While attending college in 2012, I wrote an Android app on my free time to determine the lowest grade I could make on every assignment while still maintaining my target average. Accordingly, the app’s creation strangely embodied the college spirit in the way that the majority of its code was typed up in the middle of various biology lectures rather than at home. Nevertheless, the end result was a useful tool that let students distribute their workload (or stress) efficiently based on the extrapolation of their performance in class.
After releasing version 1.1 of the app, I got too tied up with medical school and its associated lifestyle changes to maintain the project anymore. As I went through medical school however, I soon began to wish that I access to my app so I could better analyze the outlook of my grades. Ironically, I had never owned a smartphone until the Summer of 2014, but of course Grade Possibilities was the first app I downloaded once I finally upgraded. I could immediately see that the app had not aged well. Designed at a time where the dominant market ran Android versions 2.1 – 2.3, the interface felt dated and unpolished on the modern Android 4.4 phone. I knew that Grade Possibilities was due for an update, even if only for the sake of my own private usability. I was encouraged to find however that someone had left a recent review praising the app’s concept during my absence from development. At this point, I simply had to do some major reworking to give Grade Possibilities 2.0 the gleam it deserved.
The first thing that I had to remedy was the fact that design elements would appear misaligned on certain phones — this issue was a direct result of my shaky understanding of the manner in which Android handled screens of different LCD densities. The second major point that I had to address were the low-resolution, dated graphics the app used. I immediately bumped up my development API level to make use of Android’s newer features and compiled a list of graphics for my graphic designer to put together; this included new images to replace the clunky text buttons that the previous version utilized. In planning the graphics this time around, I also considered it important to have a “theme” for the new style of images and settled on a fantasy/moody school theme. The resulting images and icons did wonders in improving the overall presentation of the app.
During (re)development, I also addressed a number of usability quirks that I was only able to find out about after using the app on my own phone. Groups could now collapse. Adding an assignment would automatically show the keyboard to type in the name. Fields were now auto-capitalized. All of the tweaks, though minor, served to improve the app’s feel; it no longer felt as rough around the edges.
Another major (and overdue) addition was an in-app tutorial. Admittedly, I can imagine that one could easily get lost if they are simply dropped into the grade-entry screen, so I tried to be as thorough as possible in describing how to properly utilize the app. The question then arose regarding where to actually put the tutorial. This problem was soon solved when a tester suggested that we add an “Action Bar” which is now becoming a standard component in Android GUIs; the tutorial was simply tucked away into the side drawer with an accompanying message suggesting its usage if there are no classes made.
All in all, I think we did a pretty good job at giving the app a neat little facelift! It is certainly far more pleasing to look at and use compared to the previous version. I also have some features on the to-do list that I would like to experiment with in the future, but quite frankly I considered it fortunate to even get this update out in a timely manner. Admittedly, development for 2.0 suffered due to problems with some of my collaborators being very unreliable; I would need to ensure more dependable commitments if I want to work on future expansions. Nevertheless, I hope to at some point add the ability to wirelessly transfer course templates with others (useful in school settings) and add additional calculation features (such as the ability to factor in “dropped” grades).
I hope that the Spring 2015 semester progresses smoothly for all the students this new year. Please check out the app on Google Play and let me know what you think!