A note to self: Lessons from the WWW App


A week ago, I created an web app designed to aid ICS students in choosing their WWW trips where their friends are going. Like the app I created a while ago with courses, this idea came up from the millions of “where are you guys going?” wall posts on Facebook – why not just create a central hub for people to see where people are (or in some cases, aren’t) going?

Development took a little bit over a full day and made me sleep at 5am – something that I would have definitely not done normally. Could have took much less time had I not played with the various Facebook APIs, jQuery effects and aesthetic elements, but you know, it was worth it. I mean, in the end I took this mini project as an experiment in itself, testing what works and what doesn’t, and improve on the later products.

And here is my report.

Stats

Launched on Sunday, 23rd January morning. Last activity on 25th. (Yes, it only survived for 2 days) 101 Users, 155 “clicks” or choices made.

You know, I was actually quite impressed myself. Although I expected more, but this was definitely enough to make myself proud.

What worked.

The emphasis on “Socialization”

Nowadays apps are all about your FRIENDS and no long about YOU. What other people are doing are becoming much more important. A huge part of the App was designed with that in mind.

The “picture wall” (suggested by Teddy) was one of such thing. Not only was it (surprisingly) extremely pretty, but also helpful. Not a lot of people realized it, but users may click on someone’s profile picture and it will show his/her selected trips. Had this feature not been implemented, I think the App would have lost a lot of interest form its users.

Facebook is DA BOSS.

Speaking of socializing… Facebook has shown superiority to almost every other product on the Internet. Heck, it even (almost) replaced email! Apps that go against it, like Wave, can’t even stand a chance even under Google. And therefore, there is absolutely no way not to tie this app to the trend.

Everybody had an Facebook account – I did not need to worry about not providing true identity, nor do I need to take care of security, cookies, sessions, blah blah blah. All I needed was one line of code checking if the user is logged in or not, that’s it. Saved me database spaces at the very least, not to mention time to debug security holes to authentication and what not.

And because everyone had a Facebook account, activity on this App can be easily by other people, thus helping the app spread faster. In theory, when people see that other people are making their WWW trips choices on this App, they’d be like “Oh hmm.” and click on the link. (I didn’t set up a referrer check to see how many clicks actually came from Facebook published stories, but I’d imagine there is at least 30%)

Ajax

Who wants to load a whole page just to see a tiny description box of a trip? No one. And that’s why I spent so much time on ajax-fying the site. There is only one page in the whole app, and every little thing is only updated when it had to. No extra bandwidth, no extra lag time, no extra nothing.

Name me one person that didn’t like the dynamic loading of contents and the stunning (come on, admit it 😉 ) effects on the page, I dare you.

What didn’t work

IE Compatibility

GARH! This was THE flaw of the app (or maybe the school). Because IE is the only browser installed on school computers, there were no way for students or teachers to check it out in school. By the time they got home, they probably have forgotten about it as well.

I tried figuring out but I couldn’t due to the lack of developer tools on IE. Okay fine, I was being a little bit lazy, but. I think we can all blame IE.

Timing / Marketing

It was all wrong. I should have started this way earlier, and not just 3 days before the decision deadline. Well, I didn’t know how I could have sped it up considering I only found out about WWW choices that day.

One thing I also could have done was inform the WWW Committee about it to have them include this in daily newsletters. But again, it had IE compatibility issues…

The Design

Nope. I didn’t like it. My original design intentions were to keep it simple, but now it looks (way) too messy with so much blue. Could have also tried some more icons, I guess.

Conclusion / What’s coming up

A course selection app! Something that I have been planning since last year, but never gotten around to it. It will definitely go the direction of “socializing” just like this app, but given much more time to prep and advertise so to bring its full potential.

What did YOU like and dislike about the app?