Monthly Archives: February 2015

Nothing is set in stone…

It’s been a crazy week for us, the Teacher’s Pet. We completed the majority of our goals in our Sprint 1 Plan and it feels great! Although we met our goals we decided to change our app idea a bit. We will no longer be focused on course catalog and instructor surveys for 20150223_103304Journalism and Computer Science departments. We slightly modified our target, we will (for now) be focusing only on the Journalism department. Of course, getting to this point was not easy. We definitely struggled with what we wanted to keep in our app and what we could remove for now and maybe have it as an add on later on.

Now our app, profsUT, will focus on providing students with an app where they can go and20150223_103249 research professors and for professors to promote the courses they teach. There will be a short video where professors can introduce themselves and where students can get acquainted with the professors and the courses they teach.

One of our goals in Sprint 1 was to get create a social media presence. We created a Facebook and a Twitter (GO FOLLOW US! @profsUT) where we will post development updates and news about profsUT. Right now we are really trying to push our social media presence to UT students and hopefully receive good feedback from them and ultimately have them spread the word about profsUT.

logoWe also have a logo…well, at least for now. Bryant did a great job creating the perfect logo that we could use to promote profsUT. He also made a mock-up of how the app will potentially look.

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Zac and Miles have been working very hard on the backend of the app. They have scraped all of the course listings for 2015, placed it in a database, and built the system that will allow instructors to be asked and answer to questions. Now all we need to do is make it pretty!

 

The Basics: Building and Branding

We all log into dozens of apps each day, but who’s spent ample time analyzing Snapchat’s color scheme, or how about how many different screens we go through on Instagram?

Those are all thing to consider when building a wireframe. For all you ordinary non-CS folk, that just means the blueprint of an app page. And, ta-da!

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But decisions – especially those concrete, scary ones – are hard. The color scheme, font and even Mr. Creepy Broom will surely change as the weeks go on, but for now we’ve at least got a skeleton framework to work with.

It’s a bit difficult branding a product that doesn’t exactly (at all) exist yet, but we’re excited to share various aspects of the journey with our audiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each medium allows for specific priorities: Facebook is a great way for us to share these blog posts and our promo videos, Twitter keeps us in the loop with what’s going on in the tech world and Instagram gives us a fun outlet to share behind-the-scenes footage of the creative process.

 

This Monday, UT students were crossing their toes and fingers for an "ice day." Alas, there were freezing temperatures but no rain. We're not bitter... We can't have too much time for all the work to be done.

This Monday, UT students were crossing their toes and fingers for an “ice day.” Alas, there were freezing temperatures but no rain. We’re not bitter… We can’t have too much time for all the work to be done.

So what’s next for choreBoard? Our bucket list includes building up our social media presence, deciding on a definite color scheme and starting the coding process.

An Echo from the Future

It’s alive. It’s alive! Well, not quite. But we’re excited.

A lot has happened in the past week. As Sprint 1 comes to a close, our group is gaining momentum.

Our branding and social media presence have taken a big step forward. We have decided on an emblem and a name. The emblem is a rotary phone dial with a red button (pictured below).

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We changed our name from Recho to Echoed. After consulting friends about our app’s name, we discovered that Recho sounded like “wreck” or “rectum,” neither of which we want associated with our brand. Equipped with our new name and emblem, we launched a social media blitz. In the past 24 hours, we have racked up over 60 likes on Facebook, 30 followers on Twitter and 8 followers on Instagram.

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Here is a screenshot of Echoed on the Twittersphere.

 

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This is a screenshot of our Facebook page.

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Here are some metrics from our Facebook page.

We have also received positive feedback from Facebook posts on the Texas Journalism page.

“I love this idea and will probably use it, but can someone offer a refresher as far as legality in Texas?” wrote Joe Cook, an intern at the San Antonio Express-News.

“THANK GOD!!!!!” wrote blogger Tara Haelle in response to another post. “This is SOOOOOOO needed. I currently use TapeACall…”

We are excited about the feedback and that people are interested. We are considering compiling stories of interviews that would have been easier if a good recording app existed.

On the technical side, coding has begun. Our Twilio account is set up in preparation to test our app. Sam and Jacob, our Xcode extraordinaires, have managed to get basic call functionality running. They have created preliminary screens with working buttons and have made successful test calls. Recording seems that much closer.

