A few days ago WOMWorld/Nokia asked "Have you made an Ovi app yet?" Ovi is Nokia's mobile app portal, similar in idea to Google's Android Market or Apple's App Store. My answer to this question was no, it hasn't occurred to me, but it turned out that a tool existed to turn any RSS feed into an app without needing to go to the effort of doing any coding. I had a spare half an hour so I decided to give it a try to see if I could make an app for this site. The app generator takes you through a wizard that asks you for a few settings, a few graphics and then submits you shiny new app for a review process. A couple of hours before writing this post I got an email to say my new app is now available in the Ovi app store - for free!
The app generator tool is located at: http://appwizard.ovi.com/ and to use it you have to sign up. The sign up process appears to have been designed more with companies in mind that individuals as it asks you for various company details. This could be a bit off-putting to bloggers like myself, although what is likely to be more off-putting is the sheer number of terms and conditions you are supposed to read though and tick that you understand. It is such a shame modern life is increasingly drowning underneath piles of "terms and conditions" and legal agreements, not that Nokia is alone in this everybody is at it. Anyway, after the sign up process you can get on with designing the app. The actual output is a lot like something that Mippin would generate, a view of an RSS feed paginated and presented for mobile devices.
The actual wizard is very easy, to get started you need the address of your RSS feed. You can also add additional RSS feeds and Twitter feeds, but for my app I just stuck with one feed. The only other components you will need are an application icon, in my case I used the "G" logo from the top of this site, and a banner for the top of the page with your logo on. I made these very quickly using GIMP to the sizes specified. After that you can change the colour scheme to match your site and pretty quickly you should have a nice on-brand app design. If you wish you can also embed advertising in your app, and even charge for it if you wish. I decided not to embed any extra advertising and make the app free of charge.
Once the app is complete you can submit it, then it is reviewed and then hopefully within twenty four hours you will get an email saying it has been approved. At this point you might want to make use of the Ovi Marketing Tool which lets you quickly create banners to promote your app and the dashboard on the AppWizard site which will tell you how many views your page on the Ovi store has had and how many people are using your app. The app itself will run on a variety of Nokia devices, not just smart phones. Disappointingly the Nokia N900 is not one of them it seems, which is a bit puzzling.
There is a lot of dispute and discussion about the market shares that various mobile phone vendors have, but the fact remains that Nokia sell a lot of phones, particularly in Europe. Half an hours work to make an app using this tool just might bring web sites to the attention of new readers, and enable them to easily return to the site. You don't have to be a coder to make an app this way and the process was pretty easy. Interestingly, Nokia are not alone in trying out simpler ways to create apps, Google today joined in with a more powerful looking tool: the App Inventor. To do anything more complicated that the Ovi App Wizard does will probably always require some level of programming knowledge, but steps to make the process easier and quicker are always welcome.
If you have a supported Nokia phone you can click on the advert above to get the app.