Loclville is a free Windows* 8 app
that provides an easy-to-use virtual community notice board. Developed by
amateur app developer Zubair Lawrence, a Sr. Production Services Technician at
Sony Pictures Imageworks, the app began life as a web site and was subsequently redesigned for
the Intel-sponsored Windows*
8 & Ultrabook™ App Innovation Contest hosted by CodeProject
in fall 2012.
Visually inspired by classic cork pin boards, Loclville lets
anyone post notices without the need to register, with users moderating the
posts through a voting system. Central to the app’s functionality is the
ability to set the geographical size of the community users want to interact
with. The accessible design lets even the most reticent computer users easily
engage with their local community online.
running on Microsoft Surface*.
The Loclville app is now available on the Intel AppUp® center and
Store, optimized for Ultrabook™ devices running Windows 8, and is also
available for the Google
Android* and BlackBerry*
During development of Loclville, Lawrence collaborated with
the originator of the idea for the concept and execution of the app, and with a
graphic designer for the visual assets. Lawrence experienced numerous development
challenges, many of which he encountered for the first time, from how to
accurately manage the geo-localization inherent to the app’s core
functionality, to programming for a touch UI on Ultrabook and handheld devices.
Lawrence approached the
development of the app in two separate parts: the app side, which is the program
that users download and interact with, and the server side. Each part had its
own distinct development process.
language for the app as one of the core technologies (the other being CSS3) for
interactivity and animation in the HTML5 development environment. Based on this
decision, he was ultimately able to reuse significantly more of the code and
functionality from the web site than he originally thought possible, in
addition to being able to keep the server-side calls.
was able to deliver fast performance depending on how the code was written. Lawrence’s
justified, and he described it as one of the best choices he made.
During the coding of the original
web site, Lawrence relied heavily on AJAX, the collection of client-side web
applications. For app creation, AJAX delivered a number of efficiencies,
including the ability to reuse the web site code, particularly on the server
The app was designed with API calls for the different
features; for example, receiving posts or retrieving them from the drag-and-drop
pocket feature. With one call, the app serves up all the posts for the area
the app, which meant the app could more easily be completed within the project
Lawrence first considered building the app using PHP on a
Linux* server. However, concerns about scalability led him to experiment with,
and eventually choose, the Azure* platform from Microsoft. Azure provides
a virtual machine for each server, hence delivering a much more scalable server
configuration with as many virtual servers as needed spread out globally through
the platform’s distributed cloud solution. Windows Azure Mobile
Services was employed for the push notifications, with all the images
stored on the Windows
Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN).
To create the desktop app, Lawrence Initially experimented
with AppJS, the Intel AppUp encapsulator,
and TideSDK, finding the latter a bit too
complex and offering features he didn’t need. After these initial road tests, Lawrence
decided to use the Intel AppUp encapsulator to build the HTML5 app, finding it to
be an invaluable tool to quickly bring the app to the desktop.
Once the basic app was up and running, Lawrence discovered
that he required greater location support. To achieve this, Lawrence switched
to the AppJS solution, which offered the HTML5 geo-location features and the
Mac* and Linux support he needed.
Store and Desktop
Lawrence also made an early decision to develop
simultaneously for the Windows Store and for the desktop in order to maximize
the audience potential. Because of its association with Intel, Lawrence thinks the
Intel AppUp center gives consumers a higher degree of confidence in the apps,
with the extra testing helping to ensure the safety and security of content. In
addition, the fact that the Intel AppUp center is not restricted to only the
Windows 8 platform helped the app reach a much larger audience than it would
One of the most significant development challenges Lawrence faced
was ensuring the integrity of the individual user location data, which is critical
to the proper functioning of the app. Drawbacks with the Global Positioning
System (GPS) data alone include uncertainty over the age of the data—there is
always a possibility that the user is many miles from the location where the
last reading was taken—and whether the GPS was actually correctly locked on
when the data was read.
screen layout on mobile.
