Steve Jobs said that and it’s repeated by the people who recognize how much important is building apps as much nice as user-friendly.
And it was the theme of my presentation as “visiting lecturer” at the Augmented Reality & Mobile Experience course held by Prof. Spallazzo at the Design Department of the Polytechnic University of Milan.
Generally speaking, designer and developer are two very different kinds of people, both in terms of education and personal tastes.
These differences often cause communication obstacles when they have to work together, for example to make an app for mobile devices.
So, in the first part of the lecture I talked about the best practices the two figures should follow, since knowing some details of how one works helps communicating better with the other.
In the second part I briefly showed the tools used by developers to make apps for the three main platforms: Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone.
No, I’m not a fan of any of the three operative systems!
As I told the students, “I just can’t, as a professional”, but I started from iOS because in my experience it’s the ecosystem in which design and code are aspects historically treated with the same importance.
Being a class with a focus on technology applied to cultural heritage, I closed the lecture talking about the project Rationalism in the Province of Como.
Who better than rationalist architects did know how to use the rule of the golden mean, nowadays evident in the user interface design of iOS 7 and Windows Phone?
Thanks to Prof. Spallazzo for the invitation. Given the interest in this matter, together we hope to organize a course about app design and development.
Meanwhile, the presentation (italian only) I made for the lecture is available on SlideShare.
Palazzo Vecchio in Florence has been the ideal setting to host for the first time in Italy the international conference Museums and the Web, organized yearly in the USA and dedicated to the relationship between technology and cultural places.
For me it was the chance to reconnect with “old” colleagues and meet new ones.
These are the three key points on which I’d like to focus, among the numerous matters discussed by the speakers during the three days-conference:
- metrics: Robert Stein, Director of the Dallas Museum of Art (500.000 visitors per year), shared some very interesting metrics he used to measure and evaluate the initiatives of his institution. That’s a good practice we Italians aren’t quite used to: measuring the results of a project and planning the next steps according to that data.
- live-tweeting: it was surprisingly useful during the presentations, since it helped me focus on the key-points, especially if the speaker didn’t have an effective presentation style. You have to be trained to be able to listen, synthetize and tweet properly, so thanks to BAM! Strategie Culturali, #svegliamuseo, flod republic and other bloggers.
- gamification: it’s a hot topic, trendy I’d say, but it has to be treated carefully in my opinion. As a provocation, I’d like to recommend speakers to not talk about gamification in conferences about digital storytelling if they haven’t a line like “I play videogames from the beginning to the end” on their CV!
Taking “just a peek” at an storytelling-based game it’s like listening to the beginning of a story and never knowing how it will end, if you know what I mean.
The rest of my personal thoughts are in the captions of the photos I posted in the gallery dedicated to #MWF2014.
I also showed the work we did for the project Rationalism in the Province of Como in the demonstration area inside Palazzo Vecchio.
Someone told me that he liked it because the app looked more “emotional” compared to other solutions, since it generated empathy and involvement.
And if an french expert in the field tells you that, in english, I think it’s a quite valuable appreciation!
The podcast of the project Rationalism in the Province of Como is online!
The podcast includes 33 audio files in Mp3 format produced until now for the project aimed to promote the main points of interest of Rationalist architecture in the area of Como, Cernobbio and Tremezzo.
You can now download for free and listen to the 11 points of interests, described in three languages (italian, english and german) by the speakers Luca Grandelis, Garth Kennedy and Birgit Röhricht, on any computer or portable player.
The Mp3s of the podcast have a better quality compared to the ones made for the app, available for iPhone and iPad since september 2013. The file size is actually about twice.
This should grant a better listeing experience to all podcast lovers.
I use the Podcast app made by Apple to manage the subscriptions to my favorite podcasts, but there are many other applications for PC and Mac to do it.
The Feedburner web interface, for example, is more than enough for that:
The podcast is also available on iTunes, in the “Society & Culture > Places & Travel” category.
