I just can’t do anything with it.
Inspired by RootsTech I finally decided to further investigate something I’ve been curious about – how to go about creating apps for Android & iPhone. I am so not a programmer/developer but I’ve heard of programs that allow non-developers to create apps and tried a few of them. What type of app was I going for? An app to consolidate the feeds I have listed for the NCGenWeb Project on blogs/twitter/facebook accounts relative to North Carolina genealogy – the NCGenealogy 2.0 page.
Round 1: Android App Inventor
As much as I love Android/Google, even their App Inventor program built for non-developers is not the easiest thing to get going with. After spending an hour trying to get set-up, I still couldn’t use it – seems I am getting an error code for something going wrong with my computer. I may try again later.
Round 2: iSites
After reviewing a list of potential sites for app development, I created an account with iSites. For their most basic account they offer a 30 day free trial. I had to give my credit card info for the trial. The process to create the app is done via a nice web interface and it was easy to add to it. It turns out though that with the basic plan, only one RSS feed can be pulled into the app. I’m aiming for multiple feeds. Also, despite the site saying I could preview the Android version of the app, I could not figure it out. Also, iSites apps don’t work on the iPad and since I don’t have an iPhone, I couldn’t try it in real life.
Here are some screenshots of the app I made with iSites. It shows only the feeds from the NCGenWeb Blog.
Front page of the NCGenWeb Blog feed
one blog entry from the NCGenWeb blog
ability to post to social network
Overall, I like this, but I really needed to be able to integrate multiple feeds and I was not willing to pay the $100 or so just for playing around. I will be canceling my iSites trial tomorrow.
Round 3: appMakr
AppMakr looked promising b/c the market their app development as free. This is good since many other companies charge anywhere from $100-$1000 and possibly monthly hosting fees. Their website was also easy to use – they offered many more customization options than iSites. Also, their app for the iOS operating system also works on iPads (just have to use the 2x magnification setting).
To my joy I could also integrate multiple RSS feeds! I could also create an app icon, a welcome splash screen, a custom header, and navigation icons across the bottom of the app. I was impressed by all the options. At the end of the app development process, AppMakr also rates the quality of your app and tells you how likely it is to be (or not to be) accepted by the Apple Store. All this with no charges by AppMakr. Here are screenshots from the app I created with them:
splash screen i created
feeds from county site category. i was able to create 5 different categories.
a specific blog post. notice the topic!
I was very pleased with this and was now ready to figure out how to test it out. Well, turns out the part that is not free in all this is the registration with Apple in order to develop apps; $99 fee. This is not a requirement of AppMakr, but a requirement by Apple. Again, I was not willing to pay this just to play around. I did like the process though — and AppMakr provides some ability to test the app interactively online – you can do so at http://appma.kr/f6Plz0.
If I were developing an app for real, I would probably go with AppMakr. Despite the fact that I can’t offer it for *real,* I am excited by the possibilities. $100 and any organization/website/etc. could have an iOS app. I do hope to further explore the Android development later on. This is clearly a case where I could have benefited from a RootsTech class; perhaps Rob Fotheringham’s class on mobile development (TC 068)?
Any takers on creating apps like this?? As I worked through this example, a perfect example came to mind of an app I’d love to see — one for Geneabloggers. Wouldn’t that be cool?