Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dixie State University app--WTF?




At the risk of treading on the toes of Heather Harrison, who writes our publication’s “Tech Sassy,” I have to profess my love for smartphone applications.

There’s seriously an app for everything. I can shave a fake beard from my iPhone, I can build a town full of My Little Ponies on my iPad, and I can be sent updates each time the Catholic Church elects a new pope.

From flashlights to calorie counters, the App Store is my go-to place whenever I want to access something easily from my iPhone.

However, there is one app I find sadly lacking: Dixie State University’s.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t necessarily like it when it was first introduced, and I really don’t like it now that it’s become the school’s forgotten project.

Granted, the app developers are not students, so I’m not playing the blame game here. Well, I suppose I am a little.
When the Dixie State app was first unveiled, I wondered what its purpose would be. Would it let students look up their grades? Would it notify us of upcoming assignments? Would it allow us to pay our tuition online, register for classes, check testing center hours or anything functional like that?

Well, no. But hey, it does play the Dixie fight song—an instrumental version, anyway.

What the app does offer is a list of links that take the user to Dixie.edu, Facebook or Twitter. The rest of the app hasn’t been updated since it was first launched.

If you check the “Campus Map” area of the app, it will show you a satellite view of campus, complete with the old Whitehead building and sans Holland Centennial Commons.

I posed a rhetorical question via Twitter a couple of months ago and asked no one in particular if the DSU app has been forgotten and obsolete. Since then, I was tracked down by the powers that be and was informed about the app’s status.

Yes, the app was designed a few years ago. And now everything on it is web-based. So that means everything you’re finding on the Dixie State University app is something that’s already on Dixie.edu; when DSU’s website is updated, the links are copied to the app.
I’m not an app developer, but I certainly use tons of them.

A couple of years ago, a representative from The Spectrum came to our staff and asked for our input regarding the city’s publication. We said The Spectrum might reach a larger audience if it created an app. The representative poo-poo’d our suggestion and said users can access the Internet from their mobile devices, so why do they need an app?

The difference between websites and apps is a big one. Most websites are loaded with html code, which loads slowly on mobile devices and makes things hard to read and navigate.
And websites that have mobile versions are often leaving things out that make the whole surfing experience cohesive.

So an app can make all the difference in the world. They’re designed specifically for mobile devices, so you know you’re not going to have to zoom in on some crazy text or attempt to type in, say, your student ID into some ridiculously small window.

So when the DSU app to redirects me to Dixie.edu, I just have to ask: Why have an app if there’s no intention of utilizing the purpose of having an app?

Here’s what would make the DSU app work best. Yes, there can still be links to press releases and the athletic department’s news. But there should also be an area where students can log in and view holds, grades and account information. We should be able to pay fees and tuition if we want, and we should be able to access our schedules.

Oh, and the app should be regularly updated.

I’m giving the idea of a school app five out of five Fabs because the potential is there. But I’m giving our current app, and its stagnation, two out of five trashes and a flip phone—because you don’t need a smartphone if you’re planning on using the current DSU app. You’re going to have to go to computer anyway, since it’s going to direct you to Dixie’s homepage.




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