Today I’m writing to share an interesting experience I had with the publication and testing of a mobile app. It’s a utility for people who, like me, are passionate about Role Playing Games.

It all started when a friend asked me to create an Excel spreadsheet for him to simplify management of a rule, a task that usually forces the game coordinator to write over and over again on a sheet of paper that quickly becomes both illegible and inconvenient. As often happens with those of us in IT, I got a little carried away, and I made an app with Instant Developer Cloud that I called Who’s Next?.

For the analysis I took Andrea’s advice, creating three documents: the User Profile, the User Stories, and the Business Model. For the UI, I used the Ionic2 component to get a nice interface quickly, and I have to say I’m pleased with the result.

At that point, I had an app ready. I had a clear idea of the target it’s meant for, and it seemed like a bit of a waste not to keep going. I thought I’d launch an experiment and make it public to see what would happen.

I decided on a social approach, so I put a few posts on Facebook groups of target users in Italy, since initially the application was only in Italian. Users with common interests gather in groups on all social networks – it’s in the nature of these networks – and it wasn’t difficult to find an interesting one. I presented it as an idea, asking if people might give me feedback, suggestions, or even tell me if they didn’t consider the app necessary.

The result was very interesting.

Presenting it this way wasn’t viewed as an advertisement, and quite a few people downloaded it: about 120 in the first two days. The people who got involved proved to be much more interested in giving credence to a group post rather than an ad.

Reports on bugs were offered in a spirit of collaboration, and didn’t in fact lead people to uninstall. Instead, interest in the application was piqued, and people were inclined to wait for a new fixed version.

I got positive feedback that the app is useful for target users, something that was certainly not a given.

The many comments even contained suggestions for new features that my friends who helped me with the early tests and I hadn’t even thought of, and which actually turned out to be very important for players – “if it did this too, I’d definitely use it.”.

Now I’ve translated it into English, producing a multi-language version, and I intend to proceed the same way with it, potentially reaching 20,000 users around the world. Still free.

What do you think? Is this an approach we could attempt consistently? What pros and cons do you see in this dynamic?

And oh, if you’d like to take a look at the app, you’ll find it here.

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Easter is nearly here, and as Andrea announced a few weeks ago, the new release Instant Developer Foundation 16.0 is ready for you.

We’ve introduced many new features and important improvements, and I have to say that I’m really pleased with the work done in this version.

Regarding the User Interface for apps made with Instant Developer Foundation, the two most significant implementations will make many of you happy. For starters, you can now vertically center the text in book boxes. We’ve also broadened the support for Bootstrap introduced last November, and in addition to implementing a number of improvements suggested by the community, we’ve also implemented the following functionalities:

  • managing fields outside the list;
  • integrated HTML editor;
  • full responsive in small devices.

Regarding the framework, the most important technical innovation is that it’s now possible to serialize sessions in Java. This particular functionality is useful when the server infrastructure is configured in balanced-load multi-node clusters. With this functionality the session can be moved from one server to another. What’s more, in simpler cases where there is only one server, the session remains active and functional even if Tomcat is restarted. Interesting feature, don’t you think?

For the IDE we’ve also listened to your requests, and implemented a number of improvements in the user interface of the IDE. Starting with version 16.0, you can:

  • see a preview of the Bootstrap grid to make it easier to design forms;
  • sort objects in a form by type;
  • run a simple text search text across the whole project.

Finally, regarding mobile development, we’ve updated the Android packages template from Eclipse to Android Studio, the most up-to-date solution, which I know interests many of you.

But these are just a few of the changes and improvements we’ve made. Details for each of them will be available soon in the version release notes.

I’m sure that this version will reassure anyone who wondered if Pro Gamma’s commitment to Foundation might have wavered. As you can see, that’s not the case, and in fact we’ve got big ideas moving forward in 2017.

Don’t stop reporting improvements you think will be important. You know by now that it’s vital feedback for us to be able to provide a continuously improving tool for implementing your business.

I look forward to your comments on Instant Developer Foundation 16.0.

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In the user experience in web and mobile applications, drag&drop is used frequently to interact with a given object, to create relationships between one object and another, or to upload a file. Basically, drag&drop has become part of the user experience that we all expect.

That’s why recently Andrea suggested to me that we integrate this functionality into applications created with Instant Developer Cloud.

Today I’m presenting the two new components that resulted from these efforts: Interactable and Dropzone.

Interactable is based on InteractJs, a library that lets you make an object draggable or resizable, or transform it into a drop area. To use it, you need to put an Interactable object in the View and specify for which objects this functionality should be enabled. Make this selection using the DragAcceptedElements, DropAcceptedElements, and ResizeAcceptedElements properties. There is more information about how to set them in the contextual documentation.

