Pros and cons of Qlik Sense mashups

Recently I got the question on if I would recommend using Qlik Sense mashups. That got me thinking, of course the question is not so simple: it all depends. As with most things there are pros and cons…

Why would you use Qlik Sense mashups?

There are several reasons for using Qlik Sense mashups. A very common one is that you want to apply your companys profile and have a look-and-feel more like that you have for other systems. When I started building mashups for customers Qlik Sense hade no support for theming, so if you wanted to change things like fonts you needed to do that in a mashup. Now you can do this in a theme, but I honestly don’t know how much custom themes are used today.

Another common reason is that you want navigation to work another way than it does in Qlik Sense. Perhaps put sheets in a hierarchical structure or have views targeted to different user categories.

You might also mobile support to work differently than it does in standard Qlik Sense. In a mashup you can leverage open source CSS framework like Bootstrap or Bulma which gives you possibilities you do not have in the built-in Qlik Sense client.

Another reason is to simplify the user interface. In a mashup you can focus on the workflow that’s most important for your users (usually analyse data) and skip features like edit mode, storytelling, data load and modelling. This could potentially let your users get started faster and reduce the need for training, a big cost in a large dashboard projects.

You might also want to add features not in the standard Qlik Sense client. Examples could be commenting, writeback, sharing, exports not covered in the standard client, integration with other systems. Features like alternate state and default (startup) bookmark used to fall in this category, but are now included in the standard clent.

Problems with using Qlik Sense mashups

You should realize that mashups require HTML, CSS and javascript knowledge, a skillset most Qlik developers don’t have. You need to make sure you have both web developer skills and Qlik skills in your organization, whether you have that inhouse or work with a partner. And even though there are lots of web developers out there, very few of them know how to work with the Qlik APIs.

And the javascript environment is changing fast. While Qlik script has changed little in the 12 years I have worked with Qlik, the javascript environment has changed a lot. The language has a lot of new features, and frameworks, build tools and libraries has changed even more, so that the environment used in many mashups, with angularjs 1.x, today is pretty old and completely different frameworks (React etc) dominate, at least in new projects.

The tools included with Qlik Sense, like dev-hub, the Mashup Editor and the templates included makes it easy to create a mashup with only drag-and-drop and really no programming, but for production level projects it really is not enough. You would want stuff like multi-page support (including only loading Qlik Sense objects when they are needed), version handling and a dev environment where you can use npm packages, build tools etc.

Some advice on mashup development

So, you have decided that your use case is best solved with mashups. But how should you go about developing it? Here are some advice based on my experience with building mashups.

Recognize that you need web developer skills. The mashups itself is largely a web developer project. You need experience on web development, and on troubleshooting and debugging web apps. Someone with deep knowledge of HTML, CSS, Javascript and Qlik APIs is needed.

Web developer skills is not all. For users the most important part of your mashup is the data. For that you still need Qlik developer skills. In many cases you would have two kind of developers, those building charts and those working on the mashup itself.

Use version control. I used to say that version control is what differentiate professional development from private hacks. Today this is no longer true, even many hobby projects use version control. Set it up early in your project, commit changes often, make suire you know exactly what code runs in production.

Separate Qlik Object definitions from the javascript code. Try to avoid having Qlik Sense object definitions, field names etc in the actual code. Separate object id’s etc into separate configuration files or use tags in the Qlik Sense apps. This improves reusability of your mashup code and simplifies things a lot.

Use a CSS framework. A CSS framework like Bootstrap or Bulma helps you a lot with making your mashup responsive and good-looking. You might want to modify it by overriding the styles with your profile colors, fonts etc, but add those later.

2 comments

  1. I enjoyed reading through this content as it was spot on – thank you. Mashups are definitely a web development project based on building several with a co-worker that is strong in web development. We spent hours working through code as we fine tuned the template mashup for production. We find our use cases for mashups when needing to present data to senior leadership where we look to pretty up the URL and format; and present the data in a way that they can easily identify the trends and move on with their day.

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