase is going to save you a whole lot of time…and money.
- The various elements are designed by incredibly smart people to work seamlessly together, reducing the potential for errors and glitches.
- You will have access to some of the best reporting and monitoring tools on the planet to allow for continuous improvement and happy customers.
- Errors or crashes are a cinch to identify and fix.
- Your cloud-hosted database is secure and offers data in real-time.
Are You a Firebase Fan?
The fantastic features of Firebase have taken the often horrendous costs of developing an app and placed it firmly within the grasp of every business who needs it.