We have made wire frames and agreed on a basic structure for our app screens.

As we look ahead to Sprint 2, we will continue our social media blitz, updating our accounts regularly. We will also select our UI color palette and hook up our different screens (views) to Twilio’s API. We have no reason to feel anything but excited, but we’re sure we will have obstacles to overcome.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment…Until then, here are some picture of our team hard at work.

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Quagswag Team
(Faith Ann, Sam, Taylor, Andy and Jacob)

A Glimpse Behind the Scenes

Here’s an update on what BRiDJ is doing behind the scenes a.k.a. code wise!

Our motivating ambition for this sprint was to build a foundation for the application’s user experience and visual identity. Because UniTrade exists to be an answer to the messier methods of buying and selling goods, like Facebook groups that we’ve mentioned in previous posts, clarity is our foremost design principle. By having a predictable design, users will enjoy their experience on UniTrade.

There will be a lot of data and it’s our goal to present that content as intuitively as possible. Similarly, safety is the other big priority that the user experience must reflect. Intuitive design and safety precautions are not very common in pages that UT students use to buy/sell goods or find roommates/housing. By having a predictable design, users will enjoy their experience on UniTrade.

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Darice and Jeremy discussing design

With these principles in mind, we took to pen and paper to define the user interface. The first big challenge came in deciding between using a tab bar or another alternative. We initially feared the tab bar was too “stock” and explored other alternatives such as a “hamburger menu.”  However, through many rounds of spirited discussion and experimentation, we ultimately realized that there is a reason for the tab bar’s ubiquity. No alternative presented our main categories as immediately or intuitively. Moreover, its popularity and integration into iOS means users know exactly what to expect. Because of its clarity and intuitiveness, we ultimately decided to go with the tab bar. This is the prototype for how we approached all design decisions.

Here's a sketch of how we want a listing page to look

Here’s a sketch of how we want a listing page to look

On the technical side, this was an exciting sprint that gave the team its first taste of iOS 8 and the Swift programming language. Because we were mostly testing design mockups, the fairly simple coding served as a perfect introduction to the language. One great feature we discovered was the ability to automatically size table cells to fit dynamic content. This is accomplished setting the cell’s row height to equal UITableViewAutomaticDimension, which sets the row height automatically based on auto-layout constraints.

 

Auto-layout is a powerful tool that allows us to dynamically reconfigure the position of elements on the screen based on how the device changes. It also allows us to design the interface once and have it scale to many screen sizes and orientations, so we can focus more on how the user interacts with the app instead of redoing our interface for several devices. We also experimented with changing the constraints of on-screen elements in real-time, which took a bit of work to figure out how to do! Taking things one step further, we figured out how to perform all element resizing in an animation block, so those elements resize nicely. It will be much easier to ensure compatibility across multiple iOS devices of different dimensions.

Here's how the listings might look in the app

Here’s how the listings might look on the iPhone 5s

A big focus of the app is allowing users to filter all the available listings so they can find the listings that matter to them. We toyed with some ideas for achieving this, but we’re currently going with a drop-down filter pane. This approach allows us to to make the app feel more fluid, as users will be able to simply pull the pane down, toggle a few switches, enter a few tags, and pull the pane back up to see the results that match their criteria. We feel that this positions search as a primary, yet unobtrusive feature of the app. We also have some basic placement for the sorting, new listing, and search buttons, but we will experiment with their placement and functionality in a later sprint.

Here are some ideas for how we want our app to filter postings.

Here are some ideas for how we want our app to filter postings

We are very happy with what we’ve accomplished so far and can’t wait to start on the next round of coding!

 

50 Shades of Every Color Imaginable

With “Demo Day” approaching fast, as a group at Peanut Butter Coding Time we knew we had to get going. One of our main goals for sprint 1 was to finish the design of the app. Additionally, we added that a risk we could have to not reaching our goal was the user interface could be hard to manage. However, we did not anticipate that the hardest part of the interface would be finding a good color scheme.

Who knew finding good colors would be so difficult. One of our group members, Laura, worked tirelessly to find different color schemes in the Adobe CC webpage. She would find one she liked, attempt to put it in the sketch, and it simply would not look as good as she thought it might. When we all came together Monday night we searched for more color schemes. We even considered putting weather pictures as the background. After a while, we finally found one we all agreed looked good (Still subject to change depending on the route we take).

