Posts tagged Build
As programming tools become increasingly accessible, it’s not the actual building of a mobile app that’s difficult. It’s the time it takes — and the risk nobody will ever use it. Studies estimates that 26% of mobile apps are used just once, and more than 60% never get downloaded at all.
Temporary, Disposable Apps
Today, many businesses create apps for a variety of occasions, including one-time events like conferences and product announcements. But for most businesses, building these apps is a process that can take several months. At Demo Mobile 2013, raw engineering CEO Neha Sampat showcased an app her team built in a week.
“The life of an app used by enterprises is sometimes as short as a month,” said Sampat. “If it takes you three to four months to build an app you’re only going to use for a month leading up to an event or a conference or an announcement, there’s no [return on investment] there.”
Leveraging built.io, Sampat said, app development can be almost “plug and play.”
“We provide the back end, the building blocks, the basics of the app ready to go – and they can spend their time working on user experience and the app itself.”
Crowded Market For App Development Tools
Decluttering the back end of app development is a mission on everybody’s mind. Built.io joins a crowded market, including services like Parse (just acquired by Facebook), Kinvey and Cocoafish. But here’s what makes built.io different, for better or for worse: anybody can use it.
Creating new apps requires a developer’s assistance. But ”once the app is built and available, [employees] can log into the [content management system] and upload additional photos, press releases, anything they need to do to update the app without running to their developer or IT dept,” Sampat says.
The easy-to-use, what-you-see-is-what-you-get visual design is intended to make app upkeep less of a headache for developers. But developers have also historically been gatekeepers. When everyone and everyone at a company can make updates to the company app, what’s to keep the company app from becoming a huge, cluttered mess?
Developers In Charge
To avoid that, built.io keeps developers in charge. A built.io feature lets them assign roles and privileges to specific users. For a conference app, for example, the developer might give the organizer permission to update event names and times, but not to alter the structure of an app.
Built.io has the potential to make developing a company app so fast and so easy (the beta is free) that everybody in the office may want to create apps for every purpose they can think of. The question yet to be answered is whether non-developers will use their newfound powers for good - or end up helping to churn out useless apps on a weekly basis, adding to the existing glut of unwanted and unused mobile apps.
Photo and screenshot via raw engineering
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BizProf: Use SEO to build online awareness
A. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a huge part of building online awareness. And as a new business owner, you are probably inundated with email messages from various services stating that they can put you at the top of the search rankings. While …
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Facebook is planning to build a massive data center in Altoona, Iowa, the company said on Tuesday. That’s right, Altoona, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines.
With more than a billion users around the world to support and just three wholly owned data centers (Forest City, North Carolina; Prineville, Oregon; Luleå, Sweden, with the latter two still being built out) Facebook may have needed another location. (The company has also stashed servers in at least two co-location facilities owned by other companies, on both the East and West Coasts.) But why Altoona, Iowa?
According to The Des Moines Register, which deserves credit for breaking the story on Monday, Altoona officials sold Facebook on four key selling points:
- The site sits on the nexus of an interstate fiber optic system, providing connectivity to the rest of the nation.
- A power substation sits within half a mile of the campus.
- Transportation access.
- Environmental stability.
The last is an increasingly important consideration. Data-center providers that went down during Superstorm Sandy in New York last year learned that lesson well; hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters can bring a cloud services down just as effectively as a power outage.
A Facebook blog post, meanwhile, cited “an abundance of wind-generated power” as well as proximity to “a great talent pool that will help build and operate the facility” as reasons for building in Altoona. Apparently, Des Moines and Ames are the new Silicon Valley and Boston when it comes to technical skills. The new facility will break ground this summer and begin serving traffic in 2014, Facebook said. According to the Register, Facebook’s facility “will join what’s becoming a data center corridor of sorts in Altoona. LightEdge was built in 2006, and Enseva will break ground this spring.”
Facebook hasn’t confirmed the size of its new data center, but the Register earlier this month claimed that planning documents put it at 1.4 million square feet and said Monday the total investment could hit $1.5 billion. That’s about four times the size of the company’s Prineville facility – and 50% larger than Apple’s $1 billion investment in its new data center in Maiden, North Carolina.
