Web Services Article
HEEMAC 2013 Review:
Theories + Methods + Strategies = A Potentially Great App!
A first-person account of the 2013 Higher Education Enterprise Mobile App Conference (HEEMAC) at University of South Florida
By Daphne Hunt, University Web Administrator, Tarleton State University
It is a given that higher education institutions are interested in mobile apps, but why do we need them? How do we create them? What do we put inside them? The answers to these questions can be complicated, based on availability of resources, skill sets, and audience desires. But there is probably one thing that all of us higher education institutions can agree on: our users need to find our apps USEFUL.
I entered the 2013 Higher Education Enterprise Mobile App Conference (HEEMAC) with an open mind, ready to absorb any and all ideas that would help us get closer to figuring out what we (Tarleton) WANT to do in creating a mobile app. By the end of the conference, my philosophy about mobile apps had changed for the better. So many great ideas were shared – and after taking some time to absorb them all, I hope to discover what we NEED in a mobile app, and if/how we can accomplish that need.
I attended so many wonderful and informative sessions at HEEMAC this year, but I would like to highlight a few of my favorite presentations: one each from the areas of theory, method, and strategy.
Keynote: Kirby Ferguson
Our first speaker, Kirby Ferguson, explained how “everything is a remix” – ideas come from ideas, and many GREAT things come from other’s ideas.
Kirby states in one of his examples that the movie “Star Wars” was not completely original. Components from other films were used as element or scene inspiration, and even some of the existing shots from other movies were used as templates for parts of the film. The original films from which the shots were gleaned may not have been successful, but once concepts from the original movies were combined into Star Wars, it turned out to be a box office hit and film classic.
The idea Kirby asked us to take away from this presentation was “copy, transform, and combine.” Thinking in terms of mobile apps, this makes perfect sense. So many predecessors have already defined methods, standards, processes, etc. for building mobile apps, so why try to reinvent the wheel? Of course it is always nice to add some originality in there, but sometimes greatness can come from the unique combination of other’s successes.
Greg Wilson, the web app guru from Adobe
I am a huge admirer of Adobe products, so I was very excited that they had several presentations lined up. Greg Wilson led a couple of the presentations that were oh-so very valuable to attend. The first one I attended, “Adobe Web Standards”, included discussions about WebKit, CSS filters, regions, and more.
Adobe is very involved with helping to shape the Web for the future. Their developers collaborate with Microsoft, Apple, and other well-known organizations to develop new specifications for the Web through WebKit. As members of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) these organizations come together for the common good of the Web.
Adobe has many great products available at html.adobe.com, including the Adobe Edge line available through Adobe’s Creative Cloud services. The new Adobe Edge Reflow looks awesome, with the capability to create and export responsive design layouts with ease. Adobe Edge Animate is very nice as well with an interface reminiscent of Flash, but housing the capability to create animations using HTML and CSS.
Gray Delacluyse, University of Oklahoma: Deciding Directions
In my most favorite session of the conference, “Deciding Directions”, Gray Delacluyse gives us a glimpse into University of Oklahoma’s enterprise mobile app strategies. Their official apps, OU2GO and OU4YOU, were developed in-house, and feature an interface with a unique half-circle layout and icons circling around it. The icons are scroll-enabled, and you can even customize which icons display on the home screen. If I were to give an award for “most beautiful higher-ed mobile app interface”, OU would win it!
Gray explained that their strategy was to focus their resources on developing just for Apple devices, specifically the iPhone, since the vast majority of their users are on that platform. Student interns assisted with most of the development and received supervision and guidance from full-time staff.
The OU2GO app is designed for a broad audience, where the similar OU4YOU app is focused more on current students, faculty and staff. OU4YOU offers all of the same resources as OU2GO, and additionally connects with their learning management system, Desire2Learn.
Gray also gave us a sneak preview of their brand new app that will be hitting the App Store soon. This app will be the new replacement for OU2GO and OU4YOU, which have been available since 2009. Even more impressive than the former, the new app looks completely different with an interface less focused on the typical square icons and more focused on providing engaging content. The app looks much more like a website, with pop-out navigation and appealing imagery. Viewing the app “by audience” will also be a new feature providing much more focused content for each user’s needs. The new app will definitely be one to watch for, as OU continues to help lead the charge for revolutionary and unique mobile app UI in the higher education field.