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University duo develops Blues Fest app

July 9, 2014
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University duo develops Blues Fest app
The mobile app Kalamazoo Blues Fest 2014 was developed by a WMU student and recent WMU grad. Photo via google.com

A university student and a recent graduate have teamed up to develop a mobile application for a blues festival this week.

The 21st annual Kalamazoo Blues Fest, hosted by the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association, has a new mobile application to assist festivalgoers in navigating the event in downtown Kalamazoo this Thursday through Saturday at Arcadia Creek Festival Place.

The Blues Fest is an event celebrating the blues genre and features two stages and roughly 23 bands.

Features

The free mobile app, called Kalamazoo Blues Fest 2014, is for the Android platform and incorporates various festival resources: full band bios, a Google map focused on the festival location, photos, ticket information and purchasing, schedules and information on available artist workshops.

Mobile students

The Android app was designed by Western Michigan University student Adam Nolan and recent WMU graduate John Cook.

Ralph Yingling, president of the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association, reached out to Dr. Alan Rea, professor of business information systems at WMU, to determine if there were students interested in a project for the festival.

“This is exactly what I want them to do, once they have the skills, is to either start their own business or build apps like this for others,” Rea said.

With academic experience in computer information systems, Nolan participated in several mobile development courses at WMU, with Rea’s business mobile programming and mobile commerce classes.

“I was one of the individuals he had listed as capable of creating the application,” Nolan said. “Having talked to and worked with John Cook in class, I felt he would be a huge help in the project. Whereas I focused on the functionality, John did a spectacular job in creating a look and feel of the app, which included a fair amount of coding.”

Development

The development process for the Android application lasted approximately two months. Upon developing a functioning interface incorporating the various features, the two developers focused on visuals and aesthetics.

“I took a look around at the existing apps and took some notes,” Nolan said. “I really liked the layouts that were scroll-able for all the bands and also the Google maps. There was a period of wheel spinning, which led to re-thinking some features.

"I spent the first month making a moving framework that lacked a polished interface, but worked. During the second month, John and I worked hard on getting the images and finessing the look and feel.”

Leveraging the Android platform due to its functionality as an open source, Nolan said the development of the app didn't require funding from external sources.

The pair used a free program known as Eclipse, which supports the Android operating system.

Nolan said the Kalamazoo Blues Fest 2014 app was introduced to the Google Play store last month.

“The overall feedback seems to be very positive, not only from the KVBA members, but from Android users who have downloaded the app,” Nolan said. “Given the duration of time and resources available to John and myself, I appreciate the review.

“John just graduated over the winter, has a full time job . . . and I was working 28 to 34 hours while taking a summer class during development, which was a real challenge.”

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