“In the coming years, as our service continues to grow and people share and connect in more ways, we need to make sure that our technical infrastructure also continues to scale,” Facebook’s Jay Parikh said in the blog post. “Our goal is not just to deliver you a fast, reliable experience on Facebook every day – we also want to help make connectivity a universal opportunity. Our data centers are essential for making that happen.”
How Facebook “Hacks” Its Data Centers
Facebook has put almost as much technology effort into its data centers as its core services. Earlier this year, Facebook disclosed that its Luleå facility would be entirely built on hardware constructed by no-name server manufacturers using designs developed by the Open Compute Project, which shuns “vanity” hardware sold by traditional server vendors like Dell and Hewlett-Packard in an effort to minimize cost. Rather than pay top dollar for the most sophisticated and powerful equipment, this kind of “open source hardware” approach adds capacity by just adding ever more cheap, generic servers.
(See also Can Servers Save PC Manufacturers? Sadly, No.)
Facebook also has been a pioneer in using natural or ambient cooling its data centers. Traditionally, data centers place servers on raised floors cooled by mechanical “chillers,” or air conditioners, that push away heat from the servers to keep them running properly.
Facebook’s Prineville facility uses a combination of evaporated water and ambient air to cool the servers without the need for energy-hogging chillers; its Swedish site uses the frigid near-Arctic air to do the same thing. (Google, meanwhile, is building a data center in Hamina, Finland, which pumps water – and exchanges heat – from a nearby canal.) Although Facebook hasn’t disclosed how its Altoona servers will be cooled, it’s likely to employ some form of evaporative cooling.
Last week, Facebook was the first to offer a near-real-time look at the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) — the all-important batting average of a data center’s energy efficiency — of both its Prineville and Forest City facilities. A few years ago, a PUE of 1.8 was considered average; the Prineville facility’s PUE now regularly pushes below 1.10, close to the 1.0 ideal.
Lead image via Facebook.
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Google Glass just got a little bit more real. If you were worried that Google’s augmented reality glasses were a pie-in-the-sky concept that might not ever become a real product, you can relax. That is not going to happen to Google Glass.
Google released the tech details to Glass this week – along with everything that developers need to know to build apps for the specs. Called “Glassware,” the Google Mirror API is designed to let developers create innovative, useful and fun apps for the forthcoming Glasses.
What can you build and how do you build it? Let’s break it down.
Java Or Python
Google recommends two programming languages for building apps for Glassware: Java and Python. For Java, developers will need Java 1.6 capability, Apache Maven for part of the build process and the App Engine SDK for Java. Apps can then be built in Eclipse, an integrated developer environment (IDE) for app building. Developers will need to create an OAuth verification and tie their Google account to their Glasses and allow access to Google’s Glassware API and access the SDKs.
It is essentially the same for Python, except you do not need Maven or Eclipse. Developers use the App Engine SDK for Python to start.
Add A Cat: User Interaction
Users of Google Glass interact with apps on a timeline. These items, or “cards” display information to users (like weather, business information, search results and so forth). Glassware is accessed from the cloud, not locally on the device, and developers call upon a RESTful endpoint to carry out actions such as creating new cards, updating cards, receiving input or subscribing to Glass push notifications.
Google uses the example of a cat to show off examples of the Mirror API. For instance, a user could automatically composite a picture they have taken with a random picture of a cat accessed through the API. Here is a work chart from Google on how a developer could “add a cat to that.”
Since the user is so fond of cute little kitties, she might decide to find the nearest pet store after adding a cat to her most recent picture. Glass can do that as well. Glass will fetch the user’s location, run the search and “pin” a card to the user’s interface as they move around in search of a pet store.
Timeline + Cards
This timeline + card interaction is the primary method of building apps and functionality for Glass and for users to interact with the hardware. Timeline cards can be text, images, HTML or video. Essentially, anything you can create on the Web can be created as a timeline card in Glass.
If you add the capabilities of Glass to what we know of the timeline cards, we begin to get a clearer picture of exactly what can be done with Glassware. The primary hardware features of Glass will be location ability, photos with a 5-megapixel camera, videos shot in 720p, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 12GB of usable memory synced with Google cloud storage (16GB Flash memory total) and a full-day battery for “typical use.”
