I want to start blogging more about my technical journeys through Polycademy. While I was building Dream it App (http://dreamitapp.com), I noticed that there would FOUCs (flash of unstyled content) in between pages on the same application. Dream it App is a single page application, so state transitions are meant to be more fluid and closer to a desktop experience. In a traditional static page, you get FOUCs/FONCs (flash of no content) all the time between changing pages or changing sites, usually it's a white background. You'll notice this when you're on Google and you navigate to a particular new site you have been to before. But in way SPAs should be able to avoid this problem. Unfortunately for most cases, you trade the page transition white background FONC for a FOUC that has the template and styles loaded, but the data/content not loaded. This is happening because SPAs are asynchronously loading resources, so things don't come in one at a time. But then I saw Youtube's new loading mechanism.
If you've been to Youtube recently, you may have noticed a loading mechanism. Go any Youtube video, and then click on one of the related videos without opening a new tab or window. You should see this:
It looks like a loading bar. But this is not what this post will be talking about. A loading bar is fairly easy to implement in AngularJS, see the ngProgress module. What Youtube is doing is preloading all the data and content of the next video before it transitions the view state to that new video page.
So I began thinking overnight on how to achieve this. This is a difficult thing to implement. When writing an AngularJS application, you have controllers that associate themselves to various view states. A basic example would be that every single page (delineated by the URL) has a controller. Then you put all the commands that load data asynchronously from the server, and all the modifications of data into the controller. You might even abstract the process and modularise but in the end it's all activated from the controller. In most use cases, only when the page has transitioned to the new page will the controller's code run and hence bring in all of the content for the new page. So there has to be some way to load data asynchronously before activating the controller. One couldn't just run the controller before changing page, because the controller may be relying on the DOM as a dependency to run other things.
The first obvious solution would the preload resources upon the first load. In some sites, they preload images and cache them in the browser before you even load a page that needs those images. This could work as well for a small site that has fairly static content. However when you get to scaling up dynamic content it doesn't work. It does work well for templates. In fact Polycademy's current Angular architecture is to preload all templates and cache them upon the first page load. This is because templates are usually quite small when they are all combined. But this doesn't solve the problem since the content is still being loaded asynchronously and being added to the template. So when you transition state, you might see the template, but no data. What we need is a method to separate the activation of loading asynchronous content that is on demand and relevant to the specific page from the controller's code. So that upon running the controller's code (and transitioning the view), the data is there already. But this all needs to be done JIT (just in time) for the page, not for all pages.
So I did some googling. And there is a method to do this. It's called the resolve property on the routes. It is possible to configure AngularJS's routes to each have a resolve property, which calls functions that return a promise, which all have to be resolved, before finally dependency injecting them into the controller.
The methods are listed here: Delaying AngularJS route change until model loaded to prevent flicker and AngularJS - Behave like Gmail using Routes with Resolve and AngularJS Video Tutorial: Route Life Cycle
I haven't got around to testing those methods in production. But I hope it also works with the back button. Youtube does its preloading mechanism on the back button as well. At any case, this is a boon to user experience. One of the major factors of using SPAs to is to have a more responsive experience, and seeing FOUCs as you transition between views deteriorates that experience. You would never see a well designed desktop app with FOUCs in between transitions.
I also use ui-router for a more sophisticated state machine routing. And ui-router also supports resolve. So I'll be implementing this in Polycademy's next AngularJS projects.
Also for images to be resolved prior to the state change, you can use AngularJS to HTTP preload them. See this Stackoverflow post: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/18627609/angularjs-resolve-to-wait-until-external-images-have-loaded This form of eager loading for each state change is required when the layout of the next page depends on the image's size which may not be determined until is loaded. This obviously refers to dynamic or user uploaded images, not image assets of your site, which you do know what the size is beforehand.