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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

WCC Creates Mobile App for Phones, Tablets

A new app make it easier for WCC students, employees, and others to access the College’s website with mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet computers.

The free app, dubbed Mobile WCC, is specifically designed for phones. Versions are available for devices that use the Android or iOS operating systems. You can download the Android version from the Android Market and the iOS version from Apple’s App Store.

If you have a mobile device, it’s best to access WCC’s website with the app because its content is formatted for phones, said Christopher Billick, director of Web Services. “It puts the information one step closer to the user in a mobile friendly format that’s easier to browse on a small screen,” he said.

Pat Springstubbe, a programmer who created the app with Billick, agreed. “By using the phone app, you can bypass all of the images and resources and go straight for the data that you want,” he said.

The app has six modules:

  • A faculty and staff directory where you can click on a phone number to make a call or on an email address to send a message.
  • An A-to-Z list of services that WCC provides, with links to relevant webpages.
  • News stories about WCC.
  • A search engine that searches WCC’s entire website.
  • A help listing that provides key contact numbers at WCC.
  • Videos about programs and schools at WCC.

The app also allows users to access WCC’s entire website, which is coded to be mobile friendly.

Mobile Traffic Increasing

Amin Ladha, WCC’s chief information officer, said Web Services created the app because statistics showed increasing traffic on WCC’s website by mobile devices. “We’re always evaluating new technologies to see what would be most beneficial to our students,” Ladha said. “And the trend toward students wanting College information on their mobile devices was growing at such a high rate that we wanted to address it.”

Between September 2009 and September 2010, access to WCC’s website by mobile devices—cell phones, tablets, and laptops—soared by 8,704 percent. By September 2011, it jumped another 117 percent from the previous year.  The rise between 2010 and 2011 represented “a huge increase in that class of traffic,” Billick said.

Usage statistics also drove the decision to develop for the Android and iOS operating systems. Together, they account for 97.3 percent of mobile visits to WCC’s website, Billick said.

Developing the app posed some challenges, Springstubbe said, but was made easier by adopting a framework that used the JavaScript programming language, which he knew well. That framework also allowed Springstubbe to write one base of code that then compiled for both platforms. For the most part, existing web content was simply repurposed with little modification.

There are already plans to expand the app. “This is a 1.0 app,” Billick said. “We’re planning future enhancements.” One addition might be an events calendar. Another might allow students to access their records after authenticating.

As Web Services makes plans for expanding the app, it’s seeking input about what users want. “We love constructive feedback from the students and employees,” Springstubbe said. “As this project continues to mature and as we get feedback and statistics as to what students want in the app, we will be able to have an app that is more compelling for students to use.”

Today’s Events

  1. 11:00am–1:00pm Constitution Day
  2. 1:00pm–5:00pm Eastern Michigan University Visit

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