To quickly find it and subscribe, just search for the word “rationalism” in the iTunes search field.
Soon we’ll also add 3 new contents: the headquarters of the Unione Lavoratori dell’Industria, the Canottieri Lario and the House of Balilla with the adjoining Sinigaglia Stadium.
Listening to a podcast is like listening to a radio broadcast: you can do other things while listening, such as working on your PC, traveling, jogging, cooking, or whatever comes to your mind.
In this case the best experience is walking in Como, Cernobbio or in the Tremezzo area, among the rationalist buildings described in the digital tour.
Architecture has to be lived in!
That’s what some architects who helped enriching the contents of the app Rationalism in the Province of Como told me.
You have to be in front of, or inside, rationalist buildings to appreciate spaces, volumes, colors, and notice the numerous details: from staircases to furniture.
And that’s what I actually did, first with inspections during the contents production phase, and then again these days to test the geolocation and geofencing features added in version 1.61, today available on the App Store.
To test it, I walked and rode on my Vespa around the town of Como, a real “open-air museum” of rationalist architecture.
Geolocation allows to track your position on the offline maps, while geofencing (a sort of virtual geographic fence) allows to get a notification when you’re 80-100 meters from a point of interest, even when the app is in background.
When the app is in background, a “hollow” arrow icon in the status bar indicates that geofencing is active.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t waste battery: Apple engineers optimized this feature at best.
Also, with iOS 7 geolocation works very well even with devices without an integrated GPS receiver.
A database of Wi-Fi access points is actually used to determine the location of your device.
The new version was demonstrated on the field during an interview by QuiComo, the daily online news website of Como.
Previously, I had the chance to talk about the project during the daily feature of Espansione TV, Angoli (corners): a pretty appropriate name to talk about rationalist buildings, the Novocomum in particular, the first of its kind built in Como and designed by the architect Giuseppe Terragni.
This video has english and italian captions: you can activate them by clicking on the icon in the lower right of the video frame.
Hotel managers and professionals often debate about initiatives aimed at de-seasoning the tourist flow in the town and on Lake Como, currently mainly focused during the “nice” season.
So, now being able to visit the open-air museum of Rationalism in Como with an app describing the buildings, with no entrance ticket, is actually a good chance to do it in any season, don’t you think?
With the addition of 8 new 2 Euro commemorative coins, the series issued in 2013 is completed.
Personally, I’m eagerly waiting for the coin dedicated to Giovanni Boccaccio, the italian author I studied with pleasure at lyceum.
There are also other interesting commemoratives to collect, such as the one issued by San Marino and dedicated to the italian painter Pinturicchio, a worthy substitute of the coin dedicated to John F. Kennedy, announced at the beginning of the year.
As required by some collectors, a Coin Card parameter has been added to filter your coins.
The Coin Card format is getting pretty popular, in particular for 2 Euro commemoratives.
This update retains the design of the previous versions, but a completely new one is already in the works.
It will be a full-flat design, according to the style introduced by Apple with iOS 7 and that will last for a long time, I think, since it combines in the best way simplicity, clarity and transparency: essential concepts to be able to use smartphones and tablets on the go.
Follow the Facebook page of the app to take a peek of the new style in the next weeks.
Since today, the app Rationalism in the Province of Como speaks german!
Subtitles in german for the english and italian audio have also been added.
This is an exclusive feature of the app, useful if you want to improve your proficiency in a language.
Personally, over the years I improved my english a lot by watching movies or by playing narrative videogames with original audio and subtitles in italian or english.
In the app, the translation of the subtitles isn’t literal, since we obviously gave priority to a fluid text for each of the three languages, but following them on the screen is pretty easy since they’re in sync with the audio track.
It will be useful to whoever will use the app from the comfort of their home couch, which means the vast majority of the users that will download it.
But why version 1.6, instead of 1.1?
