Important To get a permission number for this course for Spring 2019, you need to do two things. (1) fill in the prior experience survey , (2) email me a request for a permission number afterwards. Use the Subject 394 Permission Request
Note: You must be logged into your u.northwestern.edu Gmail account to access the survey.
The Spring offering is now full, with room only for seniors and graduate students.
Interested in being a client for spring quarter? See what's involved.
This is a class about learning to develop HTML5 mobile and web app products using modern sustainable practices that deliver value as quickly as possible to users, clients, developers, and the development organization. These practices usually go under the name of "agile" or "lean agile."
This course is not recommended for first and second year undergraduates. It assumes significant prior programming experience, in multiple languages, and, even better, some industry experience.
This course is about much more than programming. It's about software development. It's about delivering high quality code early and often. It's about being efficient, using modern lean agile practices. It's about constant reflective analysis and improvement.
What you'll be doing a lot of in the next 10 weeks:
- working meetings with your team, client and me
- coding and teaching yourself new technologies
- learning and applying agile ideas, in projects and discussions
This class involves a great deal of work with your team, your client and me. That means frequent face to face meetings. These are a requirement of the course. Do not take this course if you can't commit these meeting, especially Saturday client meetings in the Fall.
All meetings should lead directly to deliverables, designs for deliverables, or specific steps to take to improve your development process. If a meeting doesn't do this, it was a waste of time.
80% of your grade is your team grade, adjusted if necessary by your level of contribution. The team grade is based on how the team managed and improved over both the team and client projects, in terms of delivering value every week, and managing expectations through frequent and clear communication. Most teams do just fine on this part and get the full 80%, but it takes work. A client should never be disappointed or surprised with what they get, because a good team keeps the client accurately informed about what's doable and why.
Your individual share of the team scores is affected by the level of your contribution to the project as determined by CATME reviews. Four CATME reviews are done, at the middle and end of each project, but only the end of project numbers are used. Contribution higher or lower than 1.0 will modify your share of the team grade. Note that CATME deliberately caps contribution at 1.05, so as not to reward over-achievers taking control of a project. In practice, CATME has a very small effect on most people, except in cases where someone repeatedly and significantly fails to contribute.
The other 20% comes from your ability to demonstrate to me your individual ability to apply agile thinking creatively and appropriately to real world development issues. This year, as an experiment, the bulk of this grade will come from the weekly retrospective reports. Your retrospective grade is the sum of your top 4 scores. This will be added to your team score.
Substantial prior programming experience is required. I assume you already know or can quickly get up to speed with
- coding in one or more modern languages, e.g., C++, Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, ...
- version control, such as git or svn
- setting up and querying a database
- setting up a backend server or cloud account
The class discussions and assignments focus on development processes, not programming technology. Work is done in teams but all team members are responsible for all parts of the application.
Prior mobile development experience is not required. The ability to pick it up on your own is.
You need to have either a Mac, PC, or Linux machine suitable for software development, with plenty of memory and gigabytes of disk space. Laptops are best because they can be brought to the meetings to do demos and development.
The text for agile software development is The Agile Samurai by Jonathan Rasmusson. Don't be fooled by the casual style. This is a sound introduction to agile software development, by a developer for developers.
The following tools are either required, or have proved very very useful to previous teams in this course.
- Required: Ionic -- installing this will be one of your first tasks
- Required: a github account
- Recommended: Trello -- a taskboard to help developers and clients manage current tasks
- Recommended: Slack -- a very popular team messaging tool; see the first two chapters of a good tutorial at Tidbits
Mobile Hybrid Apps
There are three kinds of mobile apps: native, web, and hybrid.
The team project must be a hybrid app, using Ionic. This will prepare you for both hybrid and mobile web development.
The client project can be either hyrbid or mobile web, depending on what's needed and what the client wants.
We do not do native apps in this class, because
- to support both iPhone and Android, you have to learn two languages (Swift and Java) and write two versions of an app
- to develop for iPhone, you must have a Mac
- to update an app, you have to rebuild, redeploy, and reinstall the app
Because this is about rapid iterated development and testing, all apps are either hybrid or mobile web. Such apps
- support iPhone and Android with one code set
- support instant update of apps
Hybrid apps provide access to the device, such as camera, contacts, and so on. To be prepared for the client project, which might need such features, the team project must be hybrid, even if your app idea may not require it.
Ionic has a live reload feature for development, and a viewer app that clients can use to test the app on their own devices, without going through an app store.
Push Notification Warning
Caution: Supporting push notifications requires deploying standalone apps. You can do that with hybrid apps, but you must have the same native development tools for the platforms you want to deploy to that you would for native development:
- For iOS standalone deployment, you must have a Mac with the current MacOS, a current version of Xcode, an iPhone, and an Apple developer license ($100 / year).
- For Android standalone deployment, you must have the Android System Development Kit (SDK), and at least one Android Virtual Device (AVD) for emulation.
Creating standalone apps creates a much longer develop and deploy cycle time. The requirement for an Apple developer license and a Mac often means only one member is able to compile and deploy, leading to a bus factor = 1 problem.