Working at the Apple store, I feel like I’m fully conscious of how prevalent the iPhone is, and how much people are using them more and more as a way to surf the web. On a daily basis I see people come into the store who have either lost or broken their phone and feel like they can not go on living. It’s this kind of devotion that makes me realize I need to build a website that is optimized for the iPhone and other mobile devices.

Optimize for the iPhone

I found a great article on the online version of .net magazine that gives some insight on how to optimize your site for the iPhone. The author points out, “In global terms, the iPhone’s browser market-share remains tiny – under half of one per cent – but this figure is rapidly growing.” Unlike many mobile devices before it, the iPhone does a good job at rendering web pages, displaying them pretty much as they would appear on a larger display. But it does start out tiny, forcing the user to zoom in. iphone-pinch

For this reason, the author suggests to keep it simple when designing your site, “a good mobile site really makes you focus on what’s important – clarity, simple layouts, important information, clean design.” Also, since users are interacting with their fingers, make important areas like links easily hittable by large fingers.

Building a mobile app

Also, I’m considering the plausibility of an actual application built for the iPhone.  For this project I want to build a website that helps users find new movies. I actually think this type of concept would work really well on a mobile application. Popular apps on the iPhone like Pandora and Urban Spoon have some similarities to my concept that make me think that this idea could work well.

apps_urbanspoonWith Urban Spoon, users give three pieces of information; what part of town they want to eat in, what kind of food, and the general price range of the food. Users are then presented with a restaurant that matches their criteria. My application would have users choose some criteria; like genre of the movie,  what era the movie is from, etc., that would then give them a result.

I found an article on CrunchGear that discussed how MIT students built mobile applications for a class in 13 weeks. I felt like this was a relevant article for me, considering if I wanted to build an app, it would have to in an accelerated time line.  Most of the students built their apps for Windows Mobile and Android. It was interesting seeing the types of ideas that the students came up with. One I thought was interesting was called Mem2D, which, “aims to solve the problem of archiving information you might see on a flyer that you want to remember for later.” Basically a user would scan a barcode on a poster and that would give them all the pertinent information about the event.

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Another article I found had some really in depth information on Mashable about how one iPhone developer built their application, and advice they would give to others building an app. The makers of the app Photokast created a 37 page guide to the development process, which detailed decisions they made and what they learned during the creation of their app. The document contains some really useful information, from how to name your app to making it as simple as possible for users. I would highly recommend reading this article if you’re considering building a mobile app.

Overall, I don’t think I will have time to build an app during this capstone project, but I do plan on looking into what it takes to build such an app.

Articles used:

1. http://www.netmag.co.uk/zine/mobile/optimise-your-site-for-iphones

2. http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/12/12/mit-students-build-mobile-applications-in-13-weeks/

3. http://mashable.com/2009/02/21/how-to-build-an-iphone-app/

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