If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Reflections on Custom Mobile App Development

Presenter:Sam Fee (Washington and Jefferson College)

With the widespread adoption of tablet computers in 2010, archaeologists quickly began to envision new ways of completing old tasks. The technology seemed particularly well suited for replacing our old paper-and-pencil approach to data collection. So, in 2011 we began writing a custom application – PKapp – for the 2012 field season of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project on Cyprus. That application taught us how to write software for mobile devices, while also illuminating numerous possibilities for digital workflow in archaeological field research.

In the subsequent years, mobile computing devices and software development tools have improved considerably, making them even more useful for custom application development and data collection in the field. Further, HTML5 open source standards can ensure the software runs on any device regardless of operating system platform. Even better, a robust selection of coding interfaces, libraries, and frameworks can speed up the development process and allow us to get away from hand-coding each line of our applications (as might have been the case just a few short years ago). Thus in many ways, it is easier and faster to write your own custom data collection mobile app today than it was in 2011. This paper reflects upon our earlier work with PKapp, reflects upon the lessons learned, and describes how custom app development with open source standards might be undertaken today.