During the early stages of development, Lawrence noticed
inaccuracies in the location data, with data that were either imprecise or
showed multiple locations. To remedy this, Lawrence implemented a hybrid
process with which the app collects both GPS data from the devices itself and
IP address data. These readings automatically update throughout the user session
to ensure that positioning information is as accurate as possible and to guarantee
the useful functioning of the app’s key distance radius features.
When serving up posts based on a user’s specific location,
the server first receives a request for a post, and then compares the latitude
and longitude coordinates of the requester with the latitude and longitude of
the posts in the database. The posts within the defined radius are returned
Figure 1. Sample code used by the Loclville
app that establishes the distance between sets of latitude and longitude
Touch and UI
Because Lawrence had no prior experience implementing a
touch UI, understanding the different requirements related to menus, screen
size, button size, and positioning on-screen was challenging. Lawrence used a
responsive design approach, designing in such a way that the app or web site
provided an optimized viewing experience across a wide range of different
devices and screen sizes. Using this approach, Lawrence was able to ensure that
the app serves up the appropriate UI for the device it’s running on, delivering
a high level of legibility and straightforward navigation, with a minimum
amount of resizing, panning, and scrolling required from the user.
running responsively on a variety of different screen configurations.
To determine how the UI should respond, the app queries the
pixel size of the screen and the device itself, then uses
those conditions to decide how to draw the UI and adapt to
any changes. If the user rotates the screen of the device—for a tablet or
smartphone, for example—or if the web browser window is resized, the app
responds and adjusts the UI accordingly.
The original Loclville web site featured bold and simple
buttons and menus that helped facilitate a relatively straightforward
transition to smaller screens and touch controls. Tweaks were made to the drop-down
menus and some of the links in order to optimize them for touch. These
modifications included making buttons more finger-friendly by ensuring enough
separation between them to help prevent accidental presses.
Adapting to smaller screens also involved
repositioning some of the menus to make better use of the limited space
available. The Distance, Categories, and Post buttons were moved to a footer
menu, and posts were changed to be shown in a list view, making it possible to
show more in a smaller space. Because of the overall simplicity of the layout,
Lawrence decided against implementing any specific changes related to flipping
between portrait and landscape views on a phone or tablet. The overall result
of the optimizations is an app that is well adapted to multiple devices and screen
Another challenge that Lawrence faced was that he needed to make
the desktop version of the app, the Windows Store app had to meet code
compliance requirements, which meant porting the jQuery library to allow it to
work with the Windows Store version.
Figure 2 below shows the code implemented in the app for
Figure 2. Sample code from the Loclville app
for porting jQuery.
Beta testing the app was an informal process, conducted primarily
by collaborators, their friends, and by the users themselves. After each set of
changes, Lawrence released a new version of the code, and then proactively
gathered feedback from users regarding its functionality, usability, and bugs.
Lawrence said the testing was the most difficult part of the development
process, noting that users often behaved unpredictably when using the app, making
the testing both very important and challenging.
An example of unexpected behavior occurred when users were
asked to input their address, a vital piece of data for the proper functioning
of the app. Lawrence repeatedly saw an error stating that the app was unable to
find the address. He eventually realized that the input question was ambiguous,
causing users to enter their e-mail address, which naturally would not permit
the app to pinpoint their physical location. The implementation of automatic
geo-localization of the users using GPS and IP address data provided the
Lawrence used a touch screen Ultrabook device for testing to
ensure the integrity and proper functioning of the touch interface alongside
the traditional mouse and keyboard controls.
Feedback from reviews has also proved
useful on at least one occasion for identifying and fixing a bug, although
Lawrence has been frustrated by the one-way nature of the communication with
reviewers. The lack of ability to reply means there is no way to respond
directly to let a reviewer know that a bug he or she discovered has since been
To gather Loclville user behavior metrics, Lawrence
implemented the open-source analytics tool Piwik*, which gathers data including
the app version (for example, browser, Android, iOS*, or Windows 8), the user’s
city, whether the user clicks a post, the link clicked to leave the site, and
the session length. Lawrence also gathers his own data from the app, including
number of posts, user location, and growth and usage patterns.
