Sunday, July 06, 2014

Designers - Introducing Apple's Xcode and the Android SDK - Part 2

Go Back to Designers - Introducing Apple's Xcode and the Android SDK - Part 1

Understanding code repositories and other collaborative working methods

Once you get involved with a professional programmer, you are likely to come across a working method called ‘version control’. This is not unlike the way Google Apps works – it allows changes made by the programmer to your code to be updated in real-time in a shared repository (an online storage space). It allows a whole team of people to change the same files. Then, behind the scenes, each change is individually recorded along the way and can be reverted to, in or out of sequence. It’s like having a time machine.

This means that version control is not only a great way to share the latest version of the app you’re working on, but it also doubles as an automated, flexible backup method for your project. At any point in the project you can virtually revert to an earlier point in time. Each revision is time-stamped and a note made of the person who changed it. What’s more, you can compare revisions to figure out what went wrong, and where.

There are many great version control solutions, but one of our favourite is Project Locker http://www.projectlocker.com/

Amazingly, it’s free if your project is smaller than 300 megabytes – and, for example, our hit app, Alice for the iPad, was well below this threshold. Indeed, the vast majority of apps are well below this threshold.

How to speak ‘programmer’.

Spend a little time in the SDK (software development kit) that your platform of choice uses. Both platforms use an SDK, but Apple users are more likely to refer to the SDK as ‘Xcode’, while Android users are more likely to refer simply to the ‘SDK’. Spending some time exploring the SDK will make it infinitely easier to understand what your programmer is talking about.

We also highly recommend learning the basics of how programming works. To a degree, you can abstract yourself from the details, but a rudimentary understanding of how code relates to computer system control is
extremely helpful. Luckily, both Apple and Google provide extensive documentation for their SDKs and you will find a wealth of useful tutorials on YouTube which – because they are videos - tend to be much more accessible and serve as a softer introduction to software programming than many dense programming manuals.

Backing up projects

Insist that your programmer regularly backs up the working project. Make it clear that this is their responsibility. As a fail-safe, you should also back up the project, but your programmer should not rely on you for ensuring the safety of working data.

Imagine this:
A huge blazing bonfire rages out of control, flames from your building lap at the skyline, sirens wail – your project is going up in flames. You’re staring into the inferno, on your knees on the front lawn. One tiny, perfect tears slip from your eyeball and runs bleakly down your cheek.

Don’t let this vision become reality: make sure you back up your project every day, and in an off-site location (ie not in the same building as the one you’re working in). You can either use conventional backup systems - like external hard disks or FTP sites – or you can use a version control system.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Read Back Designers - Introducing Apple's Xcode and the Android SDK - Part 1
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