Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thinking Mobile First with App Inventor

As a proponent of the Make-To-Think and the Thinking-Mobile-First philosophies, I have been creating mobile prototypes with html mockup tools such as Axure and wire-frame tools such as Balsamic. I have written about this in a previous post.

However, I wanted to create simple mobile apps to understand the new design possibilities and mobile usability. I researched App Inventor from Google a few weeks back. Today I created a few simple apps using App Inventor for Android.

The one that got me kudos from my wife, who is a mobile entrepreneur, is the one that I wrote for her. The app is named "CallHim". You guessed it. As soon as she launches the app, the app calls my mobile phone.  So I am literally one click away.

I am not a programmer. So I thought I will share the wealth with other designers and product managers and mobile enthusiasts who may not know or want to code, but like the idea of creating simple mobile apps.

App Inventor is a click and drag tool to write small yet very powerful mobile applications for the Android platform.

For example, to write the app that calls my phone as soon as my wife launches it, this is what I did.

I invoked the phone dialer components as soon as the app was launched and passed my phone number to it. Then I asked the dialer component to call that number. This is all done using drag and drop components. No coding. Because there is no coding, there is very little scope for error.

You can plug your Android phone to your computer while you are creating the app and see the app taking shape in the device as you are creating it. You can also test the app as you are creating it. I wrote the phone dialer app in about 15 minutes.

I think this is a great tool for designers and product managers to play around with, have some fun and understand how to think mobile first. Mobile apps force you to think simple and different. I recommend that you explore it. It will be worth your time. Go through the tutorials. They are very helpful.

I just read that there is book on App Inventor coming soon.
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