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At WillowTree, we ascribe a design process that is ‘fit for purpose’ of the product we’re building and the team for whom we’re building it. Instead of forcing 100% Agile (with a capital A) our design process is adaptable. It suits both project and partner needs by applying the right tools from our agile toolkit at the right times. Because our engagements can start everywhere from green field, just after some level of discovery, or picking up where another team left off — we have developed design tools that work for all of the above.

A User Story Map is one of our tools and works very well for teams who are familiar with agile processes, but less familiar when it comes to scoping a product or a new set of product features.

Using a backlog of user stories, this can be a tremendously valuable tool to fill in gaps or uncertainties in backlogs and ensure teams understand and can visualize the scope at-hand. User Story Maps typically fit in at the beginning of a design sprint when teams have a high-level idea of the scope, but need a way to understand what features will comprise the release(s) better.

Before you get started

To create a user story map, you’ll need a backlog of user stories (http://www.mariaemerson.com/user-stories/). These can be categorized by persona, business line, functionality, or a host of other categorizations that make sense for your project. They should have a priority associated with them, but you’ll probably find that most lean toward ‘high’ or ‘very high.’ That’s totally fine, but flagging the ‘must haves’ will be useful for the mapping exercise. It’s also helpful to consider which stories belong to epics.

For the purposes of the map itself, you can use whatever you want for documentation. The map could be a wall of sticky notes or index cards (I recommend you start with one of these as they are fast…

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Microchip Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MCHP), a leading provider of microcontroller, mixed-signal, analog and Flash-IP solutions, today announced that WillowTree is its first App Developer Specialist to join the Microchip world-class Design Partner Network. Microchip’s new App Developer Specialist category, which designates an exclusive focus on Web and native-app creation, builds on their deep roster of traditional embedded hardware and software development design partners. WillowTree is an award-winning and experienced iOS, Android™ and Mobile Web app developer that enables Microchip’s customers to focus on the core of their Internet of Things designs and expedite development cycles, while ensuring an excellent mobile-interface experience for their users. Additionally, WillowTree wrote the first mobile app for Microchip’s Wi-Fi®Client Module Development Kit 1, which is newly available from theApple® App StoreSM and enables customers to quickly get up and running with the kit’s cloud-based demo. WillowTree can also modify this cloud-demo app to suit a broad range of customer IoT design requirements.

Microchip has long served the designers of connected embedded products, as well as the fast-growing Internet of Things market, with its variety of wireless solutions, sensors and eXtreme Low Power PIC®microcontrollers. Rather than trying to replicate the refined interfaces that users have come to expect from their mobile devices, many embedded designers would rather tap into that installed infrastructure to create apps for monitoring and control in real time and from any location. In combination with cloud-based connectivity, mobile apps are a natural way for users to interface with things such as wearable fitness monitors, security systems, home automation, garage-door openers and industrial controls. But that first experience with an app can make or break a product. Embedded designers can reduce the risk, complexity and time of app creation by employing WillowTree to do it for them.

“We are excited to have WillowTree Apps join our design partner ecosystem,” said Cheri Keller, Microchip’s senior worldwide design partner manager. “Their innovative, best-in-class Web and mobile app designers…

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In recent weeks we’ve talked a lot about Monkeypod, our cloud-based API design and virtualization tool that produces beautiful, living API documentation and allows teams of developers to collaborate concurrently to design APIs. Today we’re diving a little deeper and discussing Monkeypuzzle.

What does Monkeypuzzle do? 

Monkeypuzzle uses the Monkeypod API design to create a virtual API that serves as a nice starting point for developing client side solutions, and API integrations. Out of the box, it creates Json responses based on the Monkeypod models that are populated with random data.

But random data is not always ideal.

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Apple announced yesterday:

Starting February 1, 2015, new iOS apps uploaded to the App Store must include 64-bit support and be built with the iOS 8 SDK, included in Xcode 6 or later. To enable 64-bit in your project, we recommend using the default Xcode build setting of “Standard architectures” to build a single binary with both 32-bit and 64-bit code.

This means any projects in process need to switch to iOS 8 and 64-bit if they are going to launch after Feb 1. More importantly, all updates to old apps after that date will not be accepted unless the apps are updated.

To Do: Check immediately what iOS and what bit support (64 or 32) all you current public apps include, and begin making update plans for any legacy applications to ensure you don’t end up with an update you cannot submit.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance.

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No big surprises from Apple, but a few things developers need to keep their eyes on:

Apple Pay: iOS 8.1 will get pushed to users on Monday, and the most important piece is that Apple Pay will now be live, supported in 220,000+ stores out of the gate. For app developers, the biggest innovation is that you can integrate Apple Pay into your apps to permit purchasing (of non-digital goods). Retailers, of course, have an equally big opportunity in their bricks and mortar stores. We at WillowTree tend to be cautious about consumer adoption of new technologies, but we think Apple has the timing and implementation right on this, and Apple Pay will be a very big deal.

