Reflective Report

It’s 2am and I’m putting in the finishing pieces of code for my app. I’ve been trying and failing to get the Google Maps feature on my app to work however, I’ve been into the BIOS settings on my laptop (risky move), downloaded all the necessary SDK’s, entered the correct Google services product key but still nothing! I’m digging deep now into why I’m doing this. Yes, it’s an assignment but it’s also for that personal sense of achievement – to make and create something, to try something new and sink my teeth into a challenge. Just a little more and it’ll get there… There! With a final tweak, it’s working! Everything works and it’s ready to go! But how did I get here?

This project got a huge boost two weeks ago when I found somebody to collaborate with, up until that point I could only do research into what software to use, what coding language, market and audience research and create a specification for the features and interface of the app design. Although I had tried to find a suitable programmer within the University to work with, it proved impossible with relations to deadlines however, I’d been discussing the project with a friend from the beginning of the module and in the end, he decided it would be interesting to get involved. We communicated using Skype every evening and in the mean-time, he worked on creating a basic layout for the app using stock SDK, created the navigation and menus and did some research into what services he’d need to install for Android Studio 2.2 to create all the features the app would need. In the mean-time I created a specification for us to work from, detailing the design and functions of each page of the app.

From here we could work on the code using the share screen option on Skype, with me focusing on the smaller pieces of code to control the design of the app, and my friend making sure each function was workable and all the functions were linked together properly. This worked perfectly, right up until the 2am Google services nightmare. With everything working well my friend headed to bed, only for me to notice an hour later that one of the key functions of the app wasn’t working. By following the script readout for the emulator and remembering what my friend had taught me about programming during the week, I managed to link the app to my Google developers account and get the maps page working!

This knowledge has given me a new string to my bow – since I had very limited knowledge to coding before now. I could draw upon what my friend had taught me to fix a serious issue with the app, as well as contributing to the design of the app during the programming phase. I enjoyed working on a professional project with my friend and utilising both of our skill sets.

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Prototype Report

After researching and considering several ideas, I created an app aimed at helping users discover local music artists and venues, as well as giving local artists and venues a chance to promote themselves to a focused audience. Before creating a design specification for my app, I researched several existing applications based around music and gigs, I also conducted audience research in the form of a survey to understand what my target demographic requires from an app. Whilst finding a programmer to collaborate with, I also looked at several YouTube guides on app building software, coding languages and the process of creating apps.

Features

The Activity Feed is the first screen users see when loading the app, tabs allow the user to filter the contents of their feed and view updates from all, artists, venues and friends. This feature allows users to keep up to date with their favourite venues and artists, as well as viewing what their friends have been up to – bringing in the social aspect of the app

A Google Maps service embedded into the app, users can view their current position using GPS, with flags on the map showing what events are nearby at any point, when they are, the name of the venue and the name of the artist.

Gigs (Concerts) is a list of the concerts from the Maps page – users could simply go straight to this page rather than the Maps section, if they know the area well. This list details the artists name, the venue, when the gig is and how far away it is from the users’ current position. The list is in a specific order based on the users’ location – with the closest gigs at the top of the list.

The profiles section of the app gives it a more social element, allowing users to create a profile, add friends, share media and personalise their profile. As well as individual users having a profile, venues and artists can also create one and connect with their fan base, share media and promote events.

Tetrad

McLuhan states that all media has four specific effects on society and technology. Venues and artists can promote themselves and each other using a purpose-built app that focuses specifically on local music. This extends the abilities of venues and artists. In the event of the app becoming extremely popular, the effect would reverse, with local venues and artists becoming more mainstream and overrun. The long lists of users and updates on the activity feed and gigs pages will also mean that talent is lost in the crowds.

Gig Local makes posters and other forms of artist/venue promotion obsolete – including events on social media. It also brings more focus to live music in the local area, make bars and pubs more popular again, instead of people holding their own social gatherings at home

Funding and Expansion

As the app, will be free, it will rely on advertising to generate revenue, once it has a certain number of users. As it has currently been designed, it also relies on user generated content to give people the most information, however, it would also be possible to implement a system where the app gathers the information from the internet or another source to populate itself, however, this would require access and further coding. With a few further tweaks and improvements, the app will be available on the Android store, with further development in the future focused on integrating a messaging option, as well as a website to compliment the app. It would also be beneficial to include integration with other medias such as Facebook, Spotify, Instagram etc. to send and receive information.

Market Research – The Prototype

So I thought I’d do an update post on where I’m at with the design of my Prototype. As I said in my last post, my on-going tasks for this project are now to do market research in terms of what’s already out there for consumers in order to assess what they might require/find useful in my app design. I also need to find a programmer who can programme applications for iOS!

Collaboration

So my quest to find a programmer to collaborate with on this project has been moving slowly but, moving nonetheless. I’ve managed to get in touch with the course leader for the Computer Science BSc at my University and tracked down the most likely lecturer on that course who can point me in the right direction. There’s actually an optional module for third years on the Computer Science degree called ‘Programming Things’. I’ve frequently heard that programmers are perhaps not the most creative bunch and are more productive when working to a tight and descriptive brief, therefore I think a student taking this module would be a perfect person to work with – I can provide the ideas and they can provide the programming! I’ve arranged a meeting for next week to discuss my ideas with the module leader so, I’ll be writing a post about how that went soon!

