Android App to look for Kid-friendly activities in New York City

I published my first ever Android app to the Google Playstore and I wanted to write a short post about it.

Last year my wife and I welcomed our son to the family. Being our first child (like many new parents out there), we faced many challenges and restless evenings/weekends, but also enjoyed numerous happy moments as we adjusted to our new life as parents. There are currently plenty of parenting blogs out there so I will spare you the details. Instead I want to focus on one aspect of raising my son for the past year that I thought could be improved…with technology.

We live in New York City which has plenty of kid-friendly activities going on. However, finding the time to sit down with my laptop or phone to search for specific events to bring my son proved to be difficult. There are sites out there that aggregate events for you, but what I really wanted was a simple app I can install on my phone and lookup events by borough and date. (We could barely use our computers without him trying to bang on the keys). That is when I had the idea to build an app for it instead. After a few weeks of late night work (which is the only time we have to ourselves), Big Apple Tots was built.

The Approach

Other than some work on building Visualforce pages to be used for the Salesforce mobile app, I have never written any mobile apps before professionally. We are an Android household (there was a period where I was using Windows phone 🙂 ), so I know I wanted to build the app on the Android platform. Though, with my limited bandwidth on working on any type of side projects, I wanted to look for a way to offload the task of maintaining the right Java version, Android SDK version, etc. to a service. I wanted to build the app using HTML, CSS, and Javascript since that is what I am most familiar with these days other than Saleforce-related languages. Some research on the internet led me to Andromo, which provided what I needed with a good price point. Andromo’s site has an explanation of the services they provide, but here is some points.

  • They handle building a native android so I don’t have to maintain and figure out java versions, android sdks, and have to install Android studio.
  • They have built in templates and functionality I could use, but the main feature I needed was the ability to upload a zipped html archive that can be loaded with the Android Web View.
  • There are some drawbacks such as limited features and losing native api access when building the app mostly in html, css, and js.
  • I looked into using Apache Cordova as well, but it would still have required me to handle the first point.

Technologies Used

  • Jquery mobile : For building the search UI and navigation.
  • nativeDroid2 : jquery mobile components out of the box looks a bit generic so I used found this theme to give the search UI a material design look and feel.
  • GSuite : Used for backed storing of events.

The App

The app essentially allows someone to search a database I have compiled where they can see the following information:

  • Event borough
  • Event address / location / venue
  • Event Date and times
  • External website link to the event

The app also provides features that allows saving the event for later viewing and adding the event to Google Calendar as well.

With limited free time, I did not believe I would actually be able to release the app, however, I am glad I was able to build a tool that has definitely helped me plan a day with my little one. I hope the app provides some help and value to fellow parents, guardians, and caregivers for children living in New York City as well.

Anyone that is interested can download the app from the Google Playstore! It’s a free (ad supported) app.

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