If you want to get into mobile application development, there is no easier way to get started than with this new easy-to-use mobile simulation tool.
A couple of years ago, I drove from California to New York via Bismarck, North Dakota, and Chicago, Illinois, winding up on the beach at the far eastern tip of Long Island. I'll never forget traveling through Manhattan and negotiating the myriad bridges and complex route changes required to finally get onto the Long Island Expressway. I truly believe I couldn't have done it alone without MapQuest.
Knowing exactly where you're going and where you'll wind up if you follow a pre-planned route can save hours of backtracking, getting lost, asking questions, and burning gas. Sometimes developing a software application can be a long and complex journey with plenty of opportunities to get off track.
I've written a few articles for readers of MC TNT Tips 'n Techniques about wireframe tools and prototypers, and now there's a new, free software visualization tool available to map out applications for everyone's current project du jour — mobile apps.
iRise Studio MX is a working visualization tool with a library of mobile controls for the Apple iPhone and iPad that allows you to create a truly beautiful working simulation of your next mobile application in about as much time as it takes to conduct a staff meeting. Using drag-and-drop controls, you can create a realistic simulation of an iPad application that is difficult to distinguish from the coded application. Of course, it isn't the finished product, and you will still have to go in there and program the application, but as far as showing people what you plan to do, getting their buy-in, and incorporating their suggested changes, it beats having to rework an actual application by a mile.
iRise is a company that has been around for about a decade and has the backing of Morgan Stanley Venture Partners and Deutsche Bank. It also has worked with IBM on simulation tools for SAP and Oracle applications that have made the job of modifying complex enterprise solutions far easier. However, it was the exploding mobile application phenomenon that raised awareness of the benefits of interactive visualizations among independent developers and software entrepreneurs. And that's what inspired the company to offer a free simulation tool.
Larger companies such as General Motors, UPS, and FedEx have been using iRise to "test drive" their applications before building them, but now that the company has released a free visualization studio for mobile apps, I would expect adoption rates to rise dramatically. The tool is ideal for launching a mobile version of an existing application.
The difference between iRise and a wireframe tool is that iRise supports rich behaviors and creates visualizations that are data-aware and contain business logic. The full iRise Studio version (as opposed to the free iRise Studio MX) is good for simulating Web applications, desktop solutions, ERP system modifications (including SAP), mainframe screens, and larger, more-complex mobile solutions. The free Studio MX is limited to three active projects of 10 screens apiece and features only iPhone/iPad controls, whereas the full iRise Studio can incorporate widgets from various frameworks commonly used in Android and Web applications.
The iRise platform includes several components that go beyond just creating a visualization. The iRise Definition Center allows teams of architects to share and edit projects from distributed locations. The Center also serves as a repository to collect and organize comments from reviewers. It offers enterprise features, including security to protect sensitive intellectual property, and houses libraries of preconfigured content for such projects as larger SAP and Oracle builds.
iRise iDocs are the portable interactive visualizations that you email to stakeholders to obtain their comments. The free iRise Mobile available from iTunes allows you to run your iRise visualization right on the iPhone or iPad to give a more realistic effect to the mobile simulation. (Imagine handing your iPhone to someone in a meeting and saying, "The application is going to work like this!") The iRise Studio MX Whiteboard allows you to map out user flows and document page-level requirements.
The benefits of software simulation have not gone unnoticed by some of today's colleges and universities, and the company has launched a program that's growing in popularity called "iRise on Campus." It provides select graduate and undergraduate university programs with the opportunity to use visualization technology in computer science, human computer interaction, and entrepreneurship courses. What several of the schools are finding is that certain employers today are eager to hire students trained in visualization techniques.
Ultimately, visualizations are intended to speed up application development and reduce costs, goals that the company says iRise users achieve on a regular basis, citing figures of up to 50 percent reductions in development time and up to 30 percent reduction in cost. For that reason, company officials are confident that their patented visualization technologies will be used in the vast majority of large development projects by 2020. Perhaps that's why Michael Loria, Vice President of Business Development for IBM Rational Software, gives iRise the high five. "Interactive, immersive software visualization is an important component to solving the endemic problem with requirements on software projects," says Loria as quoted in an iRise brochure. "iRise is the market leader with this capability, having proven the benefits of visualization across a broad set of industries and application types."
So if you're thinking about getting into mobile application development, as one reader was who emailed me last week, you may wish to start with the free iRise Studio MX. An email address is all that's required for the download link, and there are versions for both Windows and Mac.