We are Mobile Developers!
We write mobile applications for iOS devices (i.e. iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) and Android devices (phones and tablets). Organisations no longer want their staff stuck to the desk: work is more efficient when done at source.
One of our customers used to send their engineers to client sites armed with piles of printed blank forms. The engineers would undertake their site tasks with pen or pencil in hand, working through the sheets of paper. They would then compile them all into client bundles and, perhaps at the end of the week, would take all of the accumulated paper back to the office.
Someone in the office would then take every piece of paper – assuming they were all there – and type the information into a version of every form that was on the computer. During this process, many phone calls were made to the engineers to try to decipher the contents of each handwritten form. Finally, the computerised forms could be printed and/or emailed to each client.
We took each on of the 20+ forms and created an iPad version. And by iPad version, we don’t mean we slapped a duplicate of every form into FileMaker Go… We took every form and redrew each with the iPad in mind. We enlarged fields and buttons. We utilised differences in landscape and portrait mode to display different content (help panels, navigation buttons). We applied field validation to try to achieve the cleanest data at source.
And we synchronised the whole package so that the engineer could receive a pack of any previously-completed forms as an aide-memoire… and so that completed forms could be sent back to the office on the same day – if not immediately after – they are signed-off. The person in the office now needs only to validate all form entries rather than re-typing from scratch.
The savings in time and paper are immense. And the engineers have responded to the iPad forms with real enthusiasm, as it makes their lives easier.
Why are we different?
We are mobile developers in the widest sense. We don’t just have some experience with FileMaker’s mobile app (FileMaker Go) and are now playing loose with the English language. We also write native mobile apps. One of our customers in the health industry wanted to create a social networking app that could run on both iOS and Android devices and which would dovetail with their existing social networking app on the web.
So we wrote an app that creates a hub in which people can talk about the specific health issues that concern them. There are forums, polls, blog posts and all of the elements you would expect from a full-featured social networking app.
When you’re thinking of developing something for mobile – whether it involves a native app, a web app written for mobile browsers or something involving FileMaker Go – it’s vital to get the interface right. To avoid wasting a lot of development time going down eventual dead ends, it’s vital to do some rapid app prototyping first. This involves:
- Putting together mockups of the user interface, so that you can really see and feel how a user would interact with your app.
- Working out the structure of any data storage requirements.
- Testing the calculation engine running within the app.
- Assessing your media requirements, such as video and audio.
- Developing any narrative behind the app, i.e. whether the use of the app evolves with time, user interaction or any number of other criteria.
- (And this is the critical part…) Getting an understanding of how all of these things will interact: how user input is captured, processed and stored, how reactions are fed back and how errors will be handled.
We often use FileMaker database software for this part of the prototyping process as you can test all of the elements involved – interfaces, data storage, calculation engine, media requirements – quickly and easily. Plus with FileMaker Go you can do quick run-throughs and check ideas on the mobile device before you get to the stage of compiling test versions on the desired platform.
The “final” stage of prototyping involves creating versions of the mockups on the desired platform (such as iOS on the iPhone or iPad) in the native language. We’ve put the word ‘final’ in quotes, because of course this process is iterative rather than linear, with new ideas being tested continually as the app evolves.
We go through this process with all of the apps that we develop. We also do this for our customers (supported by confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements). We find it a particularly useful, if not vital, process when trying to seek external investment in a new idea. Nothing beats the “wow” moment: ‘I have this great idea, it does this, it does that, and oh, have a look at this mockup that I have on my iPad’.
We are often asked to develop ‘pitch prototypes’, or applications that are developed as a means of securing funding for a bigger project. Pitch prototypes are created on the mobile devices for which the final app will be marketed and give potential investors an instant experience of using the app.
Nothing beats giving a potential investor or business angel a good prototype of the app in their hands so that they can touch, feel and swipe their way around it and see how it could truly work. This is especially true of complex concepts.
We can help you to identify the key functionality in your proposed app and can quickly produce the pitch prototype. We have produced apps that our clients have pitched to a variety of film and media organisations, including Channel Four, the British Film Institute, the B.B.C. and other bodies.