LESSON 1: PLAYGROUND BASICS
Apps you use regularly or have heard about that sound interesting:
What made you download them in the first place? What need does it meet? What is its purpose?
Most apps I use serve as a communication platform. Whatsapp and Messenger help me contact my friends and family practically immediatelly. Outlook allows me to receive notifications of my academic e-mail, which is very practical during school days. Tumblr allows me to follow people from around the world who share content of my same interest. Playtube can download youtube videos instantly, meeting my need to listen to music for free and without need of internet connection. Moldiv is a quite professional photo editor, useful for obtaining better quality photos.
LESSON 2: NAMING AND IDENTIFIERS
Have you ever wished there was an app for that? Brainstorm as many ideas as you can for apps you want to make
- Keep my protein ingestion on a healthy level (I'm vegetarian)
- Mobile scanner of documents (including handwritten things)
- Automatically organizes pictures
- Reminder of the videogames/books/series I need to finish when I have free time
- Fun riddles/puzzles to challenge my mind when I'm bored
- Displays information of one kanji per day (meaning, okurigana, onyomi/kunyomi, other words with that kanji, etc.) (I'm studying Japanese)
- Read messages without displaying as "seen" to the other person
- Helps look for a picture by description even if the picture is not named or tagged as such
- Helps me keep a better posture
LESSON 3: STRINGS
Take a look at 15 to 20 different apps on the App Store. Write down who you think the app was designed for. What kind of person would download the app? Do you think the app will meet their needs?
- FOX Sports: For those interested in not missing a match or news of a particular sport
- Colorify: Teenagers and adults who need to relax and distract by coloring.
- Chinagram Pocket: Teenagers and adults who would like to learn the basics of the Chinese language
- Crazy Gears: For children, it is an educational game to enhace creative thinking.
- Beatwave: For those who enjoy playing with sounds and composing music.
- Full Fitness: Young adults who need a guide in their exercising routines and habits
- Scanner Pro: Probably students or office workers who need a more practical way to have their documents in hand
- Sky Guide: For those who are curious to learn about the stars they can see where they are (camping, in the city, etc)
- Colorburn: Teenagers who like to play with filters in their photographs
- Minion Rush: Children who like the movie or simple, entertaining games
- Waze: Busy workers who have the need to avoid traffic to get on time, as well as taxi and uber drivers
- Figure 1: Medicine students who would like to practice with clinical cases
- Open Table: For people who like to eat outside and try new things
- Dropbox: For families who take a lot of pictures, for workers or students who have to handle a lot of data or documents
- Cinépolis: People who like to go often to the movies or would like to organize with their friends to go together
Now go back to your list of app ideas from "Idea Storm". Identify a few audiences you want to focus on
LESSON 4: HELLO, WORLD!
Now go back to your list of favorite apps from your app journal for Lesson 1: Why Apps? Rank them in terms of their UI design. Which apps are easy to use and seem to "just work"? Write down the reasons that some apps are easier to use than others.
- Whatsapp: Although it does not have that much functions, they are all available when you open a conversation and are represented by icons, which makes it easier to assume their functions.
- Moldiv: It has a LOT of ways of editing pictures, and once you select the picture the options are displayed with little icons on the inferior part. It also allows all the effects to be previewed.
- Tumblr: The dashboard is simple and the configuration options are very clear. The tagging system has improved, but it still is not as good as the desktop version.
- Messenger: I like that it has a lot of options to send stuff in conversations (stickers, audio messages, videocalls, gifs, nicknames, etc) but I do not like how their buttons are arranged.
- Outlook: Honestly it displays a lot of functions I either have no need in using or do not feel motivated to discover how to.
- Playtube: It's not difficult to use but it glitches for no reason a LOT. Sometimes some videos can't be downloaded no matter what you do one day but they can suddenly be downloaded and played the next day with no problem.
LESSON 5: FIRST APP
Take a look at your "Idea Storm". Which ideas stand out to you now? For those standout ideas, what problem or purpose does each of them address? Can the problem or purpose really be solved with an app? Will your app be disruptive? What can your app do better than any other app?
- Displays information of one kanji per day (meaning, okurigana, onyomi/kunyomi, other words with that kanji, etc.) (I'm studying Japanese). Purpose: to study Japanese more efficiently; yes, it could be solved. Disruptive?: If done correctly, maybe, if it's simple to understand, unlike other Japanese-learning apps.
