For somebody like me with a slightly technophobic tendency this didn’t seem very credible. But that’s what we were told at the start of today’s session in how to create your own app using MIT app inventor. It is designed for people who want to develop apps without the need to learn a programming language. Our tutor Prof Eduardo Pellanda from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil made it sound so easy in today’s workshop at Beira’s Interior University in Portugal. This is their third Conference on Journalism and Mobile Devices. I am attending on behalf of XpoNorth, Scotland’s leading creative industries festival.
The answer is somewhere in between: Yes, with app inventor even someone like me will be able to build an app, but there still is a lot to learn. I guess it’s a bit like using WordPress. My chance of learning how to use it came when I broke an ankle and was housebound for two months.
App inventor offers you a list of components you can put into your app – a bit like a choice of Lego bricks. You can choose buttons, tick boxes and fields for images to name but a few. There even is a an option for artificial intelligence which can apparently recognise emotions. You can then adjust the layout, the font and so on. If you need help there are on-line tutorials like this one.
It’s obviously an amazing tool for freelance journalists as well. App inventor is free, whereas if you pay someone to design even a basic app for you, the price is likely to be from £12,000 upwards. On top of that you will be paying for maintenance costs. This is likely to be prohibitive, but now there is no reason you can’t create an app e.g. for hyperlocal news. Of course it still requires a good idea and business model in order to be viable.