Unfortunately, one group member, Duff, was not able to make it to the meeting Monday. But we will forgive him since the reason for him missing the meeting was because he had a job interview in California with Apple!! Congratulations and good luck Duff!

Now back to the group. We have transitioned the design from our original goal of looking like the Passbook app on the iPhone to more of a combination of the Weather and Clock apps. Duff was pretty busy this week as well. In addition to his interview, he also sketched out the major design for the app and worked on the plane ride to California.

Another thing we were able to put together this week was the presentation for the class. We decided to use a Prezi for this presentation unlike the first one in which we had nothing. In the Prezi, we show off our essential features, a flow map of the application itself, another flow map of our design, our app logo (subject to change), details on XCode, and links to our social media.

Speaking of XCode, our two lovely Computer Science students set up source control for our code with a GitHub repository. This will allow us to keep track of our versions and push stable changes. Both of these students, actually our whole group, is ready to get coding. You can probably tell that by this GroupMe message from Duff!

Duff

All in all, this sprint has been challenging for everyone but extremely enjoyable and rewarding. We were able to finish almost everything we set out to accomplish in the plan for sprint 1. In the future, I think we will all appreciate color schemes and everything that goes into the creation of a design of an iPhone app. We look forward to the next few weeks! #PeanutButterCodingTime

Check us out on Facebook and Twitter!!

 

Petwork Takes a New Form

Hello pet lovers! Code Juice here yet again with an update on Petwork.

Since we spoke with you last time, we got a lot done, specifically working on what our app is going to look like. The four of us put our heads together and came up with wireframes for Petwork.

I must say the process took forever. For each button we have, we had to create an individual screen stating what the function of that button is and what the app would look like once that button was pressed.

Although a lot of trees were hurt in the process of this work, the sketches look wonderful and we know where we are headed.

Here are some of the sketches for what the app looks like in its sketched format:

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The hardest part of this process was that we had to scrap some ideas we wanted to incorporate, including pet profiles. Unfortunately time is a reality that we must face while working on Petwork.

We plan on starting simple and working our way to the more complicated. Once we finish the simple and if we have time at the end of the semester, then we can go back and add more features. But we’re several sprints away from that.

And with that, the first sprint is finished! Next up is sprint 2 where we plan on beginning the actual coding for Petwork, testing what we have so far with potential users and continuing to work on our social media presence.

So keep it here and remember you can contact us on Twitter or Facebook!

Putting the Gears in Motion

Now that we have decided on an idea for our app, we are starting to get to work! For the initial sprint, our goals include establishing a brand presence, designing the user interface, and working toward developing the basic recording and calling functions necessary for our app.

We have concentrated on establishing brand presence and identity this week. While trying to brand our app, we really noticed each of our team members imagined the app differently.  Collaborating for our app video helped us hone in on one vision for our product. The video, which you can view below, sets up a narrative timeline of recording technology in the journalism profession. The goal of the video was to show how the technology journalists use to record has evolved, yet despite the sleekness of new technology the recording process is still a mess.  We then position our app as the solution to that mess.

We are also trying to create a name and logo so we can start to create our social media accounts. Initially,we started with the name “Recho” and we started to come up with some sketches.

Sketch by Faith Ann

Sketch by Faith Ann

But then we decided the name sounded to much like “wreck” and had some other negative sound connotations,  so we decided to go with “Echo.” We are planning on having a working logo by in two days so that we can create Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
We have also created some mockups of the app’s user interface. Since each team member had different ideas for how the app should look, we each made our own mockup of the app. The plan is meet this weekend as a team and pick and choose the elements we like best.
Mockup by Sam

Mockup by Sam

Our goal for the next half of Sprint 1 is to work on the actual mechanics of the app. This means that we plan to add outgoing phone call, recording, and playback functionality and setup the TwiML application.

We have set some pretty ambitious goals! Tune back in next week to see if we have successfully accomplished any of them…

Hasta luego,

Quagswag Team
(Faith Ann, Sam, Taylor, Andy, and Jacob)

Echo. from Taylor Villarreal on Vimeo.

