Posts filed under Web

Free Tools for Creating iPhone and iTouch Web Apps

By , Monday, August 10th, 2009

0321_tricorder iphoneThe iPhone is arguably the most advanced piece of technology commonly found in people’s hands these days. It has a GPS to tell you where you are. It has a phone to let you communicate with people. It has a multi-touch LCD screen that lets the user use the device with no more and no less than one button. The iPhone is a computer … with the Internet. Ten years ago, try to imagine describing to someone what an iPhone does and they’d think that you were talking Sci-Fi. Well, folks, as much as people like to deny it, Science Fiction becomes reality every day in our world.

jules_verne

john-f-kennedyJules Verne could see us going to the moon, and John F. Kennedy  actually pushed our country to do it. Star Trek could see us using tri-corders, and Motorola created it as the first cell phone. In my opinion, the iPhone, it’s market of applications, and growing user base is the best way to gain access to and interact with information. It also helps you get in touch with people, but I think face to face is the best way to interface with other humans.

Over the course of my trip to New York City this weekend, I realized exactly how valuable my iPhone is. When I got off my bus at 31st Street and 7th Avenue, I wanted to use my gym membership at the sports club. I went online on my iPhone, looked up the nearest 24 hour gym in their network, and copied and pasted the address into the Google Maps application. In about 2 minutes, I was on my way. After I arrived and couldn’t get into the side of the building which was advertised, I looked up the phone number online, gave them a call and got in. That’s convenience.

The sports club’s web site is not optimized for the iPhone, but since the built-in Safari Browser is a full-fledged browser, I was able to navigate with some effort and get what I needed. If the web site was actually created for the iPhone, it would have saved me some time from zooming in and out, panning left and right to get around. If they had an "app" for that, I might have been able to log into it with my account and it would have been geo-location aware of where I was and tell me the nearest branches of the club. Why don’t they create an "app for that"?

This is all possible and contradictory to popular belief, the functionality that I just described doesn’t have to be developed as an iPhone Application. Much of the functionality can be created in HTML as a web application and placed on the Internet. Google has done a great job by making all of their applications as iPhone friendly "webapps" which behave like iPhone applications.

Recently, some plugins have been released to make your WordPress blog iPhone friendly. Available at Brave New Code, the WPTouch Mobile Theme and Plugin for WordPress takes your standard WordPress blog and makes it look, feel, and behave as an iPhone application with nice transitions.

Static Content Sites

Many organizations have also released informational web sites in a handy, iPhone friendly format. Their sole purpose is to disseminate information. Web Apps such as the Athens Tourist Guide :  and Pocket Cambridge : are basically lists and tables of static HTML that look nice on an iPhone or an iTouch. Do you have information that can be useful to iPhone users? There are some really easy ways to get it out there.

iwebkit_logo1. iWebKit – “Iwebkit is the revolutionnairy kit used to create high quality iPhone and iPod  touch websites in a few minutes and is based on an LGPL license. In the first 4 months of it’s existance the pack has greatly evolved from a basic idea to a project that has reached worldwide fame!”

IUI_logo 2. iUI – It has the following

  1. Create Navigational Menus and iPhone interfaces from standard HTML
  2. Use or knowledge of JavaScript is not required to create basic iPhone pages
  3. Ability to handle phone orientation changes
  4. Provide a more "iPhone-like" experience to Web apps (on or off the iPhone)

Dynamic Content Sites

Do you have programming ability or resources which you can utilize to push out your content from your organizational and institutional databases? You can probably use the aforementioned tools in conjunction with dynamic server side languages, but you might want to look into the following options to make your life easy.

studio_iphone_showoff1. ComponentOne iPhone Studio – ComponentOne’s studio is a rich set of ASP.NET Server Controls which is beyond compare when it comes to giving you a competitive advantage in creating dynamic applications fast. Some of the included server controls are : Calendar, ViewPort, CoverFlow ( Like the iTunes record browser ), and MultiView ( like the Photo explorer in the iPhone Camera application ).

2. iWebKit for Grails – This plugin provides integration with iWebkit, a powerful User Interface Library for Safari development on iPhone. By using this plugin, the grail developer will have an iphone web app skeleton (CSS and javascript) but also a extended tag library helping in creating iphone web pages in an easy,clean and fast way. If you are a Java developer or your company has them, and have gotten the hang of Groovy, this might be the path for you.

3. iUI with Asp.NET – iUI is very simple and some people have taken some steps to create their own integration for ASP.NET and iUI. This page points you to some third party resources which may be helpful for you in creating dynamic iUI applications.

Possible Scenarios and Tips

How can you capitalize on the iPhone and iTouch user? Here are some ideas which may work out for you.

1. If you have a Calendar of events, you can add iCalendar format links which can let users download the event data and add it to their iPhone Calendar.

2. If you have a location or event search which requires an address or a zip code, you can use W3C’s Geolocation API which is supported by the built-in Safari browser on iPhones.

3. If you have a member’s only directory, you can create an interface which can list people’s information as well as publish their contact info in the vCard format so that they can add it to their contact lists.