Handoff: In iOS 8.1, apps that implement Handoff can now offer a seamless experience among multiple devices. So if you are looking for a store, product, or coupon on your iPhone, you can pick up an iPad, open the app, and be on the exact same screen. There are obvious media delivery applications here for movies, articles, gamecasts, etc., but we think commerce and shopping applications can also benefit. Handoff will essentially be useful anytime a user has an extended interaction that might be interrupted. Recipe apps are a great example as users spend time searching and sorting recipes in the morning, shopping after work, and cooking that night. For these users, being able to hop back and forth between the iPhone and the iPad without loss of state presents significant benefits.

Apple Watch: The biggest news for developers is that in November, we get access to the Watch SDK, WatchKit. While we won’t actually see watches until early 2015, we already have a few client projects in the hopper, and would love to add more. If you have Watch concepts you’d like to explore, please let us know and we’d love to work with you on some prototyping.

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We are excited to announce that Clutch, a Washington, DC-based research firm, has named WillowTree Apps a leader in the mobile app development space. We’ve been recognized as a top service provider in the overall mobile app development category, as well as in specialized reports on iPhone, Android, and Enterprise app development.

Clutch reached out to companies with strong design and development experience as candidates for their research. Analysts evaluated client feedback, portfolio items, case studies, domain expertise, and market presence to determine each firm’s focus areas and proven ability to deliver high-quality work. Clutch then published several Leaders Matrices highlighting the top companies, including WillowTree Apps.

Some of our past clients provided in-depth feedback to Clutch about their experience working with us. You can read their comments and the full reports here:

Top Mobile App Developers

Top iPhone App Developers

Top Android App Developers

Top Enterprise App Developers

Willowtree Apps Profile and Reviews

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Today we’re following up on our earlier post about mixins, and discussing another mixin we’ve found useful. Before we dive in, here is a simple demo with all the relevant code under the javascript tab.

In many apps you will need to pop up a modal and block all user interaction until the user responds to the prompt. This is very similar to the native  confirm   command.

Here we present the user with a Yes / No dialog box and proceed depending on…

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On larger software projects, one of the biggest challenges to a successful and timely delivery is aligning the efforts of multiple teams. Understanding the web of interdependencies and planning the development schedule of related subsystems is a full-time job on many projects. Even with careful milestone planning and employment of agile techniques complex projects inevitably run into situations where the efforts of one team are blocked by a late deliverable from another team.

As enlightened software developers, we understand that no amount of planning ahead of time can force a creative endeavor like software engineering to fit neatly on a calendar. But we also recognize that no amount of flexibility and agile pivoting can completely mitigate the fact that sometimes teams will be blocked waiting on other deliverables. So how can we minimize the risk to the overall product timeline?

In mobile development, especially large scale Enterprise integration projects, we most frequently run into situations where a backend API is not complete enough to proceed with client application development. In those situations, what we really wanted was a way to allow development of each to proceed unimpeded by the other. Just as our software architecture aimed to be a set of loosely coupled components, our development process needed to minimize interdependencies, allowing teams to work on different parts in parallel while communicating through common interfaces.

Decoupling API Development

In order to decouple API and client development, effectively allowing concurrent development on each, we found we needed two key things:

  • A common description format for an API to serve as the primary reference for any team interacting with the API. This description should be the canonical point of validation for the API itself as well as any systems that interact with it. It should provide human readable documentation to aid development and be a machine-readable specification that tooling can build on.
  • A way to simulate…
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One of the major impediments to the rapid adoption of mobile by large enterprises and institutions has been that Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) must first be created to connect legacy systems to mobile or other devices. Without mobile-optimized APIs, the apps consumers and employees want simply cannot get access to the underlying data to be useful.

To enable development teams to more quickly create and test APIs with less wasted time and resources, we are proud to announce that WillowTree has beta launched a cloud-based rapid API design and virtualization tool called Monkeypod™.

Many mobile projects continue to be delayed by either waiting on APIs to be completed or building mobile applications and APIs concurrently. The latter approach often results in a mis-match, creating rework and further delays — much like a tunnel being built from both ends and failing to meet in the middle. As Forrester Inc.’s February 2014 report A Benchmark to Drive Mobile Test Quality states, “Service virtualization is the key to enabling back-end and front-end development teams to deliver on an independent cadence.”

