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Easy app maker?
November 12, 2012 7:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm creating a simple mobile app for a class project. What is the quickest and easiest way to develop a "proof of concept" or prototype for someone with limited technical skills?

No harm in telling you exactly what I need it to do: a person using the app would be notified at randoms points in the day to open the app (could be either native or in the browser at this point) and click on an area of an image map (which would be recorded and associated with some sort of unique identifier for that user) then on the next screen answer a very short survey. The app would need to also record location data and associate it with the survey and which area of the image map was clicked. As mentioned before it would do this several times a day over a period of about 2 weeks. That's basically it. Ideally the notification piece would be automated and randomized, but I can make do manually doing it.

I have looked at Sencha, Phonegap, and Appcelerator but even they seem to be a bit over my head.
posted by AceRock to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If all you need to make is the prototype, would Basalmiq work? Maybe Justinmind Prototyper? Apologies if I am misunderstanding the question.
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 7:40 PM on November 12, 2012

Sorry for being unclear! I need it to be a functioning prototype in the sense that I need real data from users (the same kind of data that a fully developed app would collect) and not just feedback/reactions to the UI or concept.
posted by AceRock at 7:44 PM on November 12, 2012

For mobile prototypes, I really like Invision... don't think there's a way to include a real survey or analytics within that though.

I wonder if finding a Wordpress theme with a mobile-optimized survey plugin might be your best route... Just put your image map on the front page, and the survey linked up to that. You can have your users bookmark the site to your home screen and launch it that way, too.

For the notifications, would a timed or text message email work? I don't know of any way to do native push notifications with just a prototype, but you should be able to set up an email blast pretty easily with Mail Chimp or similar. (And honestly, if email is okay, I wonder if you shouldn't do this whole thing through eblasts -- then you get the tracker info, too).
posted by thirdletter at 7:59 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why would they need to tap on an image map if you're just going to gather the location data from the device?

Are you OK with using javascript? If so, here's an example of using HTML 5 geolocation to get the user's latitude and longitude.

What you can do is set up a mobile-friendly web page with that code, then modify it to launch the user's email program and drop the coordinates into the subject line. Not the slickest, as the user will still have to hit send, but it'll get the job done.

Like thirdletter said, you'd have to get much more technical in order to do push notifications or even local notifications, so you'll have to settle with emailing your users or having them let you add an event to their calendar apps.
posted by ignignokt at 8:19 PM on November 12, 2012

Thanks guys -- all good ideas. Just to clarify, I need geolocation data AND data from an image that they tap. So the idea is that instead of answering a survey question like "do you feel happy, sad, angry, tired, confused ... etc?" in a form, they would be shown an image map of illustrations of faces displaying those emotions and would be asked to tap the face that most closely matches their emotion. (The reasoning being that the users could be illiterate or near illiterate and still use the app).
posted by AceRock at 8:30 PM on November 12, 2012

Start here:
posted by roboton666 at 8:54 PM on November 12, 2012

Ideally the notification piece would be automated and randomized, but I can make do manually doing it.
Do you need to be able to randomly ping them to enter the data (random but as decided by you) or can it literally be at random times during the day and either be different for each user, or a preset randomly generated set of times? The latter would be much easier, as it could be managed on the device without introducing push notifications of any sort.

Does the app need to work on a variety of platforms, or can you choose one and target it? (I noticed the tags say both iphone and android). PhoneGap/Appcelerator/Sencha are aimed at people who have to build for more than one device, and in my opinion they are easier than using the specific SDK only if you have web development experience you can draw on. If neither of those is true, then the quickest option is to just pick a platform and build it for that. (Easy triage: do you have a Mac? If not, you can't develop for iPhones).

How are you planning to get the app on your users phones? I think it's easy enough for Android, but for iPhones I think you'd need to be a registered developer to get it onto any phones, which costs $99/$199 depending on a couple things.
posted by jacalata at 11:23 PM on November 12, 2012

If you want it for android it would be fairly easy to hack up in app inventor, except for he scheduling thing. If you could manage that using a different app (something like remember the milk or some other nagging timer) and depending on the exact series of questions and other specifics you want to ask I think it would be fairly easy. It has location sensor built in so everything can be geocoded and it can natively connect to a webDB so things can be tallied. I could probably knock it out in a few hours to get something mostly working and nothing more than a week to iron out bugs and setup the webDB on a server for the collection of answers.
posted by koolkat at 5:01 AM on November 13, 2012

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