Friday, March 25, 2011

DYI app publishing: the travails of an app rookie

It's been an interesting past few days as I've finally gotten around to working on an iPhone app for Talking New Media. I had played around a bit before this week but decided to spend a little more time at it now.
Prior to my iPhone app adventure, I had launched a new mobile website for TNM using the tools from Mofuse, which had previously hosted the TNM mobile website. The whole issue with mobile websites are that they are usually designed for very specific devices, and all seems fine in theory until you actually launch a mobile site -- something that the critics of native apps seem not to understand.

For instance, launch a mobile site > look at site on your smartphone > smile smugly and congratulate yourself. Then access your site on an iPad and recoil in horror as your website bounces to the mobile site. Yikes, quickly try and fix the situation.

I did this when launching the TNM mobile site and was happy with the results until I went to my local AT&T store to check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I opened up the tablet's browser and visited the NYT website -- I was not too happy with the browsing experience, but everything looked OK, I guess. Then I typed in the URL for this site and you can guess what happened -- it bounced. (And it still will.)

Sure you can fix these situations, but can you ever guarantee that your website will look the way you want it to, everywhere? Should the NYT use a mobile site on a three inch screen? (Yes) What about a seven inch screen? (Iffy)

The problem I see with the advocates of html as the end-all and be-all is that the viewing environment is hard to manage. Develop an app for the iPad and you know exactly what the user experience will be like -- no wonder than that iPad users prefer apps.

The same would apply to developing for Amazon's Kindle, you know that there are only so many models of the e-reader, so estimating the experience is pretty easy.

Bloggers have it easy developing for the Kindle, Amazon does most of the work for you.

I encountered only one problem when launching the Kindle Edition of this site: the preview inside the development site did not duplicate the end product. Online the Kindle Edition looked terrible, but an email to support revealed that they saw everything as OK on their end. Fine, let's hit "send" (or whatever) and see what results.

The good news was that they were right. Now all I need is one of my Kindle Edition subscribers to give me a nice review on (come on guys, help me out!).

Mobile site done, Kindle Edition done, guess it's time to launch an app.

Now why would I want to launch an app for Talking New Media? I could only come up with one answer: to actually experience the process.

Looking around I don't find apps for any of the media industry websites or publications, which has always bothered me. While the industry grapples with mobile media and tablet editions, most of the trade industry media properties are either neutral on the issue, or outright hostile to the platforms. Few, if any, have their own branded apps -- iPhone, iPad or Android.

But can I honestly point the finger at the naysayers while TNM remains appless. (Spellcheck does not like the word "appless".)

My answer was "yes" -- heck, my web traffic is a tenth of their traffic, and at any moment McGraw-Hill or Hearst might call me up to say "come on back" (hey, here I am!). TNM was shut down once before, I could do it again if someone would simply bribe me with a "real" job that pays Gannett management wages.

But I haven't really learned anything unless I've actually worked on app, right? So I would need to sign up for an Apple developer account, test my own app on my own device, and upload that sucker to Apple.

All of those experiences can now be checked off my list of "to do" items as of late this morning. The clock has been started: as an hor or so ago Apple is in possession of a new iPhone app: Talking New Media for iPhone.

Now I can't wait for it to appear in the App Store (assuming it is not rejected) because I am going to trash it, and have fun doing it. Think of it as getting a jump on other media critics -- no one should be harsher than Talking New Media!

As for an iPad app, no way, that's where I draw the line. Blogs are best viewed on a browser because that is what the platform was designed for. Any iPad or other tablet app will have to be a new product, maybe related to TNM, but not TNM itself. Maybe I'll start on that one later this summer.

1 Comment:

Tablazines said...

It's even worse in Android land because Android tablets routinely revert to the "mobile versions" of sites.

It's a lot easier to differentiate between an iPhone and and iPad than say a Evo, Galaxy Tab and a XOOM