Go Time for Teacher’s Pet

When Teacher’s Pet settled on the idea of profsUT., an app that helps students and advisors see course instructor and course information in one place, we had a definite idea of why: We could provide a service that gave a little bit back to the UT community. Unlike some of our other app ideas, like an app for betting on TV shows, or an app for procrastinators, this app would be hyper-local. Deployed on one campus, it would provide an overview of who that campus’ most popular professors and courses were for students. For two selected departments, Journalism and Computer Science, it would go further and highlight the passions and goals of professors and their courses, as they told it in 15 second videos.

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Perhaps it is because having an app with a definite purpose of helping people is so immediately inspiring to our team members, but Teacher’s Pet has hit the ground running with our idea. The most fundamental element of our app is the Course Instructor Survey and Course Schedule data. In the first week of our first sprint, Teacher’s Pet has a complete scraper for the Course Schedule data, and a complete scraper for the Course Instructor Survey around the corner. We believe in the power of open data, so keep your eye out for a link to the code needed to scrape it yourself in the coming weeks. Our design gurus Zac Ioannidis and Bryant Peng have also created their first mockup of our app. Finally, we created the following video to communicate the vision behind profsUT. We hope you enjoy.

profsUT promo video from Landon Pederson on Vimeo.

 

WHY ARE WE LAAATE?!

This week, we have been given the task to make our first promo video, which seemed a little strange for us considering we do not actually have a functional app yet. Even though we cannot show much yet, it is important for us to start getting our name out there and building up excitement for the app. At least, that’s what we hope to do!

Given our limitations, it seemed natural for us to give viewers a sense of the reasoning behind our app. The basic premise behind the video was to follow a guy through his morning where he wakes up, ready to go to work, only to find himself stuck in traffic and late to work. The idea, although seemingly simple enough, took a bit more time to put together than we had anticipated.

When we first started filming, we took a drive around 5pm this past Monday figuring that, in Austin of all places, there would be plenty of traffic. This actually proved difficult as we forgot to take into account the fact that many working people had the day off for President’s day. Driving on MoPac for 10-15 minutes, we never really ran into traffic. In fact, the only traffic we could find was in a construction zone off of the freeway, and it was quite amusing to us to find ourselves searching for traffic and making u-turns to catch traffic.

We found that the video started to come together when we let ourselves be a little spontaneous. Some of the following scenes in the video were not planned at all; they just kind of happened. Originally, we had not even planned for Doug to be in the video, but when we were stuck in traffic and he started yelling, we just had to include the footage. At first, Duff had a bit of trouble figuring out how he should react to the traffic in a way that would be effective. When he started thrashing around, shaking the entire vehicle, it was a surprise to all of us, but it worked for the end result.

It’s these scenes that really makes the video fun and entertaining to watch. As fun as it is to watch, it was even more fun to make. Our team seems to have very compatible personalities; we are almost always laughing or joking around. In hindsight, it is obvious now why Professor Quigley had us spend a few days picking out our teammates as we will be spending a lot of time together as the semester progresses.

P.S. If you don’t understand the title, watch our promo video!

Hitting the ground running

The chores start coming and they don’t stop coming.  Fed to the rules, and we hit the ground running!

Our vision is set, our plan is in motion, and we’re ready to kick off the development process for choreBoard!  The last week has been bustling and exciting for us, as choreBoard is finally taking its first steps into vast world of mobile apps.  We’re all anxious to see our idea flow for the first time out of our imaginations and onto the internet—a place notorious for criticism, but rife with enthusiasm.

Our blog now has a permanent home at http://choreboardapp.com, which we look forward to transforming into a promotional hub for choreBoard.  Our website will of course contain our ongoing news updates, but will soon put a spotlight on app features, videos, and official contact information.  We have also established an official Facebook Page, which is fast approaching 100 likes in its first week!  We hope to establish Instagram and Twitter accounts in the future, so keep on the lookout for choreBoard on more of your favorite social media platforms!

Coming Soon: The new choreBoard logo!

Coming Soon: The new choreBoard logo!

Right alongside our burgeoning web presence, we’re also working hard to start giving choreBoard its own iconic branding and personality.  We’re playing around with different logo ideas, but haven’t quite yet settled on a design that we think is worthy of the choreBoard vision.  On the right is a behind-the-scenes peek at some of our ideas so far.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we’re excited to share our first promotional video!  Hopefully (though perhaps regretfully) you may relate to some of the scenes that unfold.

Next on the menu: a whole lot of programming and a whole lot of design!