Fourth Demo – on their iPads & iPhones

liveDemo1

With those last set of changes made, we were ready to start testing the app on the student’s mobile devices.

Apple provides a way to test an app (called Ad-hoc Installation) prior to submitting it to the App Store. That’s how most apps are tested, to make sure that all bugs have been repaired.

The first round was a disastor. The iPod brought by one student was running iOS 3.1 and that app was designed for 4.3 or later. The screens on the iPad look horrendous since we were concentrating on the iPhone & iPod. The performance was extremely slow, since we had tested it only on WIFI and not on the 3G network. The app crashed a lot.

I built diagnostics into the app so that it recorded everything it did, and came up with an easy way for the students to email me the diagnostic log. These logs have been vital to resolving problems in the app – no one actually remembers what they did before it crashed (memory is quite subjective), but the diagnostic log would tell me exactly where the flaw was. The first live demo was done on Tuesday; by Thursday all of those issues were fixed, and we were back to testing again.

In the second round, we ironed out the issues of inviting friends and seeing each other’s wishlist. Lots of bugs, but quickly resolved. When class was over, we had about 8 students ready to test over the weekend. I’ve included what they’ve found so you can see what the “quality assurance cycle” is like:

  • Click on ADD FROM PHOTOS – nothing happened on the iPad
  • Long press on SAVE GIFT doesn’t always work
  • INBOX doesn’t automatically refresh
  • Description with SAVE GIFT doesn’t make sense
  • Stars to rate a gift is too awkward since each star must be touched
  • Top Toys is too hard to use
  • Selecting an icon takes too long
  • If not Internet connection during install, the app is forever hung
  • App sometimes crashes after playing intro video on new installation
  • Friend requests don’t always work
  • If there’s only 1 item in the wishlist and you press on it, the app crashes
  • No notification was sent out when a comment on a gift was made

A couple of these items are worth describing further.

Initially, the students wanted the app to pick up the toy’s name, picture and description from the web page. Finding the title and picture is pretty easy (as talked about in an earlier blog), but finding the description wasn’t. One student suggested that after you press on the toy’s picture, you let the user press on the descritpion.

To implement that, the user first presses on the picture, then presses SAVE AS GIFT – NOW GET DESCRIPTION instead of just SAVE AS GIFT. When we implemented that idea, the students thought it was way too confusing, so we dropped it.

The next feature that changed a lot was selecting top toys. First we used a web page that listed the top toys based on gender and age. The page was maintained by one of a toy vendor (such as Toys R Us), but it was not designed for a mobile device, so it looked awful on the iPhone. We eventually switched to an RSS feed from another toy vendor that is much easier to use.

Likewise, when a kid selects an icon (such as cute dog or robot or pokemon) was done by displaying a web page containing the icons. The look-and-feel was different from the rest of the app, so we switched it around to a set of screens that simply pulled the icons from our cloud server and displayed them on the screen (and showed a progress bar as the icons are downloaded to the mobile device). We decided NOT to preload the icons with the app since the icons take a lot of space, and we’ll be constantly adding new icons as kids come up with more suggestions.

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