When you’ve got just a moment to spare and your brain has a hunger for the freshest good news in whatever field of interest you focus on – what do you do? These days I spend those times perusing hot blog posts, fresh Tweets and great screenshots from the Web’s most prestigious designers. I’ve been enjoying a mobile Web app I built with help from a service called iSites.us and I thought I’d share with you details about how I put it together. You could really do something like this on any topic.

To check out this app yourself, navigate your phone to the URL designnews.isites.us. Read on for screenshots and a description of the geeky fun behind this little creation.

This little app began the morning of my good friend Brianne Baker‘s birthday. Brianne is a very talented designer just about to graduate from school and I thought I’d hack together a mobile Web app to help her enjoy the best news from the world of design and typography.

I began with a service called Widgetbox, which is very attractive and easy to use but in the end got replaced by the iSites site linked to above.

First, I bopped around the Web and found about 30 or 40 of the top blogs about design and typography. I uploaded them to the wonderful service Postrank, which let me filter out all but the top 10% of posts from those blogs that had received the most comments, inbound links, shares on Twitter, bookmarks on Delicious, etc.

I took those 40 or so filtered feeds and I put them into Yahoo Pipes. There I spliced them all together and put the resulting feed of hot blog posts from the design world into my mobile Web app as the first of three sections.

Then, I went to Listorious and I found a good-looking Twitter list of power-designers curated by Paul Olyslager titled UX-VIP. Nice list, Paul! Thanks for building it! I put that List URL into my mobile Web app and now Twitter updates from those 42 UX VIPs make up the second section of content.

Finally, I visited the design community Dribbble, where users upload screenshots of their works in progress and other users like and comment on them. It’s an awesome site. One of the sections of that site is a Leader Board of the designers whose work has been Liked the most. I grabbed the RSS feeds of the top 35 peoples’ images, put those feeds into Pipes, spliced them together into one feed and then fed them into the mobile Web app as well.

Below: 35 Dribbles in a Pipe (Not as Complicated as It Looks)

Then I clicked publish! (Well, I put together a few little graphic assets for Widgetbox, iSites whipped up some for me.)

Not to overstate the thematic here, but I think you could call this a mobile-friendly, segmented display of automatically harvested crowd-vetted topical content, in real time. And it’s a whole lot of fun.

Not to overstate the thematic here, but I think you could call this a mobile-friendly, segmented display of automatically harvested crowd-vetted topical content, in real time. And it’s a whole lot of fun.

Both of these sites charge about $25 per month to host the apps their services are used to create. (Once a publisher pays for it, readers can access it for free.) That meant, I found out (after doing all the above, like a dummy), that my birthday present for my friend was going to cost $300 for a year. My wife and I really like Brianne a lot, but I thought that would be a bit extravagant. I told Widgetbox that their $25 per month for up to 50,000 impressions might make a lot of sense for many people, but for a one-off app likely to get 100 impressions a month it sure would be nice if I could pay an affordable fee to turn my up-and-coming designer friend on to their fabulous platform!

In the end Widgetbox didn’t work for me anyway because there was so much feed splicing insanity going on behind the scenes that the app would time out almost every time I loaded it.

Enter iSites, a similar if so-far less polished service which works similarly but caches the contents on the back end for maximum user experience!

I gave iSites the same feeds, they generously shared an app’s worth of hosting at no cost (you can add it too, go ahead!) and they said they’d consider one-off pricing. (Widgetbox also donated an app, it just didn’t work as well for me.) iSites also offers a 30-day free trial. The iSites apps need some more work, and the company says that’s underway, but they’re really pretty good already. Liking and Commenting on content is very cool – sharing on Twitter is very much not, yet.

A person could create mobile Web apps like this on any kind of topic and they sure are fun. Maybe I’ll start a Kickstarter campaign to see who wants to pitch in on apps like this for other topics.

Either way, fun with feeds – fun with mobile Web app publishing platforms!

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