Today, we release the GovLoop iPhone app. It’s pretty cool – you can read the latest blogs and discussions on GovLoop, get the top gov’t news via GovZine from all your favorite sites, and also pulls in the top govt Twitter tags. Plus more goodies like key events, jobs, member/project of weeks.
As we say, this is 1.0 awesomeness. This app is set up more to consume key gov’t information on the run than controlling your GL profile. In the future, we’ll expand the app more for adding content…and also look to add the app for Blackberry, Android, and other platforms (W7, Palm).
I’ve wanted to build GovLoop mobile apps for awhile. But the technology isn’t quite there with our native platform (Ning) and a custom app is usually a 5 figure cost ($10-20k or more).
So when I saw the launch of a site called AppMakr I was intrigued. Their promise was you could build an app for $199 or $499 and in a matter of hours simply using RSS feeds from your site.
They were based in DC (part of company called Point About) and had built apps for bigger sites like AllTop and others so I took it for a spin.
Here’s my review:
1 – Interface – The process to get going is pretty easy. Go to appmakr and there is a clean interface. Start your build, add content, and you can dynamically see the demo app before you submit. You can also submit the link so other people see your demo.
2 – Design – You upload images for both the app store and the splash page. This was pretty easy to use and adds some unique element to it. Also you can put your own banner at the top. I used GovLoop logos and banners and it turned out pretty good.
3 – Content – Appmakr is built on RSS feeds so you have to put in your own RSS feeds. For each one, you must hit a verify feed to ensure that RSS feed is working. I ran into problems as about half my feeds were unable to be verified but then would be shown to be working on the demo app on the screen. This was a little confusing. I also ran into a hiccup where the app I finally got approved had a RSS feed broken and not working. And funny thing, this was one of the RSS feeds that they said was working.
4 – Submission – Once you are complete, you submit the app to Appmakr who then approves it and sends it to Apple Store for completion. I ran into a snafu where my app photo was not the exact measurements so they made me resubmit after a few days but they didn’t charge me.
5 – Customer Service – At $199 or $499, the service is not set up for a lot of hand holding. If you want that and custom development, they will give you what you need at a higher cost. But I got pretty good feedback from my questions via Twitter and their message board. And when I reached out directly to the person I knew, the answer got solved quickly.
Overall Review – Appmakr is quick, cheap, and helpful. I did run into some problems with validating RSS feeds and a critical error in my final app. It took a couple weeks for the fix as the app had to be resubmitted but they went above with their help. Part of this is due to the newness of the service and also may be due to some of the constraints of dealing with Apple.But at the price point $199 (plus disclosure – they hooked GovLoop up for free), it is hard to complain. A great way to build a simple app for your agency or company.