Featured Developer – Lark Cookbook

Two photographs of colored pencils and a paint brush combined to form a new object.

Our featured developer spotlight this week comes from Jared Stoneberg. Jared and his web development company, Number 10 Web Company, leveraged a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the beautiful Titanium app “Lark – Cooking Against the Grain”. Read more about how Jared and team pulled together this app to showcase the favorite recipes of James Beard Award-winning Chef John Sundstrom.

Lark Icon

Tell us a little bit more about your product and app
James Beard Award-winner and Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef John Sundstrom takes you on a culinary journey through the Pacific Northwest. His Seattle restaurant, Lark, is a beloved institution, and in this app, he shares 144 of his favorite recipes, all lushly illustrated with full-color step-by-step photographs and beautiful HD video demos and vignettes (video | iTunes). Organized according to three distinct seasons – Evergreen, Bounty, and Mist – the app is an homage to the majesty and bounty of the Northwest. Rich in detailed instruction, inspiring recipes, and stunning images, this app is a must-have for all home cooks.

Lark Cookbook

Why did you decide to use a mobile development platform instead of developing with the native SDKs?
We are a web development shop that has seen a growing number of requests from our clients for native app development over the last 2 years. Our decision to use Titanium allowed us to put to work the Javascript expertise we use every day in web development to build native applications and for us, that is very valuable.

Why did you pick Titanium for your development needs? What other platforms did you consider?
We also explored Phonegap/Cordova. Our experience was that when rendered on the device the experience felt nicer with Titanium. We also wanted to be able to have more complex controls, and performance seemed to suffer when we built these in HTML5. We took a short dead-end path into using PhoneGap, but quickly realized it was not going to be suitable for our application requirements.

What Titanium modules did you use in your app? Did you develop any of your own modules?
As we were developing a cooking app, we were most concerned with the quality of the content. Our editorial team was also widely distributed, with the Author and Chef developing the recipes, his staff turning them into things a normal person could cook at home, and a large panel of testers cooking (and eating) the results. We had folks all over the US, and even an editor in London helping out. As a result, we need a good toolset for data entry and management. The Drupal tools we use for our normal web development allowed us to build an online data entry site for everyone to use as a collaborative tool.

Then we extended the site using a Drupal query builder called Views so we could expose the data directly to Titanium via a REST interface with endpoints on the recipe data set. On the Titanium side, we chose to use a module called JSONDB (deprecated now in favor of SculeJS) for local data storage since it provided a familiar MongoDB style of interaction. During data entry and content testing, we ran regular exports from the site so we could develop against a “real” data set. Once the data was finalized it was a simple matter of importing into the local database, knowing we had already found most of the edge cases during data entry.

Can you walk me through how you developed this application?
Early on in the process, we realized that implementing our interface design was going to present some major performance challenges. The book is broken up into “plates” each of which consists of one or more recipes, and each recipe has multiple steps. Each step is made up of a large number of views, with up to 5 variable-length text items, and dynamically determined spacing for controls on each step.

While displaying some of this complex data we experienced significant lag that caused a poor user experience. Drawing these steps means calculating text lengths dynamically, and the combined rendering and redraw time after the length could be calculated was unacceptable. Our solution was to create a second “render robot” app from the same code base, that ran through the entire data set, rendered the displays, and stored the heights/lengths of all the steps in a JSONDB table. We then were able to use that table to display the steps in the real app using absolute measurements, which resulted in a massive improvement in performance even on the most visually complex screens! See a short video here of this in action here:

LARK – Cooking Against the Grain iPad App Demo from Lark Cookbook on Vimeo.

A short tour of the iPad cookbook app with a look at the Chocolate Madeleines recipe.

Big thanks to Jared for taking the time to give us some insight into his experience and success with Titanium app development. Interested in having your Titanium app showcased? Send us an email at community@appcelerator.com and share your story with us!