Neil Perlin, Hyper/Word Services

Many mobile apps let users add material to the app’s database. Think notes apps, reminder apps, or photo albums, for example. Can you do this with ViziApps? Yes.

I took advantage of this capability for an app that listed BBQ restaurants around Austin, TX, which I created for a conference in the Texas capital. I started with a list of restaurants in the database, in a Google Docs spreadsheet. Conference attendees could list the restaurants by name or city by tapping the appropriate button on the app page. Then, assuming that no Texan would trust a Yankee’s assessment of BBQ restaurants, I added a social media element that let attendees add their own listings. How did it work?

Tapping an “Add Your Own” button opened a page where users could insert a restaurant’s name, city, and web page. (I could have added additional entry fields like address or rating but wanted to keep the app simple.) Users could fill out some or all of the fields and tap a Submit button to send the entry to a “restaurants” worksheet in the Google Docs spreadsheet and get a “thanks for your entry” response in return.

Any user could then tap one of the “list…” buttons to see the new entry, and all the entries, in the list – a two-column table. Tapping any entry in the table opened a Details page listing all the information for the restaurant. (For your mobile app, you could narrow the choices by requiring users to log in and then only show their specific listings, but that could losethe social media benefit.)

Several thoughts about designing an app this way…

  • This social media component is generalizable to almost any category of thing – BBQ restaurants, museums, golf courses, etc.
  • Social media lets you tap into the “wisdom of the crowd.” For example, residents of Austin knew more about the local BBQ scene than I did. I took advantage of that knowledge by letting them add to the database.
  • The social media capability lets contributors show off by adding a “Referred by” field that includes the contributor’s name on the details page. It may seem silly but it can be very appealing to contributors.

Some thoughts about design…

  • Typing on a virtual keyboard isn’t easy. Try to offer alternatives to text entry, like a tappable table, picker, or wheel (for mobile business apps for iPhone or Android smartphones).
  • Using a table, picker/wheel also has the benefit of “bounding” user entries. For example, ask users to type a city name and you may get the right name, the wrong name, a misspelled name, or no name. But giving users a preset list in a picker, for example, helps focus their entries.
  • On the downside, these features use a lot of screen space that you may not want to spare. You could split data entry across several pages, but users might view the app as more complex than it really is and not use it. You’ll need to strike a balance among ease of use, comprehensiveness of data, and screen space.
  • The app’s owner will have to periodically remove junk entries like “xxx” or MyTest” from the database, but this is pretty simple.

In summary, think about adding a social media component to your app. You’ll get user participation and engagement, and, with ViziApps, it’s pretty easy to do.

Neil Perlin is the president of Hyper/Word Services, a mobile and online help development, consulting, and training company. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,, @NeilEric.