A publishing team from the Academy of Model Aeronautics
maintains that anyone can create an app given the right amount of curiosity and
By Steve Ford
consider apps of any sort, not just magazine apps, most of us take it on faith
that these media marvels are the creations of those who earn their livelihoods
from cybercraft. While this may be true to a great extent, what is not well
known is that anyone can create an app given the right amount of curiosity and
recent 2013 Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting Pre-Conference, Chad
Budreau, multimedia manager of publications, discussed how he and his team have
successfully created multimedia apps at the Academy of Model Aeronautics. App
creation is not easy, and Budreau made that point within the first several
minutes. Depending on how one approaches the task, it might require learning
how to write HTML code, or grappling with the intricacies of ePub formatting.
Even so, the chief advantage to undertaking such an exercise is the amount of
control the app creator has over the final product.
going into exhaustive detail, Budreau offered examples of apps created through
raw HTML coding. As would be expected, many eyes in the audience glazed over
within seconds. However, Budreau soon skipped ahead to somewhat
"friendlier" methods, such as creating layouts in InDesign and then exporting the results
as ePub files that would later become apps. According to Budreau, apps created
in this fashion were best for text-heavy publications since controlling the
final positions of graphic elements can be unpredictable at best.
line was Adobe DPS, which Budreau's
group had used initially. However, he found the software to be an expensive and
overly complicated tool for app creation. Despite being an Adobe product,
Budreau emphasized that it wasn't possible to simply convert existing Adobe
print publishing PDFs to apps. One must still build the magazine app from the
of the ongoing issues with Adobe DPS,
Budreau stated that the AMA was investigating alternatives. Two he mentioned
were Mags+ and Twixel, both of which are InDesign
cautioned several times that app creation was far from being plug-and-play, at
least for the time being. He drew a few gasps when he stated that his team
often spent as long as 60 hours creating a single app for just one issue of a
the various app platforms in the market today, Budreau warned that the AMA had
the most difficulty with Android apps. "One size fits all" does
not apply uniformly in this environment. Budreau illustrated the point by
describing how easy it was to get their apps included in the Google app store.
"Compared to the pain of working with Apple, it was a breeze. But later we
realized that the reason it was easy was because Google didn't care whether our
apps functioned well or not. In contrast, Apple cared very much. Apple put us
through the wringer, but the result was a better product."
closing, Budreau offered the following advice for anyone considering DIY app
long term. That is, consider the needs of your readers and the functionality of
your app years into the future, and design accordingly.
apps as new, stand-alone publications in their own right, not as simple
replications of your current flagship magazines.
the app development workload among your staff. Many are happy to learn new
your apps extensively among your members. Reward those who participate with
free memberships, etc.
the existence of your apps between the apps themselves and your print
use of XML to help streamline the production process.
your apps for your readers. For example, if the average age of your audience is
over 60, use larger type and large icons for easier viewing.
Steve Ford editor in
chief, QST Magazine, at ARRL – The National
Association for Amateur Radio. Association Media & Publishing thanks him
for covering this Annual Meeting event for our members who were unable to