Hello, my name is Anna Jaeger and I am the CTO of Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup Global. Today, I am here to discuss with you our process for developing our mobile apps. I must warn you, our process has evolved over time as we have learned. I will try to convey the lessons we have learned and some of the pitfalls we encountered.
Today, I will tell you a little bit about TSG and Caravan Studios.Then I want to hear a little bit about you via some polls.Next, I will share with you a bit about our process and the lessons we have learned.Finally, you will have a chance to ask some questions. Feel free to ask questions throughout, but I may not see them all, so please don’t be shy to ask again, if I missed anything.
First the introductions
TechSoup Global, formerly CompuMentor, has been around for 26 years. I assume you are all familiar with TSG, but if you have questions, feel free to ask them.
We are a relatively new division of TSG. Whereas TechSoup and its partners distribute donated technology and knowledge about how to select and use that tech, Caravan Studios is focusing on building new technology with the people in the community who need the technology. Mostly we are building mobile apps, but we also build small web apps too.
I am not an expert on developing mobile apps. I am not an expert on anything, really.I have been working in the nonprofit sector for most of my 20 years in the IT field.I have opinions and am willing to share them.
Before we start, I would like to learn a little bit more about you.
Do you use mobile apps on a smart phone? Please type your answers: yes no I only read my email
Does your organization run web/app-based projects internally, or do you work with a third party developer? Answers: Internal TeamOutsource IT We don’t do web-based development
Is your organization planning to develop a mobile app? Answers: yesnoconsidering itIf yes, what is the topic or focus of the app?
SafeNight is our first mobile app and it is currently in a pilot phase on Windows Phone 8 only.We are about to kick off the process to build it in HTML5 so that we may deploy it on iOS and Android phones as well.
When an individual is in urgent need of shelter, a qualified staff member at a domestic violence service organization can initiate a request for hotel room funding. Supporters who have downloaded the SafeNight app will receive a notification that an individual is in need and have an opportunity to immediately cover the cost of the hotel room via the app.Shelters make the request:Shelters are communal living situations and are not appropriate for everyone. Like people with families or pets.Organizations use their appropriate safety protocols for intake.Donors can feel secure that the donation is for the intended purpose. Survivor names are never entered into the SafeNight system.
Reading from the slide:One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each yearOn September 12, 2012, In California alone:2,975 survivors found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing.792 more requests for housing went unmetHuman Trafficking300 people a day turned away from services in California
Reading from the slide:Here is a real example: “A victim called because her husband, who was on parole for assaulting her, violated the no contact order. She saw her husband that day sighting her with a rifle, and learned that he had purchased a shotgun a few days prior. He has threatened to show up at her workplace to ‘come get her.’”
Here are some of the questions we have learned to ask at the start of a project.What is the social benefit goal you’re trying to accomplish with your app?Always start here. Focus very narrowly on what your app is trying to do and don’t try to do too much.In the next slide, I will share our goals for SafeNight.What does your community think of the idea?Get real community feedback, not just from your friends and supporters, but from people who will use the app. Don’t be afraid to change, if the community doesn’t respond positively to your first idea. We did.What kind of app: Native, hybrid, web app?We will discuss the difference between these three types of apps shortly, but this decision makes a big difference to the development approach and your audience’s use of the app. Getting it built: In-house or third-party development?Who is going to build it? What should your process look like? Does your process allow for you to learn along the way and adjust mid-stream?Do you have budget to maintain it once it is built?What happens when the next version of the phone or OS comes out? Are you prepared to maintain the app, even if the functionality doesn’t change?
These goals have guided us throughout the project:Reduce incidents of domestic violence by allowing more survivors to remove themselves from the threatGenerating new sources of support and capacity for the domestic violence sectorCapturing data to better serve women and children in needI sometimes lose track of goal number three, but it is the one that will best support the sector as a whole and in the long term.
We asked for continuous feedback from the community throughout the project.We brought the initial project proposal to a conference on domestic violence. They told us that our first phase, finding open beds, was not what was needed most urgently.They asked us to move on to our phase two, which was helping shelters pay for hotel beds. Based on that feedback, we shifted our focus of the app. We have an advisory board that meets as needed to help keep us on track and help us problem solve.We need to test the app out in a real-life setting, but it needs to be controlled. Therefore, we have pilot participants who are willing to learn with us. They try the system, deal with bugs and hiccoughs, and give us feedback.
We decided to go with a native Windows app as the front end and used an existing fundraising system as the back end administrative tool.The shelters log into the VAD to post the need and manage the donor information.They can simply enter the amount they need for the hotel room for the night and the reason why they need it (for data gathering and advocacy in the future.)The front end app is used exclusively by the donors. The donors download the app, set up a short profile and then wait to receive an alert. When an alert comes in, the donors may log in and pay for the amount using a PayPal integration. A couple of lessons we learned:We didn’t need to make a native app because we aren’t using any special features of the phone. We should have built it in HTML5 and packaged it for each of the devices: Windows Phone 8 (WP8), iOS and Android. That would have resulted in a hybrid app. We should have had it on all three devices from the start.The native alerts available on WP8 are not very noticeable. We should have used an SMS gateway to send text messages to the donors.The iOS and Windows Phone marketplaces do NOT like in app purchases/donations, unless you use the providers (Microsoft and Apple) inapp modules. (I don’t know about Android.) There are severe restrictions on collecting donations for nonprofits in the marketplaces. And the rules are not always well spelled out, so proceed carefully.
