Apple development problems.

Despite numerous emails directly to apple and posts on their forum, I am still along with thousands of other s in a position where I am unable to access my certificates and thus I cannot get my app onto the uni iPad.  There has been some movement though, I eventually received an email saying:

“We sincerely appreciate your patience as we work to bring our developer program services back online, and we want to give you an update on our progress. The majority of our developer services are currently online, including Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles, Dev Centers, software downloads, Videos, Apple Developer Forums, iTunes Connect, Bug Reporter, App Store Resource Center, and access to pre-release documentation.

We plan to reinstate most of the remaining services this week: Xcode automatic configuration as well as access to license agreements, TSIs, program enrollments, and renewals in Member Center. You can check the availability of these systems on our status page. ”

This indicates that I might be able to get my app ready for our exhibition on time but I am not getting my hopes up, as they previously announced that everything was working when in fact that was not the case. Fingers crossed!

The Great Map Problem

Since quite early on in this project, I have had the desire to add an interactive map i.e. Google maps into my application, to be used in two different specific ways.  The first of which was to be a map which allows users to attempt to locate places with Viking names (i.e. ending in ‘by’, ‘thorpe’ or ‘thwaite’) near the city of York, which was an area of England that was densely populated by Vikings during the Viking age.

The second was a map showing the location of museums related to Viking heritage.  So users could then take their knowledge of the Vikings and any interest in the subject, from the application outwards into the wider world to investigate further.

My original plan was to incorporate Google maps, as I have prior experience of working with the Google maps API in my Hull History Viewer application.  Unfortunately a potential problem arose when it was announced that the Google maps API for Adobe Flash was been depreciated.

After searching for alternative map options, I noticed that a lot of people where recommending MapQuest as potential solution to the loss of Google maps for Flash.  I had a quick look at the MapQuest website and it seemed ideal; it said it had a Flash maps API and it uses the term Flash maps repeatedly across the website , so rather stupidly I bookmarked the site to come back to at a later time when I was ready to develop the section where the maps would be featured.  Recently that time arrived and I revisited the site in question, only to find out that all was not as it seemed.  On closer inspection, MapQuest is designed to be used within a piece of software called Adobe Flash Builder (formally Flex builder) and this is not the same software that I am using for my project, I am using Adobe Flash Professional which may sound like it does the same but that is not the case.

So what is the difference between Adobe Flash and Adobe Flash builder?

A good description has been provided by an individual going by the name of “heavilyinvolved” in answer to this question on the Stack Overflow website:

“Flash Professional doesn’t “do” what Flash Builder “does” (or vice versa)… however, there is some minor crossover in that they are both tools that enable designers/developers to compile swf’s.”

Both pieces of software have advantages in differing scenarios but the problem is that they are not really compatible, so ultimately the possibility of using a MapQuest map in my application was looking increasingly unlikely.  I contacted MapQuest directly to ask if there was an appropriate option that I could use within their product range.  In reply I was informed that “Most of our sample code for the MapQuest Platform is for flex” but I was directed towards the link below:

http://developer.mapquest.com/content/as/v/mq/samples/samplesexplorer/index.html#

Unfortunately, despite there been a basic source code available on the MapQuest website for a “Flash map”, it is not the mobile version that incorporates the mobile functionality that people are used to using and expect to use on mobile devices.  This makes it not ideal for my app but with little other choice I decided to give it a go but unfortunately I have been unable to get it to work.  There are lots of tutorials and information available for the Adobe Flash Builder version but not for the Adobe Flash Professional version and I cannot find a solution to my problems, despite posting on forums and contacting MapQuest directly.

With the option of using MapQuest maps within my application now not looking like a feasible possibility, I decided to turn my attention back to Google Maps.  This once again was not a long term solution due to its deprecation but as a short term possibility for my hand-in and exhibition I though this may be the answer but alas again my progress was halted due to a difference between Adobe Air for Android and Adobe Air for ios.  Most functionality crosses both platforms but there is a problem with displaying Google Maps for ios

I have been unable to resolve this problem as well and unfortunately I have decided that this is now not a practical resolution to my map problems.

I have been searching for another solution to the “The Great Map Problem” but unfortunately I have reached a point where I need to concentrate on other things, in order to have a presentable application for my hand-in and exhibition.  I have not given up hope of adding these features to my application and this is beauty of the medium I am working in; my app can be released without these features, with the potential to be added at a later date via an automatic update, should I find a solution.  The updateable nature of the medium means that all aspects of my app can be changed in various ways, to incorporate new content, fix possible problems and improve aesthetics and functionality, in the event of new or improved skills, knowledge and ideas.

One issue that does concern me is the wave of momentum to move away from flash based technologies in favour of a move towards technologies such as HTML5 and Javascript, although I have a knowledge of these technologies, my preferred medium is Adobe Flash and Actionscript 3. I like the visual nature of the interface and the animation functionality, it suits me and the way I like to work and although I am relatively new to my practice I am in danger of becoming outdated in the near future, if recent developments are indications of the future.

As a new media practitioner there is a requirement for me to evolve and keep up with current technologies and one of my priorities upon the completion of my master’s study is to investigate, learn and re-enforce other methods of development such as HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript.  Due to my recent iMac purchase, I can now also attempt ios native development using Apples Xcode software, in order to have more ways to be creative in my future endeavours.

Although it is extremely frustrating and disappointing to not be able to incorporate all the features that I have desired within my application as yet; there is still a possibility that they will be incorporated at some point in the future and I will do my best to try and make sure that my creative visions become a reality.

 

Viking Burial

Image

As part of the Viking beliefs section of my application, I explain what Vikings believed in regarding death.  I explain how it was a Viking tradition to bury some people in their boats, alongside some of their belongings and their favourite things.  Below is a mood board and the imagery that I created for my application.

viking_burial_mood_board

burial_boat

Creating the Creatures of Vikings Belief

As with the Viking gods I have been able to operate under a rather substantial amount of artistic licence in my representations of the creatures that Vikings believed in.

Vikings believed that there were nine worlds connected by the ash tree yggdrasill.  Each world was home to its own inhabitants and Vikings told many stories featuring these (as far as I know) fictional beings.  See my mood board and representation of the map of yggdrasill and the nine worlds below:

My artwork once again is based upon written descriptions and pre-existing visual representations of the creatures in question.

Below are my mood boards and visual creations, alongside some of the reasoning for my creative decisions.

Giants 

Giants or Jötunn’s as the Vikings called them, were very big and strong.  They ate animals and fish because they lived in the world Jotunheim.  I decided to keep my giants very similar to humans, just bigger but I have given my giant big ears as a fond reflection of a favourite childhood story of mine, Roahl Dahl’s ‘BFG’, illustrated by Quentin Blake.

giants-mood-board

giant

Dark Elves

Dark Elves were ugly, tricky creatures who lived underground and liked to cause problems for humans.  Due to living underground my elves are pale skinned and I have tried to capture their mischievous essence in my drawing but whether or not I have succeeded is open to the interpretation of the viewer.

dark-elves-mood-board

dark_elf

Light Elves

Light Elves were considered to be like “angels” by the Vikings, they were beautiful creatures who inspired music and art.  I have tried to make my light elf similar to my dark elf, in order to see the connection that they are both elves but I have given my light elf  a skin tone that is more reflective of somebody who lives above ground and I have dressed him in a more elegant manor.

light-elves-mood-board

light_elf

Ogres

Ogres were large, monstrous creatures; the Vikings thought they were nasty, strong and dangerous beings who would kill and eat people.  I have created my ogre to look dangerous and grotesque, with a large belly to show that he is capable of consuming a person.

ogre_mood_board

ogre

Dwarfs

Dwarfs were small with oddly shaped bodies, they lived under the ground in the world of Nidavellir. Dwarfs were very good at making things out of metal. I have created a small person with a body shape that is similar to people who have the medical condition dwarfism, as I believe this mythical creature is probably derived from a misunderstanding of people who suffer this condition.  In Viking myths, dwarfs are skilled metal workers which I have tried to display in my drawing, through the characters decorated armour and weapons.

dwarfs-mood-board

dwarf_01

Sea Serpents

Sea serpents were giant monsters that the Vikings believed lived in the sea.  My sea serpent is based on the traditional depiction of a long, snake like dragon creature that lives in the sea.

sea-serpents-mood-board

sea_serpent

Below is a video of this section from within the application.

Improving my navigation

I have been aware of an issue with my current navigation system for a while and I have had a plan in mind to deal with it, so over the past couple of days I have implemented my plan.

So let’s start with the problem, my current navigation has a relationship between the bottom layer of buttons and the top layer and up until now that has not been entirely evident.  In other words the bottom layer of buttons is the primary navigation and in effect the top buttons are the secondary sub layer.  This allows me to have 15 different buttons available to the user but with only seven buttons on the screen at one time, so making better use of the available space.

There are many different menu systems being developed across both mobile and other digital technology systems that try to make the best use of visual space, include sliding menus, menus that open and close and menus that spin but for the reasons I explained in a previous blog (see here)

I still stick by those choices but improvements were needed to create a better overall user experience.

The image below shows the problem with the current navigational menu.

problem-with-old-navigation

To make the relationship between these different layers of buttons more apparent, I have colour coded the sections, so the user can see that by pressing the bottom blue button it opens a full top layer of blue buttons and the same for the red and green buttons.

See image below:

colour_coded_navigation

Another issue with the old navigation was that it was not always evident to the user how the current page relates to the navigation, although there was visual feedback in the form of a screen heading, see image below:

current_page_header

Within the new menu, I have improved the level of visual feedback regarding the current page by adding a gold border that appears around the current screen button, so re-enforcing the existing header title feedback, see image below:

current_button_marker

There has been another issue with the old menu that I have been struggling to make a decision on and that is typeface.  It has been apparent to me for a while and it has also been pointed out to me that my application may have too many typefaces and in particular the difference in typeface between the sans serif used within the main text and the serif typeface used within the navigational elements.  The typefaces in question are the devices default sans serif and serif fonts because embedding typefaces would slow the application down too much.

Making the decision between changing the main document text to a serif typeface and changing the navigation to a sans serif has been difficult.  Although arguments can be made about whether children find it easier to read one over the other, children’s applications tend to feature sans serif typeface as explained by Catalina Naranjo-Bock:

“While research studies have expressed divergent findings about differences in children’s ability to read serif or sans serif typefaces, [2] [3] it is common practice to use sans serif fonts in applications for children, because of their fresh look and simplicity.”

http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2011/06/effective-use-of-typography-in-applications-for-children-3.php

This article does explain that there are some exceptions to this common practice but I cannot help but feel that these exceptions have been made for the same visual reasons that are making me want to use serif fonts across my entire application but this desire for aesthetic value needs to be weighed against the practical nature of a typeface style, that as described may or may not be easier to read but has become a design convention for applications aimed at children.  Ultimately I have opted to change the navigation typeface to the devices default sans serif, see the image below:

old_new_typeface

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A more visually biased designer, may have opted for a style over substance approached but once again I have been swayed by my practical bias in terms of a solution that I feel will be easier for the user to read but unfortunately it does not fit as well with the visual style of my application.  This was one of those situations where neither conclusion would have left me 100% happy but I have made a decision based upon logical reasons, a decision that I can live with.

[2] Walker, S. Reynolds, L. Robson, N. Guggi, N. et al. “Typefaces.”Typographic Design for Children. Retrieved May 31, 2011.

[3, 4] Bernard, M. Mills, M. Frank, T. & McKown, J. “Which Fonts Do Children Prefer to Read Online?” Software Usability Research Laboratory, Wichita State University. Usability News, January 2001, Volume 3, Issue 1. Retrieved May 31, 2011

Viking Women

As part of the How Did They Live section of my application, a description of the role Viking women played in everyday life is delivered. I have created a visual scene to reinforce the information provided within the text; my scene depicts a female Viking character in a Viking house undertaking two of the general everyday tasks described in the text. My scene shows a Viking woman cooking and then the scene shifts focus towards the Viking loom featured in the view where my character can then be seen weaving.
See the video below:

How Did They Live

Today I have been developing imagery for the How Did They Live section of my application, within the text in this section there is a description that explains that most Vikings knew how to fight.  It also explains that Vikings took dishonour very seriously and insults could lead towards blood feuds ending in death, especially when it came to defending the honour of their family, so I have chosen to illustrate this part of the application with an image of two Vikings fighting, the reason for their fight is illustrated by two speech bubbles showing a dialogue in which one Viking insults the others wife and the other Viking responds with a threat to kill, this will hopefully illustrate in imagery the message that is been delivered in the text, supporting and reinforcing the delivery of information to the user.

I have tried to take advantage of the medium by using a simply fade in and out animation of each Vikings discourse, to show the interaction between the two characters as an exchange.  I could have tried to create an actual fighting animation but my animation skills are not at that level and I do not believe I would have been able to do it justice visually; a full fighting animation may also have slowed the application down.  I believe the visual illustration I have created although quite simple is effective and fulfils the purpose for which it is intended.

See the video below: