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Custom App Spotlight: DiversifySTEM – Advancing Women in STEM Careers

Check out the all new DiversifySTEM website and mobile apps the AppPresser Custom App Development team created for the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers or OSPE for short. OSPE is a non-profit organization based in Toronto that advocates important society and engineering issues on behalf of engineers and engineering graduates in Ontario Canada.

The AppPresser team worked closely with the OSPE team to develop DiversifySTEM, a microlearning app and website for the Breaking Barriers initiative to help advance women in STEM programs and careers. Not only was this project fun to work on, it's for a great cause!

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We developed a LMS (Learning Management System) website and mobile apps for iOS and Android using WordPress along with popular WordPress Plugins, LearnDash and BuddyPress, to provide micro lessons that promote gender diversity in STEM workplaces. ‚ÄčThis app was built for STEM employers who want practical tips on attracting and retaining women in STEM careers.

DiversifySTEM is made up of flexible, action-oriented, and thought-provoking micro lessons that are easy to manage by WordPress Administrators and make a fun and easy way to learn and engage with users on their mobile devices. Leveraging the WordPress REST API, and the APIs of the most current versions of LearnDash and BuddyPress, we are able to create a hybrid mobile app for iOS and Android devices with a slick UI that loads interactive micro lesson cards that can easily be discussed and shared by users.

Custom LearnDash Integration

LearnDash is the one of the most