“Until now, developers have faced two bad choices for beginning mobile projects where APIs either don’t exist or are in flux: wait until the APIs are ready, which often delays a project by months, or build the apps and APIs concurrently based on existing documentation. This invariably requires weeks of rework because the final APIs have differences from the client-side implementation,” commented Michael Prichard, Founder & Chief Technology Officer of WillowTree. “Monkeypod eliminates this problem by enabling developers and architects to design, immediately expose, and test a working API or web service and automatically create related documentation. This enables various back-end and client-side teams to work concurrently, with almost no risk of rework, to more quickly create robust mobile apps.”

Based on standards including HTTP and JSON,…

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It’s been a few months now since Apple unveiled their first foray into the multi-trillion dollar health sector with HealthKit, but it’s still difficult to say what they have in mind in the long run. For those who weren’t tracking the WWDC announcements this year, HealthKit is the toolset provided to developers to capture health information (breath and heart rates, nutrition, etc.) and store it in a shared user profile across the device. This profile is visible in the Health app included in iOS 8, providing a central dashboard for all of the information that’s being piped in from any number of applications.

For developers, this makes storing data much more appealing since Apple is taking the security of this data very seriously. Historically, the penalties for failing to secure health data properly have been draconian to the point that companies have avoided trying to store the data entirely for fear of being bankrupted by a minor oversight in their code. There is some risk for developers that making the information that they track accessible to all other apps could be sacrificing a competitive advantage, but the trade-off is likely worthwhile for anybody who doesn’t want to dedicate a huge chunk of resources to software security. In the case of some products, the availability of a shared profile also streamlines the onboarding experience, obviating the need for manual input of any of the metrics already being tracked.

There is a strong incentive for Apple to make this platform attractive to developers as HealthKit users will have a bank of data tied directly to their iOS device, and that data will not be transferrable to a competing product if HealthKit gains significant traction. Considering how much Apple has invested into the technology, though, we likely haven’t seen all they have up their sleeve. While they’ve been tightlipped about their long-term strategy in the health sector, the Apple Watch announcement made it clear that…

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Beyond the exciting news surrounding the Apple Watch and iPhone 6, Apple’s announcement of their new Apple Pay platform is arguably one of most revolutionary changes out of this year’s iOS 8 event. Apple’s push into the mobile payment space will not only be a huge benefit for iPhone users but will also help bring NFC and mobile payments into the mainstream.

Here are the top 3 things you need to know about this new and and very exciting platform from Apple:

1. NFC Payments

Apple Pay opens up the world of NFC contact-less payments to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users. It’s going to be very easy for people to get started with Apple Pay. Here’s how it will work:

  • Users can simply opt to use the primary credit card Apple already has on file for them in iTunes. If a user wants to add a different card, all they have to do is take a photo of that card and add it to the Passbook app.
  • Once a credit card is added to the device, the information used to make a payment is stored in the iPhone 6’s secure element. This ensures the integrity of the card information as Apple does not store your card or payment history to keep your data private.
  • Once the cards are set up, the user can simply scan their finger using the TouchID sensor and tap the phone or Apple Watch to the payment terminal to pay for items in-store.

Apple is also supporting NFC payments for users with iPhone 5 and 5s that purchase the new Apple watch, allowing users with older devices to join the NFC payment world. If your device is ever lost or stolen, Apple has also provided a method to remotely disable purchasing power of a device to keep your payment information safe.

2. In-app Payments

As part of the Apple Pay release, Apple is providing developers the ability to roll out support in their…

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Tuesday’s iOS 8 event included some of the most substantial announcements in years from Apple. The changes to phone size, the payment platform and Apple’s smartwatch are all mobile game changers. This was the most significant launch event since the iPad — and if you remember, the iPad was met with similar criticism as the watch is being subjected to today. Four years later, it is clear the iPad changed mobile computing (and in fact computing overall) — we believe that four years from now we’ll all see the Apple watch in the same light. Let’s look at how Tuesday’s announcements impact mobile strategy and apps currently in the marketplace or under development: 1. The Big Screen x 2 (iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus)  To the surprise of almost no one, yesterday Apple revealed two brand new iPhones, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. As pre-event rumors suggested, the new iPhone models are sized at 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches respectively and greatly increase the amount of real estate that developers can utilize in apps. Interestingly, the iPhone 6 Plus allows for different and varied layouts compared to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5. The iPhone 6 Plus allows more content to be visible and supports iPad-style layouts in landscape mode. These layouts are made available via “size classes” that allow developers to provide unique layouts for variations in screen size and orientation.  The iPhone 6 (like previous iPhones), will support the “compact” size in landscape mode, whereas the iPhone 6 Plus supports the “regular” size class which allows it to display more content. In order to support multiple screen sizes and size classes, Apple has made “auto layout” available in previous OS versions; however until now, the benefits of using “auto layout” have not been fully realized. To Do:

  • Immediately run all existing apps on the new screen sizes in iOS 8 using the simulator to test how your apps will appear and behave, given the new combination of OS and devices. Many older apps will not…
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