School Apps

In an effort to communicate better with parents and students in a mobile culture, I started the Bloomingdale High School app in the Android and iOS stores in July 2014. In nearly three years it has over 9,500 users and has had over 258,000 views! Recently, I started an app for Boyette Springs Elementary, my kids’ school, that brought the school apps back in the spotlight.

Our app features social media feeds, like our Twitter run by our principal and our WBUL Youtube channel, so that they can see the latest news from these outlets without having to be a user of that social media network. Our course and club directories are featured, as well as current sports schedules. Guidance, news and grades are a click away, as are lunch menus, maps, the student handbook, and the calendar. You can email your teachers, or call the school at a click. Next year, we’re going to try to do salad and sandwich line pre-ordering via app too!

We use AppMakr/Infinite Monkeys as our publisher. It’s important to understand why we use this route: to publish in the Android store is a $25 one-time fee; to publish in the Apple store is a $99 annual fee. With a coupon code for student apps, the cost to us is free, avoiding the $99 annual fee (message me to learn more). It’s also a what you see is what you get editor, which means you can drag and drop icons in and adjust your app without any programming knowledge! My favorite part is that it pushes out instant updates without having to wait for Apple to approve the update!

You’ll spend the most time building the app itself. It needs clean, consistent graphics with a uniform look. There are some icons to pick from, but I prefer downloading my own from Flat Icon. You’ll want to create a banner for the top screen of the app as an image. From there, it’s deciding what features you want to include.

The most important thing to know about the Apple Store is that you only get two shots to get it approved, or you’re permanently banned. Here’s what you need to know to get approval:

  • Make sure your graphics are on point. If they’re misaligned, or inconsistent in appearance, they won’t approve of the aesthetic. Give the background a color that matches your banner (best bet is to learn the hexadecimal color value and use the same color).
  • Apple requires interactive features. That is, they don’t want your app to be a mobile website in function. Use AppMaker’s wall and chat features to allow parents to communicate, and add it in the app description. (Remember how I told you it makes instant updates? When we get our apps approved, we immediately delete these features! The thought of unregulated conversation on school apps scares us a little. Or a lot.)
  • Make sure that each link is good–is there content under each click? The AppMakr has a demo view and will allow you to text a web preview to your phone to try it out.

Once you get Apple approved, it’s very easy! Android access is immediate without approval, and they send you all the graphics and uploads you need for a successful Android launch. I recommend you get your webmaster behind this, so they can help you in keeping it updated regularly, and download the Bloomingdale and Boyette Springs apps for inspiration. Happy app building!

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