Learning

In preparation for starting on the actual programming for this project I wanted to learn at least a little more about how it would be done. Although I won’t be doing the programming myself I wanted to know a bit more about the programme and language that is used in order to create apps from iOS. I went looking for some tutorial videos/websites and found one that was very handy, the creator had uploaded video guides to get you started using Encore – an Apple programme that is used to create apps using Swift – which is the language you use. Although I wouldn’t fancy doing all the programming for my app myself, it’s nice to be able to understand a bit more about it than before. even though I spoke to my programming friend about it, since he spends his time on Java, he wasn’t much help when it came to the ins and outs of programming for iOS!

The website I found was a massive help and showed me the basics of using the programme and language usually used for making iOS apps. The website is called Code with Chris and I’ve linked the introduction video below in case you might be interested in checking out his stuff.

Research

On to the research then! I’ve found 3 apps that are relatively similar to my app idea but, they are all different in certain aspects. I’ve outlined below the 3 apps that I looked at, as well as some of their pros and cons and which points I will be adding to my own app to build upon.

Bandsintown

Bandsintown is a great little app that allows the user to find local events, buy tickets for them, add friends and view what they’ve been doing using the ‘Activity feed’ page and more. It has a very user friendly interface and is really simple to navigate around. It also allows users to create their own profile and since you can login by creating an account or through Facebook, it connects easily to your social media. It also connects to the music apps (iTunes, Spotify etc.) you’ve been using and the artists/bands pages you’ve liked on Facebook and lets you know which of your favourite artists are playing and where.

bandsintown_slide1

  • Pros
  • Clean, simple layout that’s easy to use
  • Can buy tickets in-app
  • Syncs music recommendations based on what you’ve been listening to on iTunes, Spotify etc.
  • Links easily to social media so you can share what gigs you’re going to, connect to friends and see what concerts you’re friends are interested in
  • Cons
  • No GPS/map – doesn’t alter based on where you are located
  • Doesn’t benefit venues
  • Small artists/local bands not featured – usually not on Spotify etc.
  • ‘Cloud’ page populated by random suggestions
  • Tickets can be more expensive through the app rather than online as they need to take commission

Gig Pic

Gig Pic also allows the user to create a profile of sorts and connect with friends. Although the app does include a map, it doesn’t connect to your location and instead shows popular event locations. It allows you to share images you’ve captured at gigs and there’s a handy news section where you can see what tours etc. have recently been announced. All in all it has some great features but again, it’s not very focused on small/local artists but rather focuses on household names. It’s also not very user friendly – especially when compared with the competition!screen696x696

  • Pros
  • View pictures of recent gigs
  • Extensive lists of upcoming/recent concerts, events and festivals
  • Cons
  • Not very easy to navigate
  • Quite boring looking
  • Features lots of artists but, has them on there even if they have nothing upcoming
  • Doesn’t allow the user to add much to their profile/customise it

Y Plan

Now here’s an app that has a lot more detail than the other two I’ve looked at. Rather than catering for people looking for music based events, festivals, gigs etc. it goes by what ‘tag’ words you enter. There’s also a funky, image heavy home screen that lists different categories such as ‘what’s hot’, ‘go tomorrow’. ‘theatre’ and ‘culture’. When you login you can choose what you’re interested in order to personalise your user experience. You can use the app to find events, buy tickets and create a rudimentary profile where you can link with friends, check out what they’ve been doing and connect with social media accounts.

y-plan

  • Pros
  • Choose tags based on what interests you
  • Book tickets in-app
  • Create a basic profile and connect with other users by following them
  • Has a lot of information on it and lots of events
  • You can favourite an event that catches your eye and go back to it later
  • Tickets you buy are featured on a separate page so you can keep track of your purchases
  • Cons
  • Although you can connect with friends you can only follow them, meaning it’s not very social
  • Although you can choose your location for better results, you can only choose from a small list of big cities
  • There’s a map but it’s based on the short list of locations
  • Some of the tickets are quite expensive due to commission
  • The events are big names rather than local artists
  • There’s not much you can do in terms of altering the settings once you’re setup the app

Conclusion

So, I think that’s my market research completed, I’ve got a few examples to show when I present my prototype and some pros and cons to show to people. I now need to create definite list of what features I want my app to have and make sure I know why – so I can reference this in my presentation! Out of the apps I looked at for my market research, Bandsintown is definitely my favourite and I think I’ll keep it even when I’ve done using it for this project. Although it has some downsides, I like the layout on the whole and most of the features, and I’ve picked up a few ideas for what I’d like my app to look and feel like.

Also, if you want to find any of the apps I’ve featured in this blog post, you can find them online – just click on the app name section headers.