So a user could take a picture, search the contents of it, save the picture to a Google+ profile. If a user subscribes to a service, that service can send push notifications through Glassware tied to location. Examples could go on and on. Thoughtful and innovative developers will have a field day with Glass capabilities, extending what a smartphone can do to a device specifically designed for augmented reality.
Glass can be tied to a smartphone through an app called MyGlass. To enable GPS or SMS, Glass will need to be tethered to a smartphone through MyGlass.
Guidelines For Glass
Google has four primary guidelines for developing for Glass:
- Design for Glass: Do not design for another device, like a smartphone, and import to Glass. Because Glass is unique in how users interact with it, Google suggests that you developer directly for it.
- Don’t get in the way: Apps should be for users, not for developers. Don’t be pushy with notifications and other information.
- Timely: The goal is to provide users with up-to-date information with Glass. Make sure your app responds with correct information in a timely manner.
- Avoid the unexpected: Imagine walking down the street and Glass sends you an unexpected notification. This can be annoying or even dangerous. Make sure the user has given explicit permission to be notified in Glass.
What Google Won’t Let You Do
Google does not want developers placing their own advertising in their Glassware. Part of this is likely because Google wants the user interaction to be free from clutter and pleasing to the user. Another reason may be that Google would rather be the one monetizing the data collected from Glass through its own apps and services – like Google Now.
Google prohibits developers from gathering data of any kind for advertising purposes and will not allow developers to charge fees or collect payments for downloaded apps. Developers may not tie payment to virtual goods or upgraded functionality.
Essentially, Google has made it impossible for developers to make money from Glassware apps. No ads, no in-app payments or “freemium” functions will be allowed. This should help protect the user experience, but may slow developer participation past a certain point. Why would developers bother to create Glassware timelines and cards if they can’t make any money from it?
Are you going to build apps for Google Glass? Let us know your plans in the comments.
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Many website owners say to themselves, “I want my site to look great on mobile, but I don’t know where to start.”
If you are in the business of building and designing websites, you cannot ignore the fact that many people are going to be visiting your sites on their smartphones and tablets. The Web and the mobile browsers remain one of the top ways that users interact with websites and if they have trouble on their smartphone, there is a good chance they are not coming back.
That’s where responsive design can help.
Responsive design is a concept where you build your website once and then format it so it can adapt to any screen size that accesses it. Designers use HTML5 and CSS to build the sites and set parameters so the content will resize itself whether the user is in vertical or horizontal viewing mode, on a tablet, desktop or smartphone or even a screen as large as a television.
We employ responsive design here at ReadWrite. Go ahead, test it out. If you are on a PC browser, shrink or enlarge the window and watch the content respond. If you are on a tablet or smartphone, switch between portrait and landscape.
See what happened? ReadWrite looks great no matter what size it is, no matter what device you are using.
Responsive design has been in vogue since about 2011. One of the first sites to employ it was The Boston Globe when it launched its new digital publication, BostonGlobe.com.
“We are now looking at how we display and order content differently from screen size to screen size,” said Jeff Moriarty, Boston Globe VP of digital properties in an interview last year. “This ‘responsive content’ concept is emerging and we are starting to see in data that users want different types of content depending on their context and the device they are on. We have to now think about how content performs differently from the biggest screens to the smallest, how that content is organized and even how headlines are written from platform to platform.”
What’s The Best Way To Build A Responsive Website?
The first thing to think of when building a responsive site is simplicity. Web designers love to show off that they can design the hell out of a website. They fall in love with their code and all the cool things that it can do.
“I think the challenge for me is to use it cautiously – and not try to be overly artsy with it,” said Ryan Light, a website designer working at CoachUp, a startup in Boston.
Light says that some website builders may over-design for the desktop, making some websites fun to play with but absolutely impossible to navigate.
“I find that a lot of people overdo it on their actual websites that are rendered in the browser,” Light said. “I find responsive design helpful for mobile browsing – but clumsy for Web typically.”
So designers, keep it simple.
There are a variety of ways to go about building a responsive website. French e-marketing company Splio aggregated some of the best practices in a very long infographic, shown below.
The idea is to focus around content and avoid the pitfalls that certain aspects of websites can create. For instance, pictures and advertisements can be a problem.
Check out the infographic below. What is your approach to building a responsive site? Let us know in the comments.
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