This is a post by Susam Todd, who works for Microsoft for more than a decade. She used AppMakr’s basic capabilities for handling RSS and photo feeds to create several apps for WP7. The article, however, is not about WP7, but about how to quickly create an app, sometimes only using an hour or two from the first idea to the finished app.
She also uses Yahoo Pipes quite a lot. On a side note, it is interesting to note that neither Microsoft nor Google have not created anything even remotely as useful as Yahoo Pipes for filtering feeds.
Using AppMakr for WP7 Apps27 Apr 2011 12:34 PM
There are a number of services that help people build apps for iPhone, Android and WP7. I originally checked these out so I could do a competitive analysis of the iPhone submission process without having to actually code anything. However, I recently noticed that AppMakr added an option to create a Windows Phone 7 app. While it’s not as full featured as their iPhone AppMakr, it includes RSS feeds and Photo feeds, which is enough to make a basic app.
Joe Healy has a detailed walkthrough of how to make a WP7 app using AppMakr, so I’m not going to rehash that here.
To play with the different features, I made 7 different apps.
App #1: Paleo Lifestyle. This app’s idea came from the blogs I personally read for all things Paleo. While the AppMakr part of the app was straightforward, I wanted to find a way to combine and filter RSS feeds. This led me to Yahoo Pipes. I wanted a tab for just Recipes and lots of websites have recipes listed. I ended up combining 6 of those sites’ RSS feeds into one RSS feed for my app. Yahoo Pipes was a nice find for this purpose. It would have been nice to be able to do this in AppMakr though.
The other issue I ran into with this app was just making the graphics. AppMakr pulls images from the web for you to use, but I had no idea if they were copywrited, trademarked, or would otherwise get me in trouble if I used them. I went into Paint to make my own tiles, and well, you can tell. They really aren’t the greatest. This is something I’ll have to update.
I had 4 different categories or tabs in AppMakr, so it came out as a Pivot. The one thing I really don’t like is the wasted space above the title banner. I filled it in on the screenshot, but it’s black or white on the actual app. It would be nice to use that whole space for the banner.
App #2: Wedding Chatter. No link for this one because it was rejected. I used the same set of tools, making my RSS feeds with Yahoo pipes. However, I put a lot of feeds and filtering into this app. I also had 11 categories, rather than the 4 I used in the first app. With this many categories, this one shows up as a Menu with the categories and then each has it’s own page. No pivot.
A nice thing that AppMakr provides are a set of icons to choose from that show up in the Menu list. You can also make and upload your own. I just used there’s for now.
I submitted this app and was rejected for the following reason: 5.2 Performance and Resource Management
Comments: The application fails to reactivate after being deactivated.
Steps to reproduce:
1. Launch the application.
2. Press “…”
3. Press “settings.”
4. Press “clear” to clear the cached data.
5. Press “ok.”
6. Press the device’s back button.
7. Select any category.
8. Ensure that all content has loaded, and then press the device’s start button.
9. Press the device’s back button immediately or after 10 seconds.
10. Notice that the application terminates unexpectedly and fails to reactivate after it has been deactivated.
I love the detail I’m given from the test results report. Only problem is, I’m not entirely sure where to make the fix! It could be the feeds are too slow. It could be the Yahoo pipe filtering and combining is making it too slow. It could be a bug in AppMakr. It could be too many categories. I’ll be experimenting with changing these variables to work out where things went wrong.
I’m pretty bummed that this one got rejected, because I put a lot more time into making the feeds and the design of the tiles.
Notice the black bar above the banner:
Bottom black bar is just my screenshot to balance out the top black bar. It’s not in the app.
App #3: Wedding Dance Songs. This app is a pared down version of the above app. It breaks out just the music part. It only has a couple of feeds. My plan with this app is to experiment with adding feeds after publishing. The way I’m going to accomplish this is to use Yahoo Pipes again. Currently, I only have 2 blogs feeding this app. I plan to add 3-4 more to the pipes and see how it looks to the end user. This might be a viable solution to get the app through certification and then add new content afterwards. I won’t be able to add new categories without submitting an update though.
App #4: Windows Phone News. I made this app, well, just because. I thought about the fact that I was making all these Windows Phone apps, but what about an app about Windows Phone News? Nothing much to actually report on this one. It went along smoothly and as expected after my other experiences.
App #5: Celebrity Wedding Chatter. This app is still in testing for certification as I write this. I made it simply because I’m obsessed with the Royal Wedding News and wanted to make it just a little broader in scope for when the Royal Wedding is over. Two of my Pipes didn’t show content when I submitted the app. They do now, so it will be interesting to see if it gets accepted or not.
Apps #6-#7: These last two apps were created under the mindset of “how fast can I create an app, now that I have experience with the tool?”. They are still in testing for certification while I write this.
#6: I created the “Top 10 Astronomy Blogs” in 2 hours. Most of that time was spent searching around for 10 blogs that were “top” and loaded quickly. This app doesn’t use any pipes, so we’ll see if performance is different leaving out the Pipes component.
#7: My final app, I created in one hour. My idea came from thinking about topics that people would want to know about daily. ”Daily Devotions” was the first thing that came to mind, and since I was going for speed, I went for it. I also wanted to add in pictures through AppMakr’s album feature, so this app includes pictures from Flickr.
There were a couple of issues I ran into for this app. First, I wanted to call my category by the blog the devotions were coming from. The character limit was too short in AppMakr. So, I had to trim the names, which I didn’t like doing. Especially since there is plenty of room for longer names. The second issue was getting a photo feed. I couldn’t work out how to get a photo feed from Flickr. So, I went back to Yahoo Pipes and did it from there. For this, I wasn’t happy about the solution I came up with at all, but it works. I do like how AppMakr makes a collage of pictures with the feed though. I don’t like that I can’t get to the original picture from the app. Again, I haven’t troubleshot this to know if it is AppMakr or Pipes that’s not allowing this.
This app had 5 different categories and I learned that 5 ends up with a menu. So, if you want a pivot application, you should just have 4 categories.
Overall, getting an app out from idea to uploading in an hour is pretty darn quick. That included finding the feeds I liked, doing the basic artwork, and working through the Flickr issue.
AppMakr is really quite easy to use. It is fast, with the most time taken on finding the content to include, making the feeds (if necessary) and doing the artwork. None of which are done within AppMakr.
On average, my apps seem to be taking 3 days to get accepted or rejected. While I’m anxious to have them faster because I’m experimenting, it’s really not too bad.
As Joe mentioned in his posts about AppMakr, I also ran across the issue of ads not showing up. I wasn’t sure if I had picked categories that didn’t have ads or if it was a bug in AppMakr until I read his post.