Initial Thought Process

This section of my blog is dedicated to the ideas and processes behind the creation of my ‘Prototype.’ For assignment 1 of my Media Technologies module I have been asked to develop a ‘media’, this can be a mobile application, piece of hardware, a machine, website, social media platform etc. We are able to use various pieces of technology available at the University itself – Raspberry Pi, cameras, computers etc. as well as purchasing or borrowing any other components we might need. We will need to present the prototype as if it were a new product that could be developed, I’ll also need to create blog posts about the prototype that I create – how it works, the positives and negatives of it, the challenges I faced during the development process etc.

So imagine my shock, as a third year media student at Sheffield Hallam University, to be assigned this task! From the get go I was very interested in this module, however, I didn’t expect to physically need to create something. On the one hand it’s quite scary as it’s something quite new to me. On another hand though, it’s very interesting and I’m excited to see what I can come up with. It’s going to be a challenge but, I like a challenge.

As soon as I left the first seminar class for this module where we discussed the first assignment and what it entails I decided to contact a friend of mine through Facebook Messenger. I’ve known him for quite a few years now and although we don’t live close-by and therefore don’t see each other much, we get on very well and share many of the same interests. Whilst having a cup of tea I talked my friend through the project via Messenger and arranged to Skype with him that evening.

In the class I’d thought over various ideas and had pretty much settled on the idea that I would like to make a mobile application (app) for this project. During the summer I did an internship at a local Sheffield company that provides Media courses for NEET (Not in Employment or Education) students. One of the tutors at the company was looking into making an app for the business in order to advertise the various courses etc. I was involved in the initial ideas process as well as some of the design phase however, I was only in the position for five weeks and left before the app began production.

Although I’d had a few ideas in the class itself and during the course of the day before my chat with my friend, I wanted to talk to him about the logistics of making the app. Since he has a background in IT and programming I knew he would be more familiar than I on what it takes to make an app. I’ve used his expertise many times in the past when I’ve been struggling with something technical and haven’t quite managed to figure it out. I don’t want to sound big-headed but I’m quite competent when it comes to technology and probably know more than most however, when it comes to the really advanced things, that’s usually when I ask for a bit of back-up! And since my friend helped me build my computer from scratch, I trust him completely!

As it turns out my friend actually created an app using Java for his android device as his dissertation project during his final year at University. Although I will be creating my app for iOS (iPhone) and therefore will be using a different system and software, his knowledge was invariably useful.

The main concern I had was the logistics of the app – how would I have it on my mobile phone/laptop ready to demonstrate in class, how would the app perform all the tasks required without being linked to other sites etc? My friend managed to answer a lot of these questions and we had a laugh at the same time.

To start with we discussed how I would be showing the app to my fellow students during my presentation. He assured me that I’d be able to have the app either on my phone or laptop, providing I use the correct programme to create it. He also explained that, when making a prototype, programmers will make an application or piece of software appear to be following instructions and letting the user look around but in fact, behind the scenes other things are going on. For example, I wondered how I would be able to use the app to create a login and log into a specific account in order to give a full user experience, my friend explain that even though I could make it look as though the app were performing this task, behind the scenes it would literally just allow the user to enter any text and press enter to proceed – at least for the prototype.

We then discussed some of my initial ideas, the first being to create an app that links together logins from different gaming accounts/companies. The user would be able to connect the app to their Steam, Microsoft, PlayStation, Nintendo, Battle.net, Origin etc. and view which of their friends were online at any given time. For example, if the user is not sure whether to play on their Xbox or computer and wanted to see who was online, they could simple click on their app and view each friends list all in one place. For those who enjoy social gaming, it would be very useful. However, my friend was concerned that with all the permissions and different coding software that would need to be used, it would prove too complex for a prototype.

I also explained another idea that I had had where users can create an event – similar to how events work in Facebook and advertise a live music event. This would have particular use for local/small bands and artists who perform on the circuit in specific cities or small tours of the UK however, could also be used my worldwide acts. Members of the public would log into the app and, based on GPS, be able to see who is performing nearby. There would be a map as well with various icons so users can see exactly where they are and where the various events are taking place nearby. I also have a mind to allow bands/artists to create a page or profile of their own so that users can check their page regularly to see all their past and future events at once.

After talking to my friend I felt more determined and excited about the project than even during the seminar! As my tutor has suggested, this is a perfect opportunity to network within the University, to meet other students and collaborate on ideas and projects. This is going to be necessary for this project especially, since I’m no programmer! When I told my friend about this he laughed, explaining to me that programmers are (forgive me) not particularly creative! They are used to fulfilling a brief and following a strict set of instructions in order to create a specific product through coding and are not given the chance to think creatively about such things. Therefore this is a perfect chance for a programmer and media student to work together within their chosen fields to reach a common goal!

My next tasks for this project are to research my chosen area – find out a little more about creating apps for iOS, find out what alternatives are available on the market, whether something similar has already been created etc. I also need to plan out exactly what I want my app to do, what it will look like etc. so that I can succinctly convey the apps outline to a programmer – when I find one. Which leads me to my other task, once I’ve planned out the app as much as I can, discussed my ideas further with my friend and done my research, I’ll need to find a programmer suitable for the project, who is willing to work with me and can get something of the collaboration as well.

That’s all for now! Next time I’ll be posting about the research I’ve been doing. Onwards and upwards!