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Newtella: iAd Producer

December 21, 2010

I’ve had the morning to toy around with iAd Producer, now available from Apple if you’re a registered iOS developer. It hits a real sweet spot for me, personally, as I have more than a handful of ad agency clients whose customers are undoubtedly interested in having some of these ads produced. Speaking technically, the app excitingly blends graphic design, user experience planning, web development, and iOS development.

The nice thing about iAd Producer is that there isn’t a lot of code necessary to get started. It’s a drag-and-drop type interface — sort of a downmarket Interface Builder — that generates iAd-compatible JavaScript, HTML, and CSS on the back end. You can view the code if you want to, and it helpfully provides you with comments guiding you how to address and manipulate objects you’ve dragged onto the screen.

iAds behave more-or-less like self-contained mini-sites. At minimum, they must contain:

  • A banner (that the user will tap to bring up the iAd)
  • A loading screen (that may or may not contain a pre-roll video)
  • A content screen

Optionally, iAds can contain:

  • A menu of pages
  • As many sub-pages as you want (all on the same level)

What’s impressive about iAd Producer is how easy it is to assemble an iAd with little or no coding. Most of Apple’s iOS interface toolkit is included, replicated in HTML5 and JavaScript. So, a certain fraction of your iAd’s file size (about 650K) will be the foundation to make the whole thing work, including image assets you probably will never use. I don’t know if you can safely remove these items from your iAd’s bundle, at least until I try submitting an iAd.

Testing iAds is simple enough — you can use either the iPhone Simulator (via a helpful iAd Tester app) or in Safari. It appears that you can test iAds on a mobile handset, but since I don’t have an iPhone or iPod touch cable of running iOS 4.0 or above (sad trombone) I couldn’t get it to work. I would assume iAd Producer can somehow install iAd Tester on a compatible networked handset.

One can also upload iAds to the iAd Test Server. This seems a little mysterious as yet, and I’ve contacted Apple for a little more information about how this works — that is, as a service provider, and not someone buying media.

I mentioned on Twitter that the bundles that iAd Producer creates can be, with little effort, turned into functional mini-sites that behave exactly the same way as the iAd does. After some experimentation, this comes with a sizable caveat: The custom iAd JavaScript and HTML 5 that iAd Producer uses limits the target browsers to only the latest versions of Safari and MobileSafari. Even Chrome won’t render the page.

There’s a growing amount of speculation that a version of this tool could be Jeffrey Zeldman’s mythical WYSIWYG web development app. If that’s the case, Apple’s tool will work well, but for a specific market: Simple Applications. Even if they make the exported code work with most modern browsers, the underlying methodology for creating these sites (mini, mobile or not) is that the tool has shifted the burden of displaying the site’s content to JavaScript, and away from HTML. If good visual markup is designed to gracefully degrade, doing the best it can with what it has, the code generated by iAd Producer behaves like a spoiled two-year old — obstinately displaying a blank page if it doesn’t have its way.

In any case, iAd Producer is a very useful tool that will allow even non-technical designers at ad agencies to produce appealing, complex iAd units with minimal effort. How iAds fit into the traditional agency model of designing, buying, and placing media, however, is a story for another day.


Newtella for August 12

August 12, 2010

Work is generally feast or famine: Too much to do, or too little. In this case, the feast is bountiful, and everyone’s quiet (blogging-wise, at least) happily eating around the table. I’ve managed to find a few minutes between courses to share some good new links with you, though!

10K Apart is an app contest from the fine folks at A List Apart/An Event Apart challenging designers and developers to come up with an awesome app in less than 10K. (Certain libraries, like jQuery, are excepted, however). For those ready to go a step further, there’s a 1K contest, too.

Are you an artist, scientist, or philosopher? Perhaps a little bit of all three.

For those who enjoyed ThinkVitamin’s tutorial on custom post types, you’ll likely enjoy their guide to getting started with WordPress custom menus, too.

The Library of Congress has made it easier than ever to navigate their large collection of WPA posters. Beautiful period work there. (Via Coudal Partners.)

Might the oft-rumored, never-seen Verizon-compatible CDMA iPhone 4 be finally more than vapor? One can only hope.

Penultimately, here’s a lovely look at just how large China’s cities are growing.

Lastly, I’d like to update you on the rather sudden rise and fall of PadEdit. I posted a request for help with PadEdit on BuildItWith.me, and received some very nice emails from people interested in helping. It hasn’t, however, resulted in any real movement in the project. I’ve had some suggestions that perhaps Graham was overagressive in suggesting that the foundation security model is flawed, but I haven’t been able to independently verify that yet. Again, if you’re interested in taking a look at PadEdit from a security standpoint, I’d be thrilled to have your help. Drop us a line, if you’d be so kind.


Newtella for July 1

July 1, 2010

Sencha Touch is a new framework for developing rich iPhone and iPad applications. It combines ExtJS and jqTouch for a pretty compelling demo.

If you’re boggled at exactly how many different icon files you have to generate for your next iPhone or iPad application, Cocoia has a nice Photoshop template to help. (Via @nevenmrgan.)

While we’re working hard on PadEdit, our server-based simple IDE for the travelling developer, Codeita is making headway with a service-based approach. Instead of having your IDE on a computer, your IDE lives with Codeita, and you trust all your FTP information to them. (We think PadEdit’s better, personally, but that’s just us. Look for more exciting PadEdit updates next week.)

LaunchList is a universal checklist that can apply to nearly every website development project. It’s a handy reminder for the home stretch.

If you’re a WordPress developer like me, you will likely be interested to know more about WordPress 3’s new custom post types, and customizing templates with custom post types in mind.


Newtella: Good, nutty links for Jun 17

June 17, 2010

Today, we’re introducing a new feature to the blog, called Newtella. It’s something you’ve probably already seen in blogs before: the sweet, nutty list o’links that you can spread all over your work. We’ll periodically collect up the good stuff we’ve found, and pass it on to you.

  • Making an iPad HTML5 App & making it really fast: Thomas Fuchs dissects his recent “Every Time Zone” iPad application, and finds out what can bog down HTML5 and CSS3. Hidden Gem: Code for a micro-tiny convenience JavaScript framework that’s a fraction of the size of jQuery, but handles a lot of the more popular functions.
  • You might have seen one of our tweets about Square, a startup that’s making credit card processing easier for small businesses. Just connect up their card swiper to your iPhone or Android device, and you can take credit card payments. They’ve been having some trouble getting the readers shipped out, and also getting underwritten for all these transactions they’ll be doing (hey, credit card processing is hard). It looks like the dongles, though, are finally on their way.
  • Endor.se is a new web app kind of like LinkedIn-lite: It’s just there to let you recommend others you know and trust for work. We’ve recommended some of our partners, too.
  • If you’re fretting over HTML5, there’s a new book you might consider getting from Jeremy Keith and the folks at A List Apart called HTML5 for Web Designers. It’s available for pre-order right now for $18. A steal.
  • Last but not least, our good client FatPencil had their iPhone application approved (opens iTunes). Pilots of the world, go forth and log your time.

By the way, did I mention we’re on Twitter? We are! Follow us at @honestcode.


 


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