Buzztouch™: Online vs. Offline Apps, Publishing & Maintaining Your App

Online Apps vs. Offline Apps and How it relates to Publishing Your App

(Foreword: this article is a consoldiation of several articles, and is in the process of being rewitten. Bear with me as I deleted duplicated bits & pieces. Hopefully the final product will be clearer and easier than the previous multiple articles.)

  • Overview
  • Connection to Buzztouch Control Panel
  • Online vs. Offline – Factors to consider
  • Interactive App Development
  • Initial Publication of App
  • Publishing Process
  • Phase One – App Creation, Initial Deployment thru Stabilization
  • Phase Two – Updating & Maintaining The Stabilized App
  • Issues with updating an Online app
  • The Source Code
  • Embedded Content
  • Links
  • Life-cycle of an Online app
  • Taking Your App Offline
  • Updating an Online App Published to iTunes App Store Market

Overview: As a Buzztouch app developer and/or publisher you need to understand the concept of Online apps vs. Offline apps, the BT_config.text file and how it all relates to publishing and updating your app. Buzztouch provides you with the ability to make your app Online or Offline. A Online app is an app that’s connected to an Online Config file (Usually the Buzztouch Control Panel, but could be Dropbox or a website). Hence, a Offline app is an app that has been disconnected from an online Config file. When your Buzztouch™ app is created by default it’s an Online app. That means the Report to Cloud URL and Configuration URL both have values in them (By default connecting the app to the control panel.) How you update an app will depend on various factors.

  • Online / Offline Status
  • Content being updated

Connection to Buzztouch Control Panel

I believe that only in unusual circumstances will you wish to take an app offline.

I believe the better process is to use a 3rd party (Dropbox) online Config file, and (very important part) initially publish the app using Dropbox as your online Config file location.

Understanding Online vs. Offline apps, is an extensive explanation by @GoNorthWest of how the Refresh process works and how online vs. offline apps behave and how it is related to the Data URL and Report To Cloud URL settings in your control panel and BT_config.txt file.

Online or Offline App? Once you understand this feature the next question is,  “Whether you should Publish your app as Online or Offline?” and “When to take your app Online or Offline.”

  • Various Factors to consider
    • The nature & design of the app
    • Skill of developer
    • Ease of updating (think iOS apps need approval)
    • Urgency & Frequency of Updates (think App Store approval with process lasting up to a week or more.)
    • Where the app is published (Android Market probably will not need as an extensive third-party approval process, therefore re-publishing is seamless.)
    • Business model (online purchasing, Android licensing, . . .)
    • Feasibility of having a duplicate app for testing / development?
    • Is it possible your app will have latent defects?
    • Life Stage of App?

Interactive App Development: When initially publishing the app, if the app is Online you can use interactive feature to help develope the app by having users post questions and suggestions that you can deploy immediately.  Have the users engage in game like competitions, earning points and climbing numbered levels winning bonus content. They can also receive non monetary awards. A new doctor’s website uses this interactive feature by awarding whimsically named prizes, like the “It’s Not Brain Surgery” prize.

Initial Publication of App: Even if you can or wish to have an Offline app you should consider initially publishing the app as an Online app so you can immediately fix overlooked and latent errors after upgrading the app. This is especially important if you don’t test over multiple devices by using an Ad Hoc method for testing. How many of us wish we could correct a post immediately after we post it. Can you deal with a week or more of complaints, refunds, uninstalls and bad ratings because you couldn’t immediately fix an oversight.

Publishing Process

Phase One – App Creation & Initial Deployment:

  • Create app in Buzztouch Control Panel
  • Download Source Code
  • Create Eclipse or Xcode Project
  • Make changes to Source Code
  • Install on device / Run on Virtual Device (Emulator, Simulator)
  • Add, Modify, Delete Screens using Control Panel
  • Install to multiple devices for testing (Ad Hoc Team)
  • Fix bugs, oversights
  • Update the Source Code Config file.
  • Publish/Export Online App
  • Consider using Interactive App Development Features
  • Republish App with bugs and oversight fixes
  • Consider taking app Offline (Optional)
  • App is now Stabilized

Phase Two – Updating & Maintaince of Your Stabilized App:

  • If feasible, consider using a duplicate app to add and test new features. Create a separate test app where you develop and test the new features you want to provide before you publish them to the existing app.
  • If app is an Online app consider taking app Offline to deploy major update. By taking your app Offline you can make changes to dynamic content that the user will not see until you take the app back Online.
  • Add / Modify / Test new features as appropriate
  • Having an app Offline allows you to tweak the app, add content, experiment and make other changes without annoying the app’s users.
  • If app was/is Offlline, take app Online with updates to dynamic content
  • Return app to Orginial Phase Two State (Online or Offline)
  • Repeat as Necessary
  • Monitor user suggestions, complaints, fix bugs, oversights, misspellings (If Online you can immediately fix dynamic content without needing to re-publish.)
  • Publish updates to appropriate app store as needed

Issues with updating an Online app (on iTunes or Android Market):

  • Updating an Online App Published to iTunes App Store Market
  • Option #1: Submit update to app store, wait for approval & publish update. (Repeat as necessary)
  • Option #2: Submit app with pre-deployed content. By submitting an update to the App Store with pre-deployed content you can obtain pre-approval to changes to the app’s static content without the delay of the approval process at the time of the update.
    • After update is approved and published the app user will still not see any changes.
    • After the update is published implement changes via the control panel.
    • You may wish to temporarily take app off-line but it’s not necessary.
    • Next time user opens the app, the app will update to latest version of content.
    • This way you can make changes to non-dynamic content to online apps after the changes have been approved and been published.
    • You made need to explain to the Apple/Google reviewer why there’s an update, but by apparent review there no difference.

Buzztouch app are updated by three methods, each method has its unique characteristics:

  • Published Update (export .apk or .ipa)
  • Update dynamic content via changes in the Control Panel
  • Updates to Web Content

The .apk (Android) and .ipa (iOS) are zip files that contain the content and programing of your app. The zip files contains three basic elements:

  1. Source Code
  2. Embedded Content
  3. Links (URLs)

The Source Code (manifest, config.txt file, HTML, CSS, . . .)

Embedded Content consists of image, Word, PDF, PowerPoint, Excel files, HTML docs and more)

Links (to websites, to PDF, Word, PDF, PowerPoint, Excel files, HTML docs, YouTube links, mp3 files and more)

When the Source Code is downloaded among other files created is the BT_config.txt file. The BT_config.txt file is a snapshot of the info in the Buzztouch Control Panel. Unless you modify the BT_config.txt file this snapshot is what

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