The Greatest page on the app.
I’m going to stop apologizing for long absences. It happens. We just shipped two new apps for YAMU, which would be a feasible excuse, if I’d done the shipping. But nay, Janith (Leanage) built our iOS app from scratch and rebuilt our Android app to match. I did basically nothing there, besides asking if it was done. But let’s pretend why that’s why I haven’t blogged for so long and discuss.
Apps Vs The Open Web
The Internet promised and is delivering an open platform for applications. That is, you write an application in relatively simple HTML/CSS/JS (with whatever generating that on your server) and almost anybody on any device can use it. This really freed up developer/designer creativity and led to the explosion of cool stuff you see today.
However, everything in tech seems to go in cycles. That is, the net started with people dialing into remote servers to run their programs and getting their results back. Then, as personal computers got more powerful, people started running programs there, without dialing out (MS Word for example). Now people are dialing into servers again, when you check your GMail for example. Goes back and forth.
What you got with Web 2.0 was that personal software world imploding, but the development of iPhones and copycat Androids led to another market, the app. An app is just another word for software, but somehow much cooler.
The trouble with apps, however, is that they only work on one particular operating system. Even there, they work differently on different versions of that OS. So you get the old software schism again except it’s Apple vs. Google instead of Apple vs. Microsoft.
For us what all this meant was that we had to develop separate apps for Android and iOS, or so we thought. Each OS has a different programming language and is different from the usual web development we’re used to. It was hard, expensive and took months. Until we switched to PhoneGap. PhoneGap is a cool little service that lets you develop apps in web languages and deploy them to multiple OS’s easily. So we could develop one code base in a language we understood and then deploy it across Android and iOS (and potentially Windows Phone) really fast.
I had used PhoneGap before and it was slow and sucky, but it’s gotten much better. In fact, it’s really good. This is great, because you get the coolness of apps for users (and there are cool things you can do) while keeping schisms out of your development.
But anyways. The YAMU app as it is now has a few interesting feature over the web. One is that it downloads most of the database the first time you use it. That means you don’t need Internet to use most basic features (titles, phone numbers, etc). It’s nice cause you’re downloading the content like a book and search is ultra fast.
Another interesting features is the the main feed is actually pulled in from Facebook. We hand curate things on Facebook and the app pulls them in. It’s not just the latest stuff, and it integrates nicely with the workflow we already have.
Besides that, the app has cab phone numbers and can help you estimate cost. It also has access to the questions/answers section and everything else. And we’re on a platform we’re comfortable with, so ongoing developments will be much faster.
So, if you have an Android or iOS device (it’s tablet friendly), check it out.