Studio Insights

Starting Somewhere….Creating an App Using Adobe DPS

Matthew Willemsen - Monday, August 12, 2013
As I embarked on this digital journey of producing an app using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite I was both overly excited about leveraging my skills in traditional print design to create an interactive digital publication and overwhelmed by the limitless content possibilities. I decided to keep things simple for the sake of learning the process of designing, testing, and launching an app using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. Simple is a relative statement because even something as seemingly simple as creating a set of twenty-six digital flash cards presented countless options and questions.

What would be on each flash card? Would I focus exclusively on the letters of the alphabet or would I add supporting elements such as words or pictures. How could I make it engaging? How would a 4-8 year old interact with the app? Would there be a "front" and "back" to each digital flash card? Would the app be designed to work horizontally and vertically on the iPad? Would there be a theme that would help determine the direction for the words and pictures? How many pictures should I include? How many words per page? How could I make it more interactive? These are just a few of the questions I was pondering during the initial stages of this project that dealt specifically with the content and interactivity of the app. In addition, I was exploring stylistic considerations related to the design of the flash cards. This also presented numerous options.

As a way to start the process and not get consumed by the countless questions that could very easily slow or halt my progress I decided to begin building a prototype with the intent of refining or rebuilding along the way. This approach proved to be very beneficial. If I hadn't started building the first prototype I think I would still be trying to answer all the questions that came to mind at the beginning of this project. I had to start somewhere… By starting somewhere I was able to develop my initial sketches for the layout of the flash cards and explore the integration of interactivity by adding different types of interactive content from scrolling frames, buttons and audio clips.

Essential to this process was the ability to experience the design and interactivity on the iPad. It is one thing to design for a mobile device and it is another to see it in action. The details of the design and interactivity become real, allowing one to become more critical of the design and how a user would engage the content. By sharing these early prototypes using the Adobe Content Viewer App with family and friends I was able to watch how various users engaged the interface. This helped to refine the interface to include visual queues to guide the user to properly interact with the app. The prototyping and testing stage continued for many iterations until a final direction was determined, which is the version you see below. This provided the framework for the entire set of digital flash cards and opened the door for recording, editing, and incorporating all the audio clips.

Once the entire set was designed I began another round of testing through the Apple Developer platform, which provided me the ability to load my app on selected mobile devices. Things were becoming even more real by this point and a series of small refinements to the audio clips, composition of words, and interface ensued.

After countless hours of designing, testing, developing, and refining I was finally ready to submit my first app to Apple for review. With excitement and uncertainty I waited to receive Apple's decision. Would my app be accepted to rejected? I was certain it would pass muster because of my research and investigation into other apps that were produced using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite as well as my thoughtful consideration of the user interface. I had also reviewed the App Store Guidelines and was confident I met the criteria. To my surprise, Apple initially rejected my app based on issues related to the user interface. Specifically, Apple noticed my app did not take advantage of the iOS platform. It was suggested that it would be appropriate to add iOS specific UI and functionality rather than displaying PDF files.

Fortunately, I was able to appeal this decision by further describing my app and providing a succinct argument refuting the issues related to the user interface and use of PDF files. Having knowledge of how Adobe's DPS App Builder works along with having a few great examples using this platform aided in my ability to present my case against the initial rejection. Thankfully, Apple quickly reversed their decision and accepted my app.

Now "Alphabet Words and Sounds" is available for free on iTunes and has become one of the several hundred thousand other apps designed specifically for the iPad. I await in further excitement and uncertainty as i begin to define specific areas in which to develop more apps.