A pair of Hamilton-based computer
programmers has figured out a way to bring the world of application development to
ordinary people and bypass the hoops and hurdles of app stores of the likes of Apple and
They think it could revolutionize the industry and allow
small businesses, not-for-profits and individuals to create apps for mobile phones and
tablet computers that otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it.
"Eighty per cent of businesses and almost all
not-for-profits have no mobile app at all," says Andrew Holden, a partner in a web
design company called CartaNova, which specializes in creating web pages for green
enterprise, not-for-profits and ethical small businesses.
"It's long, technically inaccessible and totally
But going mobile is critical in a fast-changing world where
more than 50 per cent of searches on the Internet are now done through mobile devices and
apps allow users to customize their digital experience on small, touch-based screens. Tech
experts predict that mobile internet usage will overtake desktop use by 2014.
Holden thinks that crossover will happen sooner.
While out for what they call a "green meeting" on
the Bruce Trail near Tobermory last year, Holden, 32, and business partner Rob Porter, 31,
got talking about how the booming app sector is leaving a lot of small operators behind.
Right now, unless you're a programmer or happen to know one, app development can take
months and cost tens of thousands of dollars. That wasn't in the budget of most of their
The two decided to change that. They worked for about six
months on a plug-in they call Weever. A plug-in is a piece of software that adds
capability to a larger software application and in the case of Weever, that's open-source
website design software, such as WordPress and Joomla.
Because it is based on the web rather than the particular
device it's installed on, Weever also allows clients to bypass the app stores on the
"All smartphones work with the web, so Weever will
work with them all," said Porter.
"We think in five years 75 per cent of apps will be
web-based apps," said Holden. "As far as we know we're the first in the world to
develop a web-based app that works out of the box, is easy to use and is affordable."
So far, the biggest challenge for the pair has been trying
to convince people they've got what they say they do. Even they admit they're shocked
their technology works.
"We talk to our customers and they're getting quotes
from $25,000 to $100,000 for app development and we tell them we can give it to them for
$30 a year. They don't quite believe us," said Holden.
The plug-in, $30 for the basic version, can turn virtually
any website into an app, without the user needing to know any programming code at all. It
can be changed and updated any time and all the time, if desired. Weever can also convert
web pages into content that loads seamlessly onto mobile web browsers.
"Most mobile sites don't work very well," said
Porter. "They load web pages poorly and there's little functionality. It's a tiny
screen trying to capture a full screen."
The Weever mobile plug-in prioritizes information for
surfing on the go. Contact information is readily available and the latest blogs or
Twitter posts are prominent. It's also designed for touch screen use, rather than a mouse.
A Weever app can include regular web pages, blogs, Twitter
and Facebook feeds, YouTube channels or any other desired web content. Holden and Porter
envision individual consumers using Weever to create their own, customized app that puts
all their favorite content in one place.
Weever will create an app for smartphones or tablets that
is expected to be compatible with the major operating systems out there, including Apple,
Android and BlackBerry. App development usually requires multiple versions for multiple
There will be advanced Weever subscriptions that will offer
mapping, business intelligence and customized design for $7,500 a year, but Holden expects
90 per cent of clients will opt for the $30 level.
The pair have been run off their feet trying to get their
plug-in fine-tuned, going through bug testing with a group of Mohawk students, working on
versions for various web content programs and meeting with potential investors and
clients. That includes the City of Hamilton's economic development department, which is
working with Holden and Porter to create an app.
The partners have also linked with Innovation Factory, a
not-for-profit center at McMaster Innovation Park that helps entrepreneurs get ideas off
the ground. That collaboration is helping them focus on marketing Weever and handling
"We didn't expect to create something that will
fundamentally change the nature of the mobile web," Holden said. "But it looks
like that's what we've done."
Copyright 2011 Metroland Media Group Ltd All Rights