Putting the magic in the machine since 1980.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

iPad App for Taking Surveys

I've been playing around with mobile webapps and JavaScript toolkits like Sencha touch and jQuery mobile. With all the news about native iphone apps, a lot of people forget that one can easily build iphone/ipad webapps that work offline and let you bypass the Apple store (so, no waiting weeks for approval, just upload it to your own website).

Dr. Jim Thrasher, from the Arnold School of Public Health, asked me to build an iPad app for his survey-administrators to use in administering surveys. The iPad is used to randomize questions and store all the survey answers, which are later uploaded to the server, when an Internet connection is available. The server is a google appengine web app.

Lessons learned:

  1. Offline webapps are possible (almost too easy) on the iPad/iPhone. But, I had to train the users on how to clear the Safari cache whenever I put out a non backwards-compatible version.
  2. A JavaScript toolkit like jQuery mobile or Sencha touch is needed for all its widgets. We need more widgets: this is probably the biggest current limitation.
  3. My app auto-downloads and installs the latest version the moment it is run, kinda like Chrome, thus enabling a fast development cycle.

1 comment:

Chuck Burris said...

Hey good job on the web app. I ran into the same problems with constant clearing of the cache when pulling new updates. Other than that, the framework provides a quick, suitable alternative to native apps.