It’s a curiosity you probably noticed if you have an eye for detail, maybe by viewing the slide of the presentation in which the next steps of the project are listed.
The version number will follow the golden ratio, phi, which is 1.618…
It’s a special number, knowned since ancient times.
In mathematics it’s the irrational number to which the ratio between two consecutive numbers of the Fibonacci series leads to, while in nature it’s present in a number of ratios, such as for example the ratio between the spires of a shell.
In arts, as well as in architecture, it always represented ideal proportions, the “beauty” in general.
Even in the app you can find it in different forms, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, but never needlessly.
For example in the design of icons, in the spacing between elements of the user interface, or even in the lenght of the audio pause between a section and the next.
If something sounds good or looks nice and in harmony with what surrounds it, it’s thanks to phi, as rationalist architects also knew very well.
Regardless of subtitles or the version number, you’ll get the best experience when in front of, or inside, the rationalist building described.
So, I invite you to do it when you’ll get the chance: you’ll be welcome in Como, Cernobbio or in the Tremezzo area!
Visiting both the town of Como and the places in the Tremezzo area takes some days of stay: could this be a good incentive for the slow tourism, opposed to the hit and run phenomenon?
The app Rationalism in the Province of Como is today available on the App Store.
It’s the result of months of work, together with numerous collaborators, promoted and coordinated by the Culture Department of the Province of Como, the public authority administering the west branch of Lake Como.
It’s a multimedia tour about rationalist architecture in the Lake Como area, from Como to Cernobbio and Tremezzo.
The points of interests include the most renowned buildings designed by the architects Giuseppe Terragni, Cesare Cattaneo and Pietro Lingeri.
Is this yet another info-guide app? Or yet another audio-guide app?
Not at all!
The design concept is probably the most interesting aspect for fellow developers: I wanted to make an app that could be an “holistic” combination between these two different app types, info-guides and audio-guides.
A combination in which the end result were higher than the algebraic sum of the single parts.
Let’s start from the audio, the real core of the app.
After we completed the script, written in a simple and easy to understand language, I hired three professional storytellers who managed to literally “give life” to the contents with their voices.
Luca Grandelis is the italian storyteller, while Garth Kennedy took care of the english language.
Luca is a well-known voice-talent, while Garth is also an artist, an abstract mechanical sculptor.
German language will be soon added in the next update, thanks to the voice-talent from Berlin Birgit Röhricht.
Then there’s the interface, designed keeping in mind the keywords of iOS 7: clarity and transparency.
Experts of mobile technologies applied to education love to repeat the mantra “content is king“.
Well, I agree, but if “content is king“, let me add “software is queen“.
Quality contents are often negatively affected by mediocre software that should manage and present it to the user.
The work made in this direction will have its judge in users’ comments: if they’ll concentrate on the contents, it will mean that the software is actually “transparent” and the result optimal.
The app will be officially presented on sunday 29 september, at the Antiquarium of Ossuccio, in the Tremezzo area of Lake Como, and it will be one of the many events organized for the European Heritage Days 2013.
It will be the chance to shake hands with the people who collaborated on the project.
Although there isn’t a single pixel, word or line of code that didn’t pass under my eyes – and this includes the responsibility for eventual bugs -, this work wouldn’t have been possible without them.
So, the combination between mobile technologies and cultural heritage could really work?
I believe so, and I think it’s the only way out of the tunnel of the economic and social crisis the Belpaese has fallen into for too many years…
Also, the educational effects of this app can be measured in the medium term.
Many communication experts agree on the fact the we tend to overestimate initiatives like this one in the short term, due to their “novelty” character, while we underestimate the impact in the medium and long term.
A litmus test could be this: let’s count how many people of Como (but not only them!) think today that the Camerlata fountain was inspired by Volta’s battery.
Then let’s count them in a 5 years’ time… and maybe a good chunk of them, thanks to the app, will remember that it’s actually a sort of futuristic monument to the traffic!