- Fun riddles/puzzles to challenge my mind when I'm bored. Purpose: to do something productive and fun to train my brain; yes, it could be solved. Disruptive?: no, there are a lot of apps like this.
- Helps me keep a better posture. Purpose: to have a healthier back and prevent injuries; no, I don't think it can be done properly with an app. Disruptive?: if it could work somehow, yes.
- Reminder of the videogames/books/series I need to finish when I have free time. Purpose: to manage my free time more efficiently. Disruptive?: yes, I think it could be very useful and I haven't seen an app like it.
LESSON 6: FUNCTIONS
How exactly will your app fulfill its goal? "My app will...because..."
- App Name: Minder
- Problem: Organizing social, laboral and personal aspects of life into a single agenda
- My app will be able to remind you of any appointment, dividing them into three main categories to keep your agenda balanced, because people tend to be too absorbed in one of the aspects to properly care for the other two.
- App Name: Kanji a Day
- Problem: People studying Japanese struggle the most with learning kanji
- My app will be able to display several useful information of a single kanji everyday (readings, words that use it, proper writing order, a picture, etc.), because non-Japanese people need to make a greater effort to remember them and use them correctly.
- App Name: Puzzled
- Problem: When I get bored and I'm not home, I feel the need to do something productive but fun at the same time.
- My app will have a wide variety of riddles and mind puzzles for people to solve, because it is a fun way to train your brain without doing something much more tedious or complicated.
LESSON 7: BOOGIEBOT
Accelerometer. GPS. Camera. Touchscreen. In your app journal, brainstorm about how you might use these features and tools in your apps. What haven't you seen before?
- Virtual reality games that you can play on particular parks or green areas, that use your movements (ex. swinging your phone) as in-game actions (ex. punching a monster)
- Using Bluetooth and the touchscreen to move stuff around, like a universal controller
- Taking a picture of a person or a wound and for the app to evaluate its graveness and what can be done as first-aid while medical help arrives
- A camera that lets you see through the sea (the animals and corals beneath the water to a particular depth
- Using the accelerometer/camera to translate sign language into written language
- Using voice recognition to dictate an app to write in braille
- A camera that detects particular species of animals or plants and displays information about them
LESSON 8: CONSTANTS AND VARIABLES
Think about the features and tools you learned about in Lesson 7: Feature Smashing and from the Apple Developer website. How many of those can you incorporate in your app and in how many different ways?
- Using Bluetooth and the touchscreen as a controller for TV or your own computer if it is not near and you don't want to move, and you don't want to miss your favorite show or a new season.
- Taking a picture of an announcement or poster while having the camera to detect titles, dates and hours and automatically write it down for you in a reminder.
- Using voice recognition to write down reminders, as well as having the phone to say outloud its specifications when the reminder's alarm comes on.
- Being able to record someone dictating to the app in sign language.
LESSON 9: TYPES
Take a good look at the App Store. Do your app ideas already exist? For each of your app ideas, identify the top three competitors on the App Store. Can you suggest any improvements to the user interface? How could it be designed better? What are people finding difficult about the app? What else do they wish it could do? Where are people getting confused? How would your app address each of these concerns?
- Top competitor: Wunderlist
- Suggested improvements: I really liked the idea to add subtags inside a major one. It also allows to sort them by topic, and can be shared with others. However, it does not show who and when did this reminder was updated. I would add a feature to make groups (like Facebook groups) where different people can add their reminders for everyone else to be in check (ex. in an office, students team, family reunions, etc.)
- Top competitor: Alarmed.
- Suggested improvements: Even though some report a lot of glitches, most people seem really pleased with it. Repeat scheduling, countdowns, location reminders, iCloud syncing, custom sounds and voice recognition for dictation are some of the features that have given it a lot of great reviews. However, I would make the interface's colors more varied and friendly.
- Top competitor: Free Reminder with Calendar and Alarm.
- Suggested improvements: People like that the interface is very simple and friendly. However, some reviews suggest that it lacks some more advanced features, such as being able to program the taking of a medicine for ex. morning and afernoon for a whole week. The app shows all near reminders in a single "home page", yet this becomes impractical when the reminders belong to very different topics.
