PALNI Meetings: Mobile Web-App Creation (Pt. 2- Implementation)

This is Pt. 2 of PALNI Meeting: Mobile Web-App Creation (check out Pt. 1 here!) In this post, I will go into detail how we created the PALNI Meeting app, our frustrations, and our usage.

In case you forgot… Our Feature/Functional Desires:

  • Google Calendar integration
  • Rss feed capability
  • Easy Contact avenues – phone, email, text
  • Customizable HTML pages
  • Maps
  • Social Media RSS
  • Ability to update with ease
  • Available offline – desirable but not necessary
  • Push Notifications – can’t do unless creating a native app

Steps to Creating a Web-based App with Conduit

Step 1: Sign up for Conduit Mobile at http://mobilecp.conduit.com/ – It’s free!

Step 2: Design your app using the WYSIWYG editor (what-you-see-is-what-you-get)

  • The editor is pretty straight-forward and will take less than an hour (or less if you are used to such editors to begin with) to master the basics. Conduit provides lots of page type options to choose from.
  • As you can see, Conduit provides lots of page type options to choose from. Within most of the page options, you have the ability to directly edit the HTML of the page. This is great for tweaking but watch out! – the editor does not allow Javascript or iFrame codes. This was unfortunate as I really wanted to do a cool Google maps page showing multiple locations. MobileApp_Editor2
  • In order to show the campus maps, I originally linked to an external pdf either provided by the campus website or on our PALNI server.
    The Problem: This caused problems as people updated their websites so eventually all maps were moved to the PALNI server. Then we discovered that the pdf would open but not provide a way to get back to the previous page without closing out the app which was rather frustrating.
    The Solution: Instead of hosting the maps on the PALNI server, we moved them to Facebook albums, dividing them alphabetically. Conduit makes it easy to creates an RSS feed of albums on Facebook, Instagram, and the like so it took less than 15 minutes to set up everything. This option also allows the maps to be opened, zoomed into and out of without leaving the app. I also liked having them divided up into alphabetical sections to help with scrolling. 🙂MobileApp_EditorCampus
  • After adding all the pages, you can edit the colors of the app under the Style tab. You don’t get a whole lot of options here but you can choose custom colors under the advanced section so you can follow your organization’s style guide. The last part is to upload an icon and splash page for your app and write up a description under the Info tab.MobileApp_Customize

Step 3: Click Publish

  • Now that you’ve designed your app it’s time to publish it to the web. Journey back to the homepage of the Conduit mobile site and find Basic Plan Status. The illustration below asks me if I want to update my changes since I have already published the app, but if you just created a new app, you will be asked to Publish, not Update.MobileApp_Home

Step 4: Invite people to go the the URL and pin to homescreen

  • Customize your web-app URL so it’s easy for your users to find (depending on your computer’s screen size, you may need to scroll down the Conduit Mobile homepage to see this section).MobileApp_URL
  • Send out an e-blast, Tweet, Facebook, and any other promotional avenues to let your users know about the existence of the app and how to pin it to their mobile homescreen for easy access! MobileApp_Pinning

Step 5: Edit, Update, Edit Update…

  • A huge bonus to using Conduit Mobile is the ability to edit and update the app whenever you want, without requiring the users to take action. It usually takes a few hours for the app to fully update on the user’s phone so plan accordingly.

Advanced Modules:

Conduit Mobile holds huge potential in creating awesome apps for your library, however, their support stinks. While they have an active support forum of users, their company doesn’t seem monitor it well and when they do reply, it isn’t helpful and usually tells the person to submit a support ticket. I kept getting stumped when trying to use their Advanced Modules section and decided to take their “advice” and submit a support ticket. I’m guessing this went into a black hole as I never heard back from them again. So, if you are looking to do some advanced customization and write your own modules, make sure you have a developer guru beside you!

Usage and Conclusion:

Creating web-based mobile apps can be free and easy to make. In fact, the first version of the Mobile app only took me a single morning to learn and set up! We’re pretty excited at PALNI to launch this to all our Librarians in the coming week as we are starting to set up the Spring in-person meetings. We did do a soft-launch with some of our Advisory Group Chairs before Christmas and the app received over 200 hits. The statistics on the Conduit Mobile website are fairly slim – mainly how many hits and location of hits – so you may want to explore other ways to gather statistics on your app, particularly popular pages. Despite Conduit’s shortcomings, it’s proven to be a useful tool for PALNI.

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