Why I ripped Sportplan apart and started again
- August 21, 2014
- John Nurse
WARNING GEEK ALERT:- Taking a break from our regular blogs, this week's blog covers a journey we started 16 months ago, when we set about completely rewriting Sportplan's user-interface from scratch - and how we got to releasing the new iPhone, iPad and Android apps for Sportplan.
So why did I throw out every line of code from a website I had spent over 10 years working on?
The short answer is to build a responsive web app - so Sportplan worked on everything, from your mobile phone right through to your trusty desktop.
For those of you who don't know, Sportplan employs almost as many techie geeks as sports coaches. Our aim is to bring you the best online coaching content, combined with innovative tools to make it easy for you to use that content, in whatever way possible.
True, the new interface has been available for 12 months now, but the goal we set out to achieve was to have the desktop site and the mobile app running from the same codebase.
Why start again from scratch when we had a perfectly successful product?
Back in November 2012 we had just launched the second iteration of our iPhone App. It was a hybrid single page app, packaged with Cordova / PhoneGap, that gave you access to all of Sportplan, plus a few cool extra features. For example, offline saving of data so you didn't get punished with high data bills and to ensure you could download your coaching materials once and then read/watch it anywhere, with or without signal.
As we sat down, to wipe our brows and breath for a moment, we looked at the development schedule. The obvious next step was the iPad/tablet app. Then it struck us! In creating the iPhone interface we had learnt a lot, but we had almost re-written half our web-application and it only worked on iPhone. There were even elements that loaded faster for iPhone users than for our PC users, and that simply wasn't right.
The only conclusion was to rebuild our whole web-application from the bottom up for the internet of today. We also saw the opportunity to add more social and community features.
In 2014, Sportplan has brought you instant video upload, coaching community interactions and mobile notifications so you never miss a thing. Whether it's updates from coaching colleagues, events in the coaching community or newly released content.
WARNING GEEK ALERT 2:- Following some in-depth research, and having been swayed by an article from LinkedIn on the development of their new iPad app back at the end of 2012, we set out to build a fully responsive web-application based on HTML5, Backbone.js, and Underscore.js. Using Requiresjs and Grunt, this allowed for a modular development environment which can be seamlessly combined into a production release. A fast loading web application for what is now a significantly large business project!
The Sportplan App - why bother?
By December 2013 we had a strong desktop and tablet support and we were able to start building more features into the mobile website. Getting into the iOS and Android stores was another hurdle. We didn't just want to serve up the mobile website packaged behind an App icon on your phone, we wanted to bring you even more (see below).
Going Offline - To make a mobile app worthwhile it should allow you fast access to your content even if you're not connected to Wifi or don't have a decent cell signal. So the only answer was to build a complex file caching system that allows your phone to store your drills and plans so you can view them again, even when out on the field.
Video Upload - All modern mobile phones come with great quality HD cameras. We wanted to make it super easy for you to be able to capture videos of your plays and drills before instantly uploading them to your Sportplan account for easy sharing and use within your plans.
Notifications - To make sure you never miss a beat, we added notifications to the app so you can keep up to date, read conversations and answer questions on the move.
New iPhone and Android apps for Sportplan
Where are we now and what's coming soon?
We've come a long way in the last 2 years, but we are not done yet! We want to give you the best coaching content and tools that will save you time and help you to coach more effectively. We see our role as becoming a seamless part of your coaching life, supporting you with the content and means to create and share ideas that will assist your players and coaching colleagues. And we won't be resting anytime soon!
If you think there's something still missing let us know!
All the tools we build are based on real-life coaching and teaching experiences. By regularly talking with our network of top coaches and reading your customer feedback, we can continue to add and improve the site. So if you have any suggestions or feedback, big or small, we would love to hear about them. Don't forget, watch this space as we've got even more exciting updates to shout about over the next few months! Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Apple and Android Sportplan app (free)
As of 1st August 2014, we have universal apps for both iOS and Android mobiles and tablets. These are live and available in the various app stores, plus they're FREE to download! If you've not downloaded yours yet, be sure to get it now - on iPhone, iPad and Android.
Make sure you give the upload video feature a try - we think it's a game changer! And if you like the app, please rate it. If you don't like it, let us know why so we can continue to improve.
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