- Kanji a Day
- Top competitor: Kanji Keiten
- Suggested improvements: The kanji keiten is an exam that certifies your level of knowledge in japanese kanji. A lot of people taking this exam is precisely because they are not Japanese, so having all the app in this language leaves out a large part of the audience. The practice exercises are pretty well done, but they are only available for 6th to 2nd level.
- Top competitor: JLPT Kanjis
- Suggested improvements: This one is designed like a game to learn the kanji used in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). It includes a lot of useful and simplified information for each kanji, but again, the kanji presented in JLPT exams are far less in both quantity and difficulty than those in the Keiten, which leaves this app's structure for a bit more of potential improvement.
- Top competitor: Kanji Mastery
- Suggested improvements: A little more specialized in the kanji's spellings and readings, but once again, only includes kanji found in the JLPT. The Japanese-English English-Japanese dictionary is a very useful feature though. I would suggest to include drawings per kanji as well.
- Top competitor: Mental Games Free.
- Suggested improvements: People find the puzzles challenging and interesting, that they are actually very fun to solve. The graphics seem decent, but could honestly use a little improvement. I like that they are sorted by type, but I would also sort them by level of difficulty.
- Top competitor: Clockwork Brain
- Suggested improvements: People praise the soundtrack and the visuals quite a lot. However, most wish there were far more free levels, since only four are available in this version. There are also bugs with the language configuration. Old-time players feel the new version is far more commercially oriented, and are really upset that even though they payed for some features, they had to pay for them again later because of "system updates".
- Top competitor: Mind Puzzle
- Suggested improvements: The puzzles pieces sometimes glitch and mess up with the game experience, or simply do not allow the user to play at all. Basically, comes with a lot of sudden, discouraging bugs. Some suggest a "How to Play" section or at least a "Hint" button in each puzzle. The graphic design could also be improved into a nicer color palette.
LESSON 10: PARAMETERS AND RESULTS
Write down a few design principles that will be important for your app.
- Classify functions correctly. We need to make sure that not only the reminders themselves are classified as they should, but also that they are easy to reach within a few taps.
- Put customization at a side. Putting a small button on each reminder from which you can edit all possible customization features is probably the best, since doing the reminder itself is generally more urgent.
- Priorities first. The home screen should allow to make a reminder immediately, since sometimes time is very short but it is urgent for the user to get it registered.
- Colors! Using colors to classify the reminder categories or their functions can make it easier to use.
- Simple yet varied. The app doesn't need to be complex to use, but if we want it to have a lot of extra features, we need to keep those features' buttons clear and ordered.
- Minimalism. We don't want to visually overload our users either. Minimalist designs look more professional and easy to use.
LESSON 11: MAKING DECISIONS
Take yourself on an app hunt. Your goal is to find an app that demonstrates each of the following best practices for designing apps.
- An appealing icon: I've noticed most trustful- professional-looking apps tend to have two maximum three different colors, and a very simple icon over a plain background. Youtube, for example, has a white background with a red rounded rectangle, which has a small white triangle in the middle, looking like the "play" symbol used universally for videos. Minimalist designs seem to be the best tendencies, since they indicate you can reflect simply yet efficiently what your app is about, without the need to saturate such a small, representative image.
- Get into the action: The Tumblr app may be a lot of things, but it is certainly well organized. You enter, and the first thing you have is your dashboard, with the "post" button at the lower part of the screen (which, if pressed, then presents each option of posting). This is very useful, since people who use tumblr either post a lot or enjoy just being in their dash, and this serves both needs. Notifications, search and account configurations can be found in the icons on the side of said button, each with a small icon, which makes it quite easy to find any feature you want with just those four "menus".
- Initial tutorial: I (personally) really really hate tutorials. I'll be very biased if I have to give an opinion about one, but if there is one tutorial I would have to praise, it would be Songkick. It's an app that notifies you of concerts in the cities you choose of the artists you choose. You start with a small set of images and messages telling you what the app does, you create your username, and then choose 10 artists to begin with (you may add more; the app also makes recommendations based on your choices). You then choose your cities and are indicated where you can change, add or delete said cities or artists. Simple and, most importantly, USEFUL.
HOUR OF CODE
LESSON 12: INSTANCES, METHODS AND PROPERTIES.
Write or sketch at least three views of what your app's interface might look like. In particular, think about what happens in the first 10 seconds after a new user opens your app.
First screeen view (buttons, then what). Icons. Graphics. How many taps fo the tutorial (what they need to know). How to navigate between views. Ways to communicate features without using words.