Developing our Apps

Motivation For the App

I’d been interested in getting into Mobile Development (iOS & Android) for some time. (I’m a Web Developer in my main job.) But whenever I spoke to Recruitment Agents they would always ask “do you have one in the App Stores?”. Errmm.. that’s a “no”!

So I was scratching my head for something that I could develop and get in the App Stores. I didn’t want to be a purely as an academic exercise. I wanted to develop something that was actually useful to somebody.

Helstonbury 2017

I got the idea to create the Helstonbury apps towards the end of 2017. I’d been back in Cornwall in July for Helstonbury 2017 and had a great time. One frustration though was that not having lived in the area for so long, I had no idea who any of the artists were. I was always asking “Who are this band? What kind of music do they play?”. I started thinking about a phone app where you could quickly look up this kind of info. Ideally, without having to put down your pint of Spingo 😉

By December, I actually had the bare bones of the apps working. There was just one small issue: I hadn’t told any of the Helstonbury organisers that I was doing it! When I finally pitched the idea to Paul Turton, early in 2018, I really had no idea what he’d say: “who are you? You’ve done what?” maybe. But he couldn’t have been more enthusiastic, and suggested that we meet up to plan our next steps. A wee problem with that though: this Helston boy happens to live in Sydney, Australia now! Never mind. We were able to overcome the time difference and we finished the apps off over email.

Design principles

I wanted a proper app that worked on both iOS (Apple) and Android. It had to work when the user had no reception, so the data and images had to be stored on the phone itself. However, we had to be able to easily update that data and have it synced down to the phones, otherwise the locally stored info becomes out of date (bands drop out, and other bands come in; running times change etc).

I settled on Firebase for the backend database and React Native for the actual phone development. Data connectivity issues and my Spingo intake notwithstanding, the info on the apps should always be up to date.

Challenges/Issues

I struggled early on with time zone issues. I had all the running times looking fine on my iPhone, until I switched its Time Zone setting from Sydney to London; suddenly I was looking at a Helstonbury schedule that was kicking off at 2:00 in the morning!! (Hey, maybe there’s an idea there…)

Paul threw me a minor curve ball late in the day, when he decided to start the Festival off on the Thursday night. Although I hadn’t hard-coded the actual festival dates, I had hard-coded that there would be only three of them! Thankfully, that required just a change to the server back-end and not to the phone apps themselves.

Find it on iTunes / Apple:
itunes.apple.com/us/app/helstonbury/id1337997473

Find it on Google Play:
play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.helstonbury
(Please give the App a rating in the store if you found the app useful)