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Application Spotlight: PsychExplorer for iPad and iPhone

February 7th, 2012

We are big fans of interesting informational apps that make keeping up with a field we’re really interested in more, well, interesting. One of our favorites we’ve seen deployed by a TapLynx customer is PsychExplorer. The PsychExplorer app was developed for both iPad and iPhone and features an easy-to-navigate stream of information and updates about the field of psychology. Even better, it is being used as an educational tool for students across the globe. Last week we chatted with the app’s builder and visionary, Michael Britt, to learn more about PsychExplorer:

How did you get into the world of developing apps?

I built my first app in 2008 and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I got caught up in the whole app frenzy thing.  It seemed like it would be a cool thing to do.  However, there were other – in my case educational – reasons.  My podcast and blog is education focused and I found that after a year I had one very popular video episode.  It was getting a lot of positive comments from students who were saying how helpful it was to them for their tests.  So I started to think that it would be cool to take the idea behind the episode and expand it out and put the information into an app that students could carry with them and have with them just before their test – right outside the class door even.  So at that time I put the idea for my app on eLance.com and I found someone who tried to build it.  It didn’t work out so well, so I had to find another freelancer to re-build it.  Finally, I decided to build on my own on TapLynx. I learned a little about how Xcode works (but believe me, just enough to get the project done) and then went through the unbelievably complex Apple provisioning process for a non-coder, but finally got the app in the App Store.  It was tough, but rewarding.

Why PsychExplorer? What is the idea behind the app?

I learned a few things from my first app experience: 1) my first app was way too “nichy” – the app would only appeal to a certain audience who happened to have an iPhone and who knew that the app existed and who remembered to buy it at the one time in their lives when they needed it.  Obviously it didn’t sell very well, but the feedback was encouraging.  So I wanted to make an app that would have broader appeal.  I turned to the old (but very useful question): what do people really need?  What problem could I solve with an app?

One of the problems in my field (psychology) is that there is so much news, research, opinion, etc., being pumped out daily that it’s very hard for a psychology professional, teacher or student to keep up with it all.  Over the years of doing my podcast – The Psych Files- I had identified what I considered to be the most credible sources in the field of psychology – credible news sources, credible bloggers, podcasters and twitterers.  These were they ones I turned to for info and ideas for my podcast episodes.  Of course, I was way too busy with family and work responsibilities to create an episode out of every good piece of news so I had to pass by a lot of potentially interesting news items. Then I thought: if I’m having trouble keeping up with all this news, so is everybody else in my field, so why not create an app in which I share all this news?  Essentially I had, over the years, curated all these great news sources.  Now if I could only create an app that I could constantly update and which would update itself as well since a lot of my sources had RSS feeds.  That’s when I heard about the TapLynx framework.  Taplynx is perfect for a curation project.

How do you people use PsycExplorer? Where do you see the most user engagement with the App?

The feedback I’m getting is that people use PsycExplorer exactly as I intended: to keep up with the field of psychology.  Professionals are able to skim the latest news, teachers are finding useful ideas for lectures and they’re finding videos they can show in class. I personally choose every video. When i find a good video on YouTube I add it to one of my YouTube playlists, and the RSS feed from this playlist gets sent into the app.  I have to give a lot of credit to Walter Tyree of Tyree Apps for helping me customize TapLynx so that it could be set up the way I felt my audience wanted to sift through the news.  He knows TapLynx really, really well and I couldn’t have done this without him.   So I’ve got news, videos, audio, tweets: everything someone interested in psychology would want to check out available from their mobile device.

Do you use push notifications? How does the feature amplify your brand?

I absolutely want to get push notifications integrated into the app.   I feel PsycExplorer gives users only the latest and most important news, but there’s still a lot of news to get through.  Sometimes there’s a story that breaks in the middle of the day that I think all my users should know about.  I don’t want it to get lost and I’m sure my users don’t check the app every day.  I want to use push to remind them that the app is there on their phone and also to remind them of the value it brings to them –  keeping them in touch with the most important news as it happens even. It’s next in my plans.

Why did you decide to build on TapLynx?

Two reasons to use Taplynx: 1) customizability – Walter was able to organize the app exactly the way I felt it needed to be organized in order to present the information to my audience in a way I knew they would find familiar, and 2) I needed to be able to update the app immediately with breaking news.  The fact that I can do this with the Taplynx Config file hosted on my site is amazing. This allows me to see a piece of news, put it directly into a custom RSS file, upload that file to my site and have that news in the hands of my users immediately.  That’s cool.

Any other cool projects you’re working on?

I just released a test preparation and study tool app called Psyc Test Hero for iOS and Android apps.  This is another educational tool, so of course it won’t be an Angry Birds.  Unless you’re making game apps I think the only way to make your money back on apps is to have more than a few out there.  You also have to get the word out that your app exists. My podcast is absolutely essential for that piece. Now I’m just waiting for TapLynx to make an Android version!


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