In terms of development: While I had experience with leading large web development efforts, I had never developed an app. So, we decided to partner with another nonprofit organization who had the developers who could develop the app.We partner with For-Profit Companies and Nonprofit DevelopersAfter all of these years of working with DV orgs, we finally had a solid idea, then we found some seed funding, but we needed a partner who could help deliver the app. That is when we starting talking with Aidmatrix.Once we began making progress, we were able to secure more funding.
Let me define some of the terms I have been using and will be using.
Just like web development, mobile apps can be built using many methods.Mostly, we used Waterfall for initial development of SafeNight.In waterfall software development lifecycle, all the planning is done upfront. This makes for a well thought out product, but the time to any verison of the product is long and it is difficult and costly to change directions midstream.
Agile development is iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between teamsIn Agile SDLC, the team develops the product in small increments or iterations. You get to an initial, useable product much more quickly, but it won’t be the fully developed product for the first few iterations. Going forward, we will likely use an agile approach to maintaining and enhancing SafeNight.
iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8 (WP8)Native appWeb appHybrid appHTML 5 and CSS 3Open Source vs. ProprietaryiOS - The Apple iPhone.Android - Google's operating system which is much more open than other phone marketplaces.WP8 - Windows Phone 8, which is primarily, but not exclusively, on Nokia phones.Native apps are those built to work exclusively with a specific phone.Build one of these if you need to leverage the specific sensors in the particular phone like the camera or the GPS.Web Apps - These are basically web pages that are designed to work on the small screen real estate of a phone.Hybrid apps - These are apps that are generally built in HTML5 and CSS3 so that they can work across platforms, but they have a wrapper for each phone. A bit of code that connects the generic HTML code with the specific device so that you may leverage some of the native functionality of the phone.HTML5 and CSS 3 – Due to recent developments in HTML, developers are now able to build apps that work well on all mobile devices and via browsers and develop it only once. Developing native apps means developing in code like C# and Objective C and others. Open Source vs. Proprietary – This is about licensing and transparency. Proprietary code is what we are all most familiar with. It means that most of the code is inaccessible and unreadable. Even if you could read it, you could not take the code and make changes to it or adopt it for your own purposes. Someone owns the rights to the software and generally doesn’t share it.Open Source code is literally that. The code is open and available for anyone to read and use. Sure, the specific licenses vary, but most of them give people access to adopt the code and make changes to it to suit their own needs. Responsive web design (RWD) is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones) Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsive_web_design
No matter the process you use, I would recommend that you generally sketch out the flow of the app first.Then do some wireframes of the main pages and main functionality. Then progress to designs in an agile way, if using agile. When thinking about content, don’t forget about legal content, which generally includes the terms and conditions. The legal content often requires a more rigorous (and lengthy) process than program content.Also, please leave time for sufficient testing. We did user acceptance testing, system testing, and pilot testing.We did unit testing of the app in an emulator, which means that we could test the front end app, but not the end to end functionality.Once launched in Beta in the marketplace, we wanted to know that the overall system would work together. So we did some testing of the overall system before ANY users were in it. After we had some level of confidence, but knowing that there were still some bugs, we began our pilot testing. This is actually testing in the field with real shelters and real donors. This is the phase we are in now.
This is an example of a simple wireframe.No design elements, just the fields and their functionality.
This is an example of the design. It includes not only the fields, but the colors, the images, the buttons and the field labels.
Here are a few more consolidated lessons that we have learned along the way. This will prove that I am obviously not an expert.
Each marketplace is different: Apple App Store, the Windows Phone Marketplace and Google Play. They all have different guidelines and rules. They all have different amounts of time for review. But you should definitely expect to have to go back and forth with them and change bits of functionality before it is finally accepted.To get it out there sooner, look at the alpha and beta capabilities of each site. These are ways that you can publish and test the app with a limited set of testers. It is not available to the public, but only to those who you give access to. This allows you to give access to not only your testers, but critical funders and community people so they may actually load the app on their device and interact with it.
Here are the lessons revisited:Goal of the project must be aligned with the objectives of your organizationKeep it simpleMake it secure, if it needs to beHave your content copy-editedHave a marketing planBudget to maintain it when phones upgrade
This slide is a recap of what I had said before. The critical point here is “Avoid trying to make it all things to all people”Limit the functionality to 1-2 primary functions. Don’t try to cram all of your programs and content into one app. Consider making multiple focused apps instead.Here is the rest of the list for the notes: Define the goal and how you want to achieve it first.Engage your community and target audience early.Consider convening an advisory board of people from your audience and beneficiaries.Avoid trying to make it all things to all people.Don’t build a website in an appFor content apps, try Infinite Monkeys or similarBe aware of platform restrictionsListen to community (user) feedback
Here are a few resources to help you on your way.Search on native app vs. web app: http://venturebeat.com/2013/07/29/native-v-web-chart/Content/media app tools:Infinite Monkeys: http://fantastic4nonprofits.com/ Apps builder: http://www.apps-builder.com/en/featuresHTML 5 Website Tools: Wix: http://www.wix.com/Strikingly: https://www.strikingly.com/TechSoup’s collections of mobile and app-related content: http://www.techsoup.org/transforming-communities and http://www.techsoup.org/mobile-technology
Here are some notes on our partner in this endeavor. AidMatrix provided the Virtual Aid Drive, the link to the app developers and additional efforts in fundraising. They were the ones initially pushing us to expand the use for human trafficking. They have been an invaluable asset to the project.
