Recently, we redesigned our Zeek Interactive site, giving it an updated look (thanks to Kiran Robertson at Lovejoy Design) using newer technology such as HTML5 and CSS3. One unique difference in our process was the wireframing component. Rather than using a wireframing software such as Balsamiq, InvisionApp or Photoshop, we decided to wireframe in the browser, which essentially means bypassing the wireframe software and instead using code to make a living, breathing visualization of the site. This makes having an Agile design workflow much easier for us to manage: a truly iterative process doesn’t have to wait for revised Photoshop files.
Best of NJ called us with a vision of turning their editorial feature and events listing site into a directory of everything happening in their home state of New Jersey. Phase 1 has just launched with their high quality features and events, with a Phase 2 launch of locations and directories coming very soon.
Robert Nienhuis of Nien Studios created a custom, full-width site design that makes Best of NJ’s wide breadth of content easy to navigate. His extremely modern user interface is visually stunning, making it appeal strongly to users, subscribers, and advertisers alike.
Anyone can list an event on bestofnj.com, but members get added perks like nicer page layouts designed by Nien Studios. We modified Events Manager to handle submissions of events from the general public and for members. Once logged in, the submission process determines the user’s membership tier and creates an event using the appropriate page template.
We selected WooCommerce as our eCommerce platform, as it has become the gold standard for WordPress storefronts. WooCommerce has a JSON API, but as we have discovered, it appears that it was designed primarily for administrative purposes. It has very little usable functionality to offer a customer-facing mobile app. I was brought in to help implement parts of the API that weren’t in the WordPress or WooCommerce JSON APIs.
WARNING: This post is about to get real. And by “real,” I mean “technical.”
Zeek Interactive launched on June 1, 1995 in Orange County as a the next great CD-ROM game company. And CD-ROM games died on June 2, 1995. (Google it. That’s the actual date. Not really.) We learned quickly to adapt with the times. We have been a Shockwave game company, a Flash developer, a kiosk developer, and a web developer. Now, 20 years later, we focus on 2 core competencies: mobile and WordPress development.
This starter theme uses the Sass version of Foundation because it gives you a more robust ability to control your theme not only through Foundation’s presentational classes, but also through its mixins.
If you are like many business owners, all you want is an app that works. Discussing native, web or hybrid platforms for your applications may be a conversation that causes your stomach to churn. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
In general, a native app is one that is built for a specific platform, such as an iPhone iOS system or an Android phone. A native app functions uses functions already inherent in the device (pinching or tapping), allows for faster translation of graphics and relies on the security and features already used on the mobile device. This can mean developing two separate amazing apps rather than one that shows decently across the board to accomplish the same goal.
Hybrid apps combine both native and web concepts, and can be an excellent choice when developed by someone with the right experience.
Deciding Between Native, Web or Hybrid Applications – The Choice Is All About Functionality
The key when using native and hybrid apps is an awareness that technology changes at an extremely rapid pace. Native features are tied to platforms and their associated APIs so must be maintained and updated more frequently. When a new feature rolls out, the user must update the app rather than having it change automatically.
HTML5 development allows for easier maintenance but it makes your user have to try something new, rather than relying on familiar mobile interfaces, an issue particularly in cases where secure sign-on is important. It can also pose a problem when integrating mapping features or calendars, functions that are easily integrated in native development.
At Zeek we build adapt apps to our clients’ needs. When versatility is a key component or security is an essential concern, we use native apps. Other scenarios may have us suggesting a hybrid. Both options require maintenance as platforms develop and needs change, and we understand that and plan for it.
At Zeek we solve a lot of problems and clean up after a lot of developers. We get a lot of questions regarding mobile development and mistakes developers make when going mobile. We also talk to a lot of developers to understand their process. It seems that many of us have similar experiences.
Are you making the 3 mistakes developers make when going mobile?
Expecting Overnight Success
While it is possible to develop an outstanding app on your first try, it is very unlikely. Most developers repeatedly knock their heads against walls for the first year trying and testing and launching products. It can take a long time for all the code to fall into place and create the app that delivers winning results. Not all developers will last to see that happen. If you can hold out and continue to develop ideas, chances are you will reach success so hang in there and learn all you can.
Expecting Word-of-Mouth to Fuel Downloads
Sorry to burst your bubble, but even the best apps need promotion to be successful. Along with your code development, a marketing plan is necessary to have your app launch well. If no one knows your app exists, it’s pretty much impossible for it to gain a following. Don’t let your app be a faceless creation – avoid the mistakes many developers make when going mobile – by developing your marketing strategy before your product launch. Ask yourself how you can make your app stand out in the crowded download market.
