Designing An iPhone App: Instructional Design Guru
I’m happy to announce that Instructional Design Guru, my new reference and performance support app for instructional designers, is now available for the iPhone. It defines over 460 terms associated with learning experience design, drawn from the fields of instructional design, cognitive psychology, social media, multimedia, technology and law.
The inspiration for this occurred one day when I was writing a design document and needed a verb for a learning objective from Bloom’s taxonomy. Feeling lazy, it seemed as though it would be so easy to just look up the taxonomy on my mobile device. I went to iTunes and couldn’t find any app like this. Not even close.
That’s when I decided I would personally define some of the most important terms and theories in our field and invest in a programmer to turn it into a native iPhone app.
Many Fanatical Months Later
The only problem with this idea was that my list of terms became an obsession. Every time I heard, thought, read or dreamed of a term related to learning and instructional design, I knew that it must be included in the app. I became devoted to hunting down every term someone in our field might ever want defined.
“What if someone is looking for photos and doesn’t know what a Creative Commons License is? Yes! I’ll add legal terms! What if someone doesn’t know that PNG files have a transparency channel? Yes! Multimedia terms!”
And so on. Around 460 terms and several bleary-eyed months later, I knew it was time to stop. My family convinced me that I could add more terms in an update. One thing to remember when you’re working on an app, is that you can provide updates in the future, which allows for a phased approach to design.
Designing a Simple Concept
They say it’s best for an app to focus on one thing. My idea was to create a reference tool—defining both common and confusing terms to learning experience designers and educators. But I couldn’t resist adding practical tips to some of the definitions. After all, I’ve been in this field for over 20 years. And I also decided to cross-reference associated terms with internal links (see picture below). Suddenly, the research, writing and design began to grow in complexity. During design, accept the fact that scope creep is bound to happen.
I also decided to organize the terms into categories so users could browse only the terms in a specific group. I thought this could make interesting reading while sitting in the waiting room at a dentist’s office. Finally, I added a search feature too—for obvious reasons.
As with all software development, there’s no way around extensive testing. It didn’t take me long to discover that with a reference tool, testing is grueling. It involved going through each item—in this case over 460 terms and definitions—several times. Two or three times to find the errors and then again to make sure each error was corrected. If you’re creating an app, leave lots of time in your schedule for testing.
In the End
I learned a lot about mobile design while working on my first app and I plan to share more of this with you in future articles. After all this work, I sincerely hope my app provides value to the practitioners and students who use it. And if there are terms you think I should add, please email them to me through the Contact form. And special thanks goes out to my editor, Hannah Durocher, for her excellent feedback. Some day, I’d like to publish this app for Android phones too. You can check out Instructional Design Guru in iTunes.