The news doesn’t end here, as I’ll reveal during the presentation.
Meanwhile, have a nice listening and vision of the app Rationalism in the Province of Como!
Three “miracles” have happened this summer in Como, as Piercesare Bordoli, president of the Famiglia Comasca association, said:
the reopening (although temporary) of a section of the lakefront walkway, after a long closure due to works for anti-flooding bulkheads, the restoration of the historic steamer Patria, and the redevelopment of the arena of the Teatro Sociale, the area on the back side of the theater previously used as a parking.
Small steps in the direction of a town that really cares about tourists and its citizens?
Maybe… in my small way – and with due proportions, since the three “miracles” involved a number of public and private institutions, and millions of Euros – I hope the latest update of the app dedicated to the gardens of Lake Como will be another step in the same direction.
A nice and updated app about the garden-villas of Lake Como, can be another good welcome card to encourage tourists spending pleasant days in this magic land.
It’s a mostly technical update.
The app now includes hi-res graphics for the Retina display of 3rd and 4th generation iPads, supports the 4-inch display of the iPhone 5, and also supports the landscape orientation.
Even the sharing of your favorite gardens via Facebook e Twitter has been improved, using the native APIs introduced in iOS 5 and 6.
The app is faster and more responsive, the scrolling animations more pleasant, and the overall look slightly improved.
Apple enthusiasts know very well that iOS 7 will be released shortly, and the app is already compliant with it from a design point of view, thanks to a “flat” user interface style and consistent colors.
Curious about the update?
Download the app Gardens of Lake Como – west branch from the App Store!
The Mac version of Euro Coin Collection is today on the Mac App Store!
The new app has all the features of the iPad and iPhone versions, with the advantage to be able to view all the virtual album at a glance on a 27 inch iMac.
You’ll need OS X Snow Leopard to run the app, while Lion or Mountain Lion are required to use iCloud features and Facebook or Twitter sharing.
The app has also been enhanced for the MacBook Pro with Retina display.
At the same time the apps for iPhone and iPad have been updated to versions 1.6.1 e 1.2.1.
The 2 Euro commemorative coin that Monaco will issue in december to celebrate the “20 years since the UN Accession” has been added.
There’s also a new “bounce effect” added to scrolling UI elements, an effect related to the “inertial scrolling” that makes user experience on iOS devices so smooth and pleasant, elaborated by the dutch designer Bas Ording.
If you read the Steve Jobs biography you’ll remember the episode in which Jobs met the designer in the lobby of Apple headquarters and he hired him on the fly after viewing a brief demo of Bas’ ideas to improve OS X user interface.
Bas is still at Apple and they’re going great in my opinion: the recent presentation of iOS 7 is a clear demonstration of the continuous innovation process pursued by the Cupertino-based company.
Enjoy the Mac version and the “bouncing” album!
14 new 2 Euro commemoratives 2013 have been added, some of them already issued while others announced for the second half of the year.
2013 was going to be an interesting year for collectors of Euro coins, since many countries announced the issue of two different series of 2 Euro commemoratives, but it became even more interesting due to Benedict XVI’s historic resignation.
Vatican recently issued a 2 Euro commemorative coin for the Sede Vacante MMXIII, included in this update, and at later date the italian Mint will also issue new Euros with Pope Francesco‘s effigy.
Another new feature added to both versions of the app are the country initials on flag icons: it may seem trivial, but it was suggested by a number of collectors since associating flags to each of the 20 Euro-area countries isn’t that easy at the beginning.
A Mac OSX version of the application was already announced a few months ago and it will soon be available on Mac App Store.
I’m completing tests and, most of all, I find very handy the synchronization of the collection via iCloud with all my mobile devices “made by Apple“, or better “designed by Apple in California“.
Collectors using an iMac, MacBook or Mac mini can’t miss it!