Wishlist – Local or Web-based Content – Part 2

Logo - Local or Web-based Content2
Posted under: Uni iPhoneApp Reviews 10th of June, 2011

In the first half of this blog, I wrote about Local and Web-based content, explaining the differences between the two.  Also, I honed in specifically on what is meant by content, when referred to, in the blog.  The focus for this half of the blog is on the various aspects of an iPhone app, and whether they are considered Local or Web-based Content.


It’s almost a guarantee that every single app in Apple’s App Store has the layout stored on the iPhone making it local content.  This is fine, because unless its broken badly (buggy), the structure of the app shouldn’t be changing on a regular basis.  This helps all users get accustomed with the interface of the app, however this doesn’t mean the background can’t be changed.  Although it might seem only a very minor feature, the background changing perhaps with the time of the year or the week of the uni semester could prove actually prove a very useful feature.

Staff Directory

The staff directory is one of the bigger portion of content that is unlikely to be changed frequently.  QUT’s staff directory is entirely local content, therefore, quick to load and fits well on the iPhone’s Screen, providing information on any staff who works at QUT, full time or temporary. On the other hand, Griffith’s staff directory is stored externally on their website.  Sitting two feet away from my wireless router, I still had to wait the fraction of a second longer than I did for QUT for the search to load. You might well ask ‘What’s a fraction of a second?’ – well if you were searching for a number of names, the fractions of seconds add up and it can start to get a bit tiresome. Griffith seems to have recently redone their Phonebook, such that it is now optimised for the iPhone’s screen in some places. The actual search results for staff have been tidied up to allow ease of use , however the actual search options themselves are yet to be optimised.  When Griffith’s mobile site has been polished to include the entire directory, it will obviously become better and quicker to load, but no suprise, it still won’t be as quick as having the directory on the phone itself.

News Feed

The News Feed contains content that is frequently being updated because … it’s the news.  Most universities seem to prefer having the news as web-based content, however some of the more “basic” ones have opted to treat the news as local content, updating only once a month when the next app update is released. Meanwhile, the working university apps, who present news as web-based content have done so in slightly different ways.  On accessing the Victoria University (VU) app, the content is instantly downloaded from the external server, while University of Melbourne gives the user the option to update the news feed with the refresh button.  University of Melbourne follows the same concept as most of the universities do, providing the title of the news article, as well as a short excerpt and the date of the article.  Once the user has selected any of the articles, the external server is then prompted to download the article for the user for viewing as well as providing a Safari link to the actual article on the University’s website.  When first accessing Victoria University’s “What’s On” menu, it proceeds to download all the news at the same time.  Though this is can be a little sluggish the first time loading, after being saved to memory, the news feed is quick to load, and has all information available at a click (touch?).


There are several different map tools that are available for universities to use. They are: GoogleMap, Campus or “homegrown” maps. OpenStreetMap, with Google and Campus being the more prominent two.  Most of the universities include GoogleMap alongside their own Campus Maps.

GoogleMap (created by Google) is web-based, however, some universities have included their own additions that are anchored to the maps when loaded up (overlays, building letters, etc).

OpenStreetMap is an open source map, created by the community.  It is also Web-based content, however it includes more detailed information (than GoogleMap) on the map for campuses(pathways, cafes, ATMs, etc).

Campus Map or “homegrown” map, created by the university specifically for the university, are stored directly on the phone as local content.  This allows the Campus maps to generally be of the highest quality as well as allow it to be the most detailed.

Computer Availability

Students are going to and from campus constantly and as such the number of computers available in each of the labs on campus is always changing.  This necessarily makes the content that is required mostly web-based for real-time updates.  Only a couple of the university apps (Griffith and Curtin) include this feature, as it is a relatively new concept, however, I’m inclined to say a very powerful one.  I’m unsure how often these universities update their availability information, QUT (who has yet to incorporate it into their app) refreshes the information on a half hour basis, displaying the information on screens in certain “lab-heavy” buildings. So obviously the location and names of the labs remain constant at both universities, and can be considered local content.  However, the number of computers that are available in each of these labs needs to be updated quickly and efficiently, so is very much web-based.

In Summary, when the content is a relatively small file (e.g. news article, computer availability), frequently or infrequently updated, it should be Web-based, as it won’t take long to download.  However for the larger file contents (e.g. Staff Directory), it can depend on how frequently the content needs to be updated and how big the update is.   If the updates are small changes (e.g. adding a single new staff to the Directory), this can be considered web-based.  However after 50 or more of these small changes happen, the entire app should be updated locally, to ensure consistency.  If the updates are infrequent and large, then they should definitely be considered local content and updated via the app store.


Updated Frequently

Updated Occasionally

Small File

Web-based Web-based

Large File

Web-based /Local Local

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