Thursday, June 14, 2012

App Building 101: From Taking Baby Steps to Graduating Primary School...

So it's been a crazy couple of weeks, with VCE units wrapping up & starting back up again, exams, working on reports and a hospital visit to top it off. Apologies in not getting a post out sooner...but we move on. Hopefully someone will still be reading this blog...

As I've mentioned earlier, ICTEV2012 was a watershed moment. I'd been looking at creating an app for a few of my classes, and when selecting the possible workshops that I would visit, @mrrobbo's (thanks once again!) stood out as it sounded like it would provide me a way of doing this. What can I say, the medium was provided! No coding is required either which is awesome if you want to create iOS apps and don't have a Mac.

This post is going to be talking about the process involved in creating my first (web) app via iBuildApp. There are a number of other app builders out there but for the moment we'll focus on this one.

My first Web App was the 8 Maroon App. When I showed the students what it could do, they were genuinely excited that they were going to be able to access College event dates, important subject dates, as well as contact myself and another of their teachers, @_tarrynkennedy directly from the App.

I've since decided to buy myself an Apple Developers Licence so that I can build Native Apps...and rebuilt the Web App as a Native will hopefully go live after the holidays and I'll let you all know when it's in the App Store.

For those who have been scared to make the leap to using Apps, my recommendation would definitely be to go with Web Apps first, and if you then need the additional functionality, and want to spend $99/year then head over to the Apple website and join the Developers program. Find the app below in the iPhone simulator.

Using iBuildApp to build a Web App felt like I was taking baby steps into the App Development world. I was able to create a working app within about a half hour! Buying the Apple Developers Licence to start building Native Apps felt like graduating primary school. I do plan on learning to write Xcode and Objective C to write my own iDevice apps (once I get a Mac), but for the time being, iBuildApp will do...hopefully I won't take 6 years to graduate to writing my own Native Apps.

May the Tech Be With You

Jimmy V

How to build your first app in an hour (or less)

Before you start, you'll obviously need an idea for an app. Whether it be as content delivery alternative, an organisational app or a way for your students to email photos of their work to you, you need the idea first.

  1. Go to the iBuildApp website, and sign up. Doesn't seem that hard yet...right?
  2. When you click Create App, you're given three options:
    • Native Apps (iPhone/Android)
      • Create apps that can be downloaded from the Apple & Android App Stores for iPod/iPhone and Android phones. These apps do not require an data connection to run BUT do require an Apple Developer Licence (iPod/iPhone) or being registered with the Android Maps API (Android phones only). Note that Android tablets aren't supported at this stage.
    • Native iPad
      • Create apps for the iPad that can be downloaded from the Apple App Store. These require an Apple Developer Licence.
    • Web Apps
      • Create apps that can be viewed on any mobile device, irrespective of platform. You can release your apps for free without the need to sign up to any Developer Program.
  3. Select 'Web Apps' and click 'Continue'.

    Don't make the mistake (like I did) of developing a Native App when I intended on making a Web App, so make sure you select the correct option!
  4. Select the TEMPLATE of your choice, and click 'Use It'. You can create your own templates or use one of the custom templates available in the Template Marketplace.
  5. Give your App a name & click 'Create'
  6. Then follow the prompts to fill your App with content.
    • Edit Background: Choose the background image for your App (you can use your own one)
    • Edit Logo Image: Choose the logo image for your App (you need to have your own logo...otherwise you're stuck with the default one from the template)
    • Edit Text: Choose the text that will appear at the top of your App
    • Manage Navigation: Choose the buttons & menu tabs from the template that will be used. You can edit the text descriptions, as well as the button images.
    • Manage Content: This is where you place all the content in your App. It's all pretty self-explanatory and allows you a massive range of options. Note that some functions aren't available to Web Apps, such as taking photos or videos, adding events to the calendar and local notifications.
  7. Once you've populated your App, click 'Complete'. A warning may come up stating that you haven't got enough content in there, but if you've populated it to your hearts content, click 'Continue As Is'.
  8. It's up to you whether you use 24hr time format...
  9. Fill out the details and get yourself a logo (it's pretty easy to find a Creative Commons logo on Google Images...)
  10. You'll then be given the opportunity to distribute your App. Not only are you given the URL, but you're also given a QR code, the HTML code to embed the App into your existing website,as well as  the option to share via Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Google+, etc, etc...
Congratulations you've just completed building your first Web App. I might write a post later in the future about Native Apps...


  1. Great summary,
    I had a go and it was successful - still rough but OK

    Lots of learning...

  2. Web apps, dependent on the data connection, can be pretty rough, and not have the entire functionality that you might like...but they're still pretty handy to have.

    Still a long way for me to go though till I'm happy with my iOS development :)

    Out of curiosity how did you get the app into your blog?