Unlimited Possibilities through Code
I built an app just for myself recently and decided to share it. Those are always the best apps to build, ones that have some personal meaning or use for yourself. And this one is no exception.
You can download this app from the Windows Phone Marketplace – Mariners News.
I attended a class where we had just two hours to make a start to finish app. I actually didn’t intend to build this app, and had no idea we were going to do this at the event. I am actually quite glad we did, as it showed me I could do a lot more in a phone app in just a few hours than I would have thought possible.
The previous topic of the class had been using the Bing API to make requests for data and news stories. Just that morning I had been looking for a way to get news about the Seattle Mariners. There was one app in the marketplace, but the UI was terrible and slow. Viola, an idea is born.
Ok, I did make the app in under two hours, but I spent an additional hour and fifteen minutes at home that night making the icons, testing for the marketplace certification, putting in the Ad control, and preparing the submission.
Oops, I grabbed the official MLB logo when I built the icons. I wasn’t really thinking about it the night I submitted, I just went to MLB.com and grabbed the official logo. Almost the next day the Windows Phone
Developer Blog came out with an article about avoiding trademark trouble
I should have known better. Really, I have done this type of thing before.
So I sat down that evening using Expression Design and built a new logo. It is close enough for people to recognize it as the logo, but it is my version of it. No trademark or copyright issues!
Quick, simple and clean. I like it.
And then I began the long wait for certification (which you can’t cancel or abort). So I thought what else would I want to change? I am going to need to submit an update anyway, better make it worth it.
At this point I thought more about the navigation experience.
I didn’t like the display of the news articles and with about two evenings of playing I came up with the following design that I am much happier about.
Notice the stories are cut at two lines, if you click you get the complete RSS or news story as it was returned from Bing. Then if you want you can launch out to IE from that more detailed page.
I got rid of the images for the source (too much space), and just added an tagline, then about how long ago it was posted. Seeing the date and time doesn’t really do much for you, but seeing about four hours ago seems to give it a fresher feeling.
This is where I started thinking about what else I would do with a Windows Phone. I want to check for tickets, directions to SafeCo, tweet about the game, etc.
Most of these are pretty simple stuff, but add a lot of usage to the app.
The call for tickets actually goes call the correct Ticketmaster line for you. I don’t know of any other sports app that does that, and it is a uniquely mobile experience. You wouldn’t want that on your desktop, but on my phone it makes perfect sense.
Directions to SafeCo Field. Another unique experience for mobile phones. I may be lost downtown while going to a game (it happens). Quick couple of taps and I am getting directions.
Get on demand updates of news and scores through SMS is a feature that ESPN offers. But I can never remember the number, so I built it in. Now with a quick tap I get the latest box scores or news.
Share the #mariners spirit is something I want to add more to over time. The ability to profess the love for your team, taunt the opponent, or just complain about the call are all social elements to the game today. I would like to build in more Twitter integration to let users interact about the game while watching a game.
I actually finished this version of the app just a few hours after the version 1 was approved for the store. But even after approval it still takes 24-48 hours before an app goes live on the site.
I was very happy to be able to submit a quality update almost immediately. Now I just have to wait for it to be approved!
This was a really fun project, and one that I am sure I will continue to update as I find more things I want in it myself.
I am already thinking about a way to use a live tile to show me the next team opponent and the time of the that game. Too bad you can’t add calendar items on WP7, maybe a push notification that the game is getting ready to start? Hmm. I can listen using MLB At Bat to every game, so that might work. Ahh the possibilities.
Enjoy your projects, and hopefully from baseball this year too!
Pick a Park is an application I wrote for my kids on a different phone platform. We used it to help us decide what park we wanted to visit while driving to Walt Disney World. We originally had a Disney pin that we could spin to decide, but it would always be forgotten at home. Since we lived about an hour away from the parks it was pretty easy for us to go, but there was always the debate about which park to visit.
The application is a very simple way to choose from two or more of the Walt Disney World theme parks and get a random choice of which one you should visit.
Pick A Park is in the Windows Phone Marketplace
This version is for Windows Phone 7. Since I work at Microsoft I got a free phone right when they first launched. This app was my initial way to help learn the programming model. I wrote this over Thanksgiving weekend 2010, but I was so embarrassed by the app that I never released it until summer 2011.
The reason I finally released it was a XapFest event I attended where another internal Microsoft employee said that he felt you should always release the app while you are still a little embarrassed, it will keep you humble and motivate you to improve it.
To date there have been hundreds of downloads for what I was pretty embarrassed about at the time. I get a few hate mail, but I get a lot of people just asking for advice on what park they should visit when they only have 1 days in Orlando after a conference. Overall it has been a great experience.
I have been toying with the app more and more as Windows Phone Mango has progressed through beta. I wanted to initially include two modes, one for picking the park, but another for just exploring which park you might want to visit. But I couldn’t figure out how to do the data filtration because there was no database on the phone. Now with Mango there is an embedded database (SQL CE), so I wanted to revisit the problem. First a little about the current version.
©2010-2012 Jason Short. All Rights Reserved. The opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent my employer’s views in any way.