We were approached to develop an NFL app in 2010. It was called Last Drive and allowed for replays of real time plays. It reached a previously untapped market and was an instant hit. People loved it and marketing was easy because the audience was already established and welcomed the product. Innovation directed to the right audience makes your app stand out more quickly than word of mouth.
Expecting Someone Else’s Idea to Work For You
It seems so easy to follow the direction of other app developers. Perhaps you saw an innovative mapping tool idea and thought, I could do that. However, creating something better than the next programmer or jumping into a current app trend is not always as easy as it seems. And honestly by the time you’ve gotten there, the likelihood is that the market will already be flooded.
Don’t be afraid to be a trendsetter. Look around but keep your focus. Develop what you are passionate about and hold your ground. Be unique. Explore your niche. Leading-edge apps are not developed by imitating someone else’s product. Success evolves from passion for your product and the ability of our product to stand apart.
It’s what you bring to the project that makes your app stand out and makes you stand apart. Make no mistake – you define the project – you define the app. Going mobile is innovative, it’s risky, and – it’s worth it.
As I review the last year at Zeek Interactive, I realize we’ve experienced a lot of change and growth. As our focus has shifted to accommodate the needs of the ever changing responsive web environment, we have added team members and increased the quality of our support and products across the board.
Today, I’m excited to announce that David Arceneaux has joined us as a PHP/MySQL WordPress Developer. David has a long history with web development and coding, having created his first webpage in 1994 while in college. He literally grew up alongside the web. Back in 2008, he discovered the power behind WordPress and started attending local MeetUps. In the years since David has presented to developers and designers, introducing new WordPress tools in an effort to share his knowledge of how to build better code and apply it to design. David is an active asset to the WordPress and coding community and we are proud to have him on our team.
David looks to Don Knuth as his hero, amazed at his 15 years of dedicated research to Knuth’s TeX publishing system and the craft of creating beautiful text. David believes that designing a webpage is really about how you lay out text and honoring “the subtle rhythm of lines on a proper graphic grid.” He considers his approach to web development a true craft. David takes pride in his work and enjoys being able to say, “I made that. I built that.” When he’s not coding, David devours fiction and anything on the latest technology and playing what he terms nerd games – he recently discovered urban hiking! The best way to connect with David is via Google Hangouts.
Our clients may be the first to notice the extra care that David will bring to Zeek Interactive as he has already jumped in on several projects, but we’re sure you’ll start to notice changes as well. Over the next few weeks we’ll be highlighting our team members on our blog. I am grateful to each of them for the role they play at Zeek, for their commitment to our growth as a company and to me personally.
Eric Dobyns was fascinated by iOS and came to Zeek seeking to learn more as an iOS app developer. His entry into the tech industry began at a point-of-sale company, where he was quickly pulled into the development department working on Order Entry, an enterprise iOS application. Long a fan of Elon Musk: founder of Paypal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX, Eric understands the need for expansive thinking and pushing limits. His deft development skills have impressed all of us, but Eric is about much more than tech.
He’s a musician who has been featured on a number of albums published to iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. He’s worked in the restaurant business, the real estate business, and the music performance business. Eric also volunteers 150 hours per year at Camp4Kids, where he plans and hosts numerous fundraisers to generate funds to send children to camp. He’s definitely a productive guy, but Eric believes friends, family, and community should ALWAYS come first, and is often willing to relax and “hang out”, wherever coffee can be found.
Many clients turn to Zeek Interactive for app development. One of our clients, Edwards Life Sciences is in the business of saving lives and needed an app that ran seamlessly. They came to us explaining their process of certifying doctors and hospitals for heart valve implantation. We and they recognized the importance of app reliability and set to work to develop a site selection app. Alongside practitioner certification, the app needed to be their main source of tracking team progress and the reliability of current information was essential.
“The apps we’ve developed in coordination with Zeek are an important part of how we run our business,” said Brian Brinket at Edwards Lifesciences. “We turned to Zeek because of their expertise in integrating iOS apps with a large scale WordPress content management system. They have done an excellent job of translating our needs into an app that accomplishes our business goals.”
Our services do not stop at app development. We actively maintain the apps we create and even work with our clients to brainstorm new options. Other apps we have built for Edwards allow their teams to demonstrate interactive presentations, offer training and provide monitoring on location using iPads. We also developed an app to assist in quality assurance, where site care tracking and follow up can be easily assessed.
Zeek Interactive meets with corporate clients like Edwards Life Sciences regularly to develop apps that can simplify existing projects and processes. We strategize with our clients and understand their goals so we can implement products that will bring them success. Their success becomes our success, making app development a critical component of our business plan.