Dropzone is based on DropzoneJs, a library that makes it easy to create a drop area onto which files to be loaded to the server can be dragged. To use it in applications, simply create a Dropzone object in the View and the application is ready to upload files. The Dropzone component can be customized: you can choose whether to accept only a certain file type, limit the number of files that can be loaded, customize the graphic appearance, etc.

To show you how intuitive interfaces created with these components are, we’ve prepared two examples for you.

To try out the drag&drop between objects, open the Interact example. The start menu offers three choices: Tree, Double List, and Calendar.

The Tree view shows how simple it is to use drag&drop to move tree elements from one node to another: just touch one and drag it to another node. Elements can be deleted by dragging them onto the recycle bin icon at the bottom of the page.

The Double List view instead shows how you can move an element between two different DataMaps simply by dragging it.

Finally, the Calendar view shows a simple planner in which events can be dragged from one day to the next inside a given week. Resizing an event changes its duration, as happens in the calendar applications we’ve become accustomed to.

To try uploading using drag&drop, open the Dropzone example and drag an image onto the special area: the upload will be completed and the image will be shown in preview. The files on the server are visible in the section below. The previews can be deleted without deleting the corresponding files.

In this example, the Dropzone accepts only image file types. If you try to drag other file types, like a PDF for example, it will not be uploaded.

What do you think?

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The advantages of hybrid mobile applications are well known: they’re cross-platform, pretty simple to program if you know the Web technologies, and have lots of plugins for accessing the native part of the device.

However, there’s also a weak point: performance. It’s not so much for calculations as for managing the user interface. Achieving a User Experience that’s similar to the native experience can be complicated when interfaces grow full of animations and content.

That’s why what we’ve managed to achieve in the new version of Instant Developer Cloud is so important: general use of the modern WkWebView in place of the more dated UIWebView on iOS terminals. The results are clear: the execution speed of JavaScript triples, and the fluidity of the user interface improves noticeably.

And there’s more: although WkWebView has been available for more than two years, neither Cordova nor other frameworks for hybrid applications have been able to offer it for general use because of the limits set by Apple, as we can read in the Cordova bug tracker:

  • It’s impossible to set the focus on a field programmatically.
  • SQLite is not available through WebSQL.
  • It’s impossible to access the application file system.
  • You can’t make cross-origin calls.
  • There are compatibility problems with certain basic plugins.

But now, Instant Developer Cloud users can overcome these obstacles. All you need to do is download or update InstaLauncher to version 1.6, enter the settings for the app, and deselect the Force UIWebView option. Then relaunch the app.

The same options are available at the build server level: you can select which WebView to use, whether for iOS or for Android, with a simple checkbox.

Now all that’s left to do is impress our users with applications that are better looking and more fluid than ever.

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Instant Developer? Child’s play

09.03.2017

Is it really so simple to use? Is it really worth using it? Can you really get enviable results with little effort? These are some of the questions that someone who hasn’t yet used Instant Developer Cloud might legitimately ask. To answer them, I want to tell you briefly about my experience. My name’s Davide, [...]

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From mockup to development: it’s easy with tutorials

01.03.2017

When wrapping up the series of articles dedicated to app design, I promised you that I’d also get into the next phase, meaning actual development. So here I am, ready to keep my promise. Developing an app is always a complex task, even in the case of a shopping list like ToBuy. The starting point [...]

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Instant Developer Foundation 2017

23.02.2017

In keeping with our tradition, at the beginning of every year we want to let you know the path Instant Developer is pursuing for the year, and once again there’s a lot to tell. Let’s start with news on the way. There are two releases on the calendar: version 16.0 is slated for the first [...]

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Instant Developer Cloud: Self-Managed Mode

17.02.2017

Cloud is one of the most mainstream words in recent years. And there are good reasons for that: cloud infrastructure opens the door to a string of opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be available for most projects. If I compare my current disaster recovery system with what I had a few years ago, even though it [...]

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Instant Developer Cloud – version 17-001

10.02.2017

In my recent posts I announced the Final release of Instant Developer, the Automatic test system, the arrival of the Launchers, and the introduction of the Analytics system. The first Cloud edition release cycle is now complete, and nearly all the most important functionalities are available and ready for use in developing your new customer-facing [...]

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Tips & Tricks: how to manage detail with Bootstrap

02.02.2017

Since the Bootstrap theme was released, many of the questions I’ve received were about managing details in the panels, and in particular how to design the fields within the IDE to achieve a final layout that looks as much as possible like what you want. There have also been some very interesting threads in the [...]

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