Lawrence analyzes the data to determine where users are
coming from and then offers direct support to those within that locality by
creating specific posts, with the goal of helping users grow the community.
Some of the features that Lawrence is considering
implementing in the future include:
- Localization. Making the site available in
languages other than English, although which languages and when this
feature will be available have yet to be defined.
- Monetization. The ability to pay to post commercial
offers and information. This feature will be based on the same rules of
user voting, thus encouraging only content with real value to users.
offers in the Loclville mobile app.
- Family filter. Placing more power in the hands of
the individual user, as opposed to the community, regarding what content a
user sees; for example, providing the ability to filter profanity. This
feature would also potentially include the ability to prevent unregistered
users from posting pictures. One related challenge is finding a way to filter
in multiple languages, a problem that Lawrence is still working to solve.
- Social media integration. On-screen buttons that
allow users to directly share Loclville content through a chosen social
network such as Facebook*.
- Near Field Communication (NFC). Functionality to
allow users to share posts by touching two devices together using NFC
The next major planned update for Loclville is version 3.0, which
is currently scheduled for release in September 2013.
Outside of the core coding process, Lawrence cited the
following points as important to consider when creating apps:
- Touch is important, but developers shouldn’t ignore the
mouse and keyboard. Apps need to be user friendly for both types of user
- Awareness of screen sizes and orientation is crucial. Apps
are now expected to run on more devices than ever, from the 10-inch screen
of a Microsoft Surface* and 13- or 14-inch Ultrabook device screens to
even a 30-inch desktop screen. With tablets and Ultrabook convertibles,
developers also need to be aware of the different design demands of
landscape and portrait layouts, and develop accordingly.
- Take the time and effort to submit apps to both the
Windows Store and the Intel AppUp center because the potential audience is
Despite the concerns he heard regarding the use
believes that the combination of HTML5 and AJAX technologies was the right
choice, and he plans to continue using a similar workflow for subsequent apps.
A 2009 Masters graduate of the Savannah College of Art and
Design in Georgia, Zubair Lawrence started programming as part of his Visual Effects
degree course and rapidly developed both a strong affection and a clear
affinity for it. He has since developed his coding knowledge and abilities
beyond the Python* programming that was part of his course, becoming a
competent self-taught application programmer.
In June 2011, Lawrence joined the CodeProject independent
developer community (http://www.codeproject.com) using the moniker Helix Ten
and continued to code avidly in his spare time even after joining
California-based Sony Pictures Imageworks* in January 2012. In December 2012,
Lawrence successfully entered the Loclville app into the Intel-sponsored
Windows* 8 and Ultrabook™ App Innovation contest hosted on the CodeProject web site.
Lawrence complements his professional work at Sony Pictures Imageworks with
coding in his spare time, including ongoing support and updates to the
Loclville app and web site.
One of the most valuable resources for Lawrence during the
development of the Loclville app was the development community on CodeProject, the site that hosted the Windows*
8 & Ultrabook™ App Innovation Contest. During development of the app,
Lawrence interacted frequently with the community members, and he still visits
the site frequently. The Intel HTML5
Encapsulator was invaluable in allowing Lawrence to bring the app to the
desktop quickly, with a great deal of documentation and videos available to
support the development process. Lawrence cited the documentation available on
the Intel AppUp center as a vital resource during the app
submission process, describing it as being very clear and thorough.
Portions of this document are used with permission and
copyright 2012 by CodeProject. Intel does not make any representations or
warranties whatsoever regarding quality, reliability, functionality, or
compatibility of third-party vendors and their devices. For optimization
information, see software.Intel.com/en-us/articles/optimization-notice/. All products, dates, and plans are
based on current expectations and subject to change without notice. Intel, the
Intel logo, Intel AppUp, Intel Atom, the Intel Inside logo, and Ultrabook, are
trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.
*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.
Copyright © 2013. Intel Corporation. All rights reserved