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When we announced the new Nokia Xpress Browser the other week, we saw the introduction of web apps for Series 40 – a browser-based app experience. This also opened up the possibility of people being able to create their own web apps, using the Nokia Xpress Web App Builder, to get new and exciting content onto their phones, as well as publishing them via Nokia Store.

In this article, we wanted to test out how easy it is to create an app using the Nokia Xpress Web App Builder. Fortunately, it’s very simple; even I could do it – a non-developer.

Nokia Xpress Web App Builder page

As with everything, you must first create an account, but it’s free and only takes a couple of minutes to do. Then, press the big TRY IT NOW button in the middle of the page.

But, before you do so, consider what you’ll contributing to after you create your first web app. The orange section at the bottom of the page explains:

With over 600 million phones in daily use, the Series 40 platform offers you unique access to a massive audience around the world. The Series 40 web app platform let’s you reach these users with your web assets quickly and easily without having to write native, Java-based applications.

Whatever type of app you’re creating, it must have a name. Nothing too profound, or long, but something that people will be able to remember.

Next, you’ll need to decide on the template you’re going to use. Do you want a standard, one page layout with everything on? Or multiple sections, that encourages people to explore and click to find new material? Decide here.

Once you’ve decided on the theme, the section on the right will show you the customising options. For example, if you’ve chosen the accordion theme, you’ll have to add and name to the different folds that will appear in your app. Folds are the sections of the app, that when clicked, open up to reveal more content.

Naming the header is also a necessity so that people will be reminded of the name of your app at the top of the page. There are also some options if you want to change the colour of the font, the colour of the background, and also the option to upload an image that you can put at the top of the app, too.

Whatever changes you make, be sure to hit the apply button and keep an eye on the preview pane on the left. It’s here that you’ll see the changes you’ve made to your soon-to-be app.

Next, you’ll need to add some content to this new app.

Nokia Asha 311 and Conversations web app_latest stories

The types of content you can add are:

  • RSS Feed – to add content from an RSS feed
  • Facebook – to add your Facebook profile and timeline
  • Twitter – to add your Twitter feed
  • YouTube – adds a preview and carousel of your videos from YouTube
  • Clip – adds clipped content from web pages to your app
  • Picasa – adds your Picasa feed, in the form of photos
  • Flickr – adds your Flickr feed, in the form of photos
  • WordPress – if you’ve got a WordPress blog, your posts will show up in your new app
  • Tumblr – adds content from your Tumblr page
  • Photos – you can add other photos from other photo sharing sites

By dragging and dropping one of these icons into the app-preview below, it will add that to you app. Once it’s included, you’ll need to add the RSS feed, profile name, or any other details you’re asked for in the properties field that will appear on the right.

Nokia Asha 311 and Conversations web app_YouTube feed

When you’re happy with the content that you’re going to bring to this app, you can enhance it further with the next step.

The enhancements you can add to your app are:

  • Maps – you can add a map of anywhere you like into your app
  • Call – depending on what type of app you’re making, people can dial a phone number (set by you) by just pressing one button
  • Ads – provided by inneractive, you can add ads to your app if you want
  • SMS – much like call, people can send a text message just by pressing one button from within the app

Now for the final stage in the app creation, naming, giving a description to the app and filling out the author information. Once you’ve done that and pressed save, you have three choices: Download package, Test the app, and Publish your app.

If you’ve developed an app before and know how to manipulate source code, downloading the app lets you make further customisations to the .wgt file. You’ll need to know your way around Nokia Web Tools for this. You also need to download this file if you wish to publish it to Nokia Store – which we’ll cover later down the page.

Nokia Xpress Web App Builder app enhancements

It’s always best to test the app before you publish it, so click the Test the app button. Nokia Xpress Web App Builder will present you with a URL to type into the browser of your Series 40 phone for testing.

If your purpose of creating an app was for your own personal use, you can just continue to use the URL given in the step below, and your app-creation is done. Congratulations! If, however, you wanted the chance to reach out to millions of Series 40 phones owners, continue to the publishing stage.

You’ll need a publishers account to publish content to Nokia Store, and the Publish your app button will take you to the page to do that. Just enter your details, and you’re ready to go.

Download, test, or publish

At the next screen you need to tell Nokia Publish what type of app you’re going to publish. Because we’re creating a Series 40 web app, select that option. Next come the legal questions and a reminder of the content guidelines. If you don’t have the legal right to distribute the content, you can’t publish it to Nokia Store, which is why I can’t actually publish this app I’ve made – it’s an amalgamation of some of Nokia’s digital assets, that I don’t own. However, if you do, proceed.

Fill out the app name, description and all of the other pieces of information that’s asked. When it comes to setting a price for your new app, Series 40 web apps can only be distributed as free content in Nokia Store. Once you’ve completed the naming process, press create.

Next, you must upload the app that you downloaded earlier – the .wgt file – into the box at the bottom of the next page, taking time to look at and fill in any other pieces of information you’re asked. Satisfied with all that? Upload and continue.

Nokia Publish edit data

To make sure that the apps are fit for publication, you’ll be asked what sort of testing you’ve performed, and on which phones. Moving your cursor across the compatibility bars and clicking when appropriate will inform them how much testing has been performed.

Some apps won’t be appropriate for global deployment, as trends and tastes in different countries vary. Also, if your app is in a certain language, you may wish to target a particular part of the world to focus on. The next two stages will help you here.

And there you go. Your distribution proposal was successfully set and when you’re ready, push the Submit to QA button. Expect to wait a short period of time while the Nokia Publish team checks your app to make sure that it’s in full working order. Soon enough – if everything checked out – your Nokia Xpress web app will be available to download on Nokia Store and possibly in the hands of 60 million Series 40 daily users.

Are you tempted to make a web app? Have you made one using Nokia Xpress Web App Builder? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.