Tales of the PhoneGap Guy at the Apple Conference
I’ve been an Apple fan since I saw my first Mac at age 9. When Steve returned to Apple in ’97, and subsequently unveiled the first iMac at a keynote a year later, my love for Apple grew into full blown fanboyism. For the Apple fan a keynote is like Christmas morning. I’ve always wanted to attend one and last week I got my chance. I woke up at 2:30am and joined the 100-or-so people already in line, surprised to find other attendees so talkative and lively in the early hours of the morning. We were all like children, sleepless, anxious, and full of speculation for what the morning had in store.
The keynote line essentially became my first meet-up. I got to know the guys surrounding me pretty well as we sat together for the better part of 6 hours. While there was plenty of speculation on Apple’s next move, there was also a lot of impromptu app demos. This is one of the best things about working on a mobile product. At a moment’s notice you can demo the actual product for anyone. My answer to the inevitable question “What do you do?" became “If you have a minute I’d love to show you."
At first I had a healthy amount of apprehension about showing our app. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with our lean resources, but this is WWDC after all, and you never know who you're going to run into. The reaction from the very first screen is always the most telling. I started with a brief one-liner about what Nudge is, then launched straight into the dashboard. Our Dashboard, while still in its infancy, is the best place to sum up Nudge at a glance. More often than not I would get interrupted at this point as they would attempt to decipher the graph themselves. This was greatly affirming for two reasons. One, because everyone was basically right in their assessment, which means the design did its job. And two, because this screen was unique enough to elicit a response. For any artist or designer the worst response isn’t criticism, the worst response is indifference, and Nudge was proving to be unique enough to drive some conversations.
Somewhere between the Dashboard and the Log screen - our two most unique views - I would often get a question about implementation. How did you create that animation? How did you build this layout? Then the big reveal would come, “This is actually built in PhoneGap. Its all web code." For every ounce of apprehension I had about demoing in the first place, I had 10-fold that for talking about our “non-native" code. This was an Apple developer’s conference after all. But to my surprise the response was overwhelmingly positive. “This is the best PhoneGap app I’ve ever seen!" “Wow its very responsive, I would have never known." Waiting for a complement before dropping the PhoneGap bomb became part of my demo process and led to many great reactions.
There are many great reasons to attend WWDC - the aforementioned keynote, training sessions, one-on-one labs with Apple engineers - but chief among them is the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other designers and developers. I walked away feeling validated by the feedback and inspired by some of the amazing things other developers are working on. For those of us working on health-related apps, there was genuine excitement about the potential of HealthKit and the future of our industry. I might be remembered as that “crazy PhoneGap guy," but I’m just thrilled that our work was part of the larger conversation at WWDC.