Do-It-Yourself Mobile Apps for Small Business - Page 2

By James Alan Miller
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How to Create a Mobile App in iSites

The iSites interface sports a clear, tab-based wizard that walks you through the process of creating a mobile app.  After clicking Getting Started and registering, you pick the URL where people will access your application as a Web app. Then select a language (English or French), and give your mobile app a title, description and set of tags.

In our test case, we chose http://JamesAlanMiller.isites.us, JAMboToday and English. The system automatically tells you if the URL you select is too short or already taken.  Click on the above URL to download the app we created directly to your iPhone, send it to your mobile device from your desktop, or share it with others.

Next, iSite sends you to the Content tab. Here, you pick the RSS feeds (up to 25) from which your mobile app pulls its main content.  You associate every feed you add with a set of categories that you create, manage and alter throughout the development process. iSites lets you edit these feeds and categories any time, even after an app is published and, if it is native, even without resubmitting the application to the App Store or Android Market.

Design mobile apps; mobile tools
Use iSite's iPhone simulator to see how your mobile app will look and feel on an iPhone.
(Click for larger image)

Although iSites' RSS system is an easy and useful way that you can quickly load your mobile apps with content, we wish the system allowed us to more easily integrate static Web pages. For instance, there were some pages, such as a list of articles we’d written, that we could not get the iSites platform to accept. We ended up having to recreate them from scratch using the system’s Quick Post feature.

Think of Quick Post as basic blogging platform.  While Quick Post's interface isn’t all that sophisticated -- GenWi recommends that posts use as little formatting as possible -- it does provide a suitable method for quickly and easily adding text and audio/visual media posts independently of the RSS feeds.  We used it to create our application's Bio section and the aforementioned lists of selected recent and older articles to our app.

In addition to RSS feeds and Quick Posts, iSites offers a simple mechanism for integrating content streams directly from various blogging and media platforms. These include Blogger, Wordpress.com, Posterous and Twitter for blogs; Flickr, Webshots, Picasa, Smugmug, and Zooomr for photos; and YouTube for video.

 For our app, we added a feed from our Twitter account by selecting Twitter and entering our username (@JamesAlanMiller). Unlike all other content, which you associate with various categories, the Twitter feed you select ends up automatically appearing in the Social section of your finished app.

How to Design a Mobile App in iSite

Once you've compiled your app's initial content, it is time to move to the Design tab, which includes a nifty iPhone simulator to demonstrate how your finished work will look and feel on a mobile device. Click on any area of the simulator -- Home, Categories, Search, Social, and More -- to run your app through its paces as you develop it.  

We encountered one minor annoyance with the iPhone simulator: an inability to scroll all the way down when you've entered more than a few categories. GenWi explained that few of their customers, unlike us with our review, create apps with more than four or five categories. They've noted this issue for future enhancement, however.

You can also change the color of an app’s header font and background or upload a .PNG image to use instead, which is what we did.  Meanwhile, you organize your mobile app's content within the Design tab’s Category section.

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This article was originally published on March 31, 2011
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