Perhaps one of the most frustrating elements of mobile app development in the past has been the disconnect that existed between conceiving/coding an item and watching how users actually engaged with it in real-time.
As all mobile app developers know, creating code is a far cry from actually predicting user experience. To truly build a powerful, enduring app, app developers must have a solid grasp of how their audiences will use it - how they will manipulate its engagement points and how they will master its functionality.
Previously, mobile app development companies were forced to write code and build their app before they were able to explore how it functioned as a whole. Thanks to a number of significant improvements in the iOS framework, however, Apple developers now have the ability to explore their work-in-progress inside of an interactive playground, a simulator of sorts which automatically animates processes and functions that have been assigned the liveView property. Whether it’s something as simple as a menu or a more complex piece of interactivity, interactive playgrounds allows for virtually limitless experimentation and interactivity.
So, why is this important? Simply put, the interactive playgrounds feature dramatically reduces the amount of time required between coding an app and publishing it. Testing elements of code for design/performance issues can now be accomplished during the coding process itself, helping ensure that iOS app developers can tweak and refine specific elements of their product as they work through the code rather than retroactively.
Previously, the lack of a service such as the interactive playgrounds added a degree of complexity to the workflow which hindered an otherwise streamlined process. Now, however, iOS app developers can rest assured that they will be able to improve upon their app on a daily basis without undertaking any time-consuming builds. In other words, the interactive playgrounds have fundamentally altered the way by which iOS app developers troubleshoot their own projects.
The current playground provided within the iOS framework is paired with the Swift programming language which, over the past few years, has won a degree of respect and admiration amongst mobile app developers that is impressive in its own right. A largely streamlined evolution of the prior iOS app development framework (which was driven by Objective C), Swift is a manifestation of the near global desire to expedite creation and delivery of sophisticated apps. Swift has, without a doubt, contributed a degree of intuitiveness and accessibility to iOS app development which had not existed previously. Although the interactive playgrounds are a truly powerful service for mobile app developers, they integrate seamlessly within the iOS XCode development frameworks. No additional products or services are required to take advantage of this extremely helpful tool.
CREATING YOUR FIRST PLAYGROUND
Exploring a playground inside of XCode is as simple as selecting the “Get Started with a Playground” button that appears as you launch the latest version of the software. From here, you will notice that the playground seems, initially, to be a blank slate. However, as you begin to code your app, you’ll notice that the playground is modified in real time to reflect the nature of the code you have added. No matter what you may be coding (including mistakes!), the playground will simulate it in such a way a to provide iOS app developers with an authentic experience representative of the experience their audiences will have when using the app in Salt Lake City.
The beauty of the interactive playground lies in its consistency. No matter what stage of the mobile app development process you may be in, you can immediately refer to this novel simulator environment to “see” your app in the most authentic form possible.
On an interesting side note, it is quite important that you remember that interactive playgrounds exist within XCode and are not a freestanding app. Given the fact that Apple is also releasing a new app entitled Swift Playground, which is primarily suited for coding training, iOS app developers should be weary of what they are downloading in order to eliminate any confusion that might arise from this.
THE BENEFITS OF THE PLAYGROUND
Particularly in scenarios where mobile app developers are working in tandem with designers, the interactive playgrounds included within XCode can be absolutely invaluable. It is almost inevitable that elements of an app’s creative team will have a differing set of expectations regarding aesthetic and user experience than members of the coding team. That being said, interactive playgrounds will allow both parties to view an in-progress app together and make changes within a collaborative paradigm rather than with a more turn-based approach. This should help app designers - particularly those operating on a freelance basis - to develop a more rewarding relationship with the visual artists, composers and other members of the design team who are working alongside them. In short, interactive playgrounds open the door to new methods of team mobile app development that have not yet been seen previously.
LEARNING FROM THE PLAYGROUND
As mentioned previously, Apple is also in the process of preparing Swift Playgrounds for launch, an interactive software passage which acts as a powerful learning tool for those who are ready to process of mastering Swift but would also prefer some form of a teacher to deliver insight along the way.
Playgrounds, which will be released on the iPad, will deliver an unprecedented degree of insight and engagement to audiences, particularly those who take iOS app development of this nature seriously. With such a wide degree of opportunities now available for learning how to code for smartphones (either the Android or iOS variety), individuals may be hard pressed to justify why Swift Playgrounds is more ideal than another software training package or publication. To many, the degree of consistent interactivity provided within the Swift Playgrounds app was more than enough to prove to iOS app developers that this novel language is, indeed, a step in the right direction for the future.
Swift Playgrounds will be distributed through the mobile App Store. Consequently, this also means that Apple still considers tablets and other portable devices far too costly in terms of system resources for the in-depth coding platform. Swift Playgrounds will likely remain a supplementary educational resource for mobile app developers who may be entering the Swift environment for the first time or those who simply are interested in a ‘refresh’ after years of industry work. This, in summation, is the appeal of Swift Playgrounds. It ensures fully that students have a mobile app guided framework by which they can begin to master this exciting craft.
Although Swift Playgrounds can’t really be used to code a new app, it will certainly provide iOS app developers with a tool for testing hypothetical coding scenarios. Truly, this app could not have come at a better time.
As you can see, both the interactive playgrounds developed in Swift for XCode as well as the Swift Playgrounds tablet app are designed to promote and expedite human connection. While one of the two provides a unprecedented glimpse into an in-development app, the iOS-based Swift Playgrounds generously offers a weather of training information on Swift and XCode alike for free.
The ease of access to education and self-improvement which Swift Playgrounds offers will surely take this app far. That being said, it will be interesting to observe how individuals take to a more flexible, less-content regulated development environment. Without a doubt, Swift Playgrounds is improving upon an already well-designed educational framework in order to ensure that audiences have the information they need to begin honing their skills in this dynamic, exciting industry. Good luck!