SafeNight | Developing a Mobile App from Idea to Launch
APPS FROM IDEA TO
LAUNCH: CASE STUDY
Anna Jaeger, CTO, Caravan Studios,
a division of TechSoup Global
October 25, 2013
Case Study of SafeNight
Who Is TechSoup Global?
TechSoup Global is
working towards the day when every
nonprofit, library, and social benefit
organization on the planet has the
technology, knowledge, and resources
they need to operate at their full potential.
About Caravan Studios
Caravan Studios is a division of TechSoup Global.
We believe technology can intervene to solve
problems. We work with communities to design
responses to the issues about which they care the
most. We start with community and end with a
I am not an expert
Do you use mobile apps on a smart phone?
• I only read my email
Does your organization run web/app-based
projects internally, or do you work with a third party
• Internal Team
• Outsource IT
• We don‟t do web-based development
Is your organization planning to develop a mobile
• considering it
Defining the SafeNight App
SafeNight is a mobile service that
allows the community to respond to
urgent needs for shelter.
Why Are We Doing This Project?
• One in every four women will experience
domestic violence in her lifetime.
• An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of
physical assault by an intimate partner each year
• On September 12, 2012, In California alone:
• 2,975 survivors found refuge in emergency shelters or
• 792 more requests for housing went unmet
• Human Trafficking
• 300 people a day turned away from services in California
A Real Example
“A victim called because her husband, who
was on parole for assaulting her, violated the
no contact order. She saw her husband that
day sighting her with a rifle, and learned that
he had purchased a shotgun a few days
prior. He has threatened to show up at her
workplace to „come get her.‟”
Source: NNEDV 2011 California Summary
Questions to Ask at the Start
• What is the social benefit goal you‟re trying to
accomplish with your app?
• What does your community think of the idea?
• What kind of app: Native, hybrid, web app?
• Getting it built: In-house or third-party
• Do you have budget to maintain it once it is built?
Goals of SafeNight
1. Reduce incidents of domestic violence by
allowing more survivors to remove themselves
from the threat
2. Generating new sources of support and
capacity for the domestic violence sector
3. Capturing data to better serve women and
children in need
Engaging the Community
What Kind of App?
Name: Virtual Aid Drive™
Users: Shelters staff
Purpose: Send alerts,
Type: Mobile app
Purpose: Receive alerts,
Partnered with Aidmatrix, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit
• Deep experience with fundraising via Virtual Aid Drive
• Thorough knowledge of developing infrastructure to meet
the needs of nonprofits
• Technical experience building apps
• Microsoft Citizenship
• Blue Shield of California Foundation
• Vodafone Americas Foundation
Launching in the Marketplace
• Each app market is different
• Some allow Beta releases
• Expect 2-6 weeks of back and forth
• Expect to submit multiple releases before big marketing
Engaging Community: Our Pilot
• Geographically spread across California
• Urban, suburban, and rural shelters
• Have the staff capacity and skills to help
• Beta test mid-July to mid-August
• If all goes smoothly, pilot in Sept and Oct.
Lessons Learned & Pitfalls
• Goal of the project must be aligned with the
objectives of your organization
• Keep it simple
• Make it secure, if it needs to be
• Have your content copy-edited
• Have a marketing plan
• Budget to maintain it when phones upgrade
Tips, Resources, Best Practices
• Define the goal and how you want to achieve it first.
• Engage your community and target audience early.
• Consider convening an advisory board of people from
your audience and beneficiaries.
• Avoid trying to make it all things to all people.
• Don‟t build a website in an app
• For content apps, try Infinite Monkeys or similar
• Be aware of platform restrictions
• Listen to community (user) feedback
• Search on native app vs. web app:
• Content/media app tools:
• Infinite Monkeys: http://fantastic4nonprofits.com/
• Apps builder: http://www.apps-builder.com/en/features
• HTML 5 Website Tools:
• Wix: http://www.wix.com/
• Strikingly: https://www.strikingly.com/
• TechSoup‟s collections of mobile and app-related
• Aidmatrix is an international nonprofit sponsored by some of the
world’s leading corporations; offices in USA, India, Europe & Australia.
• We leverage innovative solutions from industry and apply them to the
nonprofit world of humanitarian relief.
• More than 50,000+ leading business, nonprofit and government
partners leverage our solutions to mobilize more than $1.5 billion in aid
annually, worldwide. The donated goods, money, and services impact
the lives of more than 65 million people.