This is a guest post by Mary Beth Griggs.
Scienceline’s editorial team spent the summer building an iPad app. Here’s how, and why we did it.
Ah Summer vacation. A time for relaxing at the beach, grilling at backyard barbeques, lounging by the pool … and, if you happen to be a Scienceline editor, spending insane hours developing an iPad app.
Scienceline’s first iPad app hits the iTunes store today, the polished product of project driven entirely by students at NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP).
The motto of Scienceline is "the shortest distance between you and science." Since Scienceline’s founding in 2005, each new class of editors has worked tirelessly to make the site bigger and better. Previous editors have written features, added blogs, podcasts, infographics, slideshows and videos. We decided to make an iPad app.
Working in a web format is flexible and forgiving for whatever types of new experiments that we want to try. But the web rarely gives us the ability to curate our stories in the way a print magazine would. Online, we’ve tried to overcome that hurdle by publishing groups of linked stories on special occasions like the invented Alcoholiday last winter and our Fourth-of-July spectacular just a few months ago, but it’s not the same as creating a packaged experience for our readers. With the iPad, we could do just that.
The iPad format also lends itself especially well to science content. It allows us to incorporate more and more visual elements into our work, which can be an incredible advantage in explaining scientific concepts that can come across as dry or complicated in the written word.
So when you download the app at the iTunes store, you’ll find a whole bunch of our best stories, along with tons of bonus features like videos, slideshows, timelines, podcasts, animation and more. It’s like a Scienceline magazine on steroids.
To make this killer app we faced some pretty big hurdles. Like the fact that only one person in our class actually owns an iPad, and only a few of us had ever even used one. We spent the first meetings watching YouTube videos of people using professionally developed apps, and mooched extensively off the one classmate who actually had the device.
We worked on the app in our spare time, spending hours after our internships holed up in classrooms and at each other’s houses fiddling with software, and fighting long exasperating battles with uncooperative wi-fi networks.
And we had no professional or professorial supervision, though we would be remiss if we didn’t express our profound thanks to everyone at Mag+, especially Mike Haney for donating the platform and answering our incessant questions, and Anders Odevik and Sara Cederburg Glaser, who were there in our darkest hours when we were besieged by technical difficulties.
So while it might not be the most high-tech, innovative app out there, we all learned a lot doing it, and are very proud of the end result. We are thrilled to invite you all to explore our favorite stories in an entirely new way. We’ve incorporated animations, timelines, slideshows, and infographics into stories that span the scientific spectrum from brewing beer to looking for life Mars, and everything in between.
And best of all, it’s completely free* to download, so give it a try! We hope you like it.
* The app is entirely free, but if you feel moved to donate, you are welcome to contribute to the SHERP scholarship fund, which will provide funds to the next generation of SHERP students.
(We’d also love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the app as well. Email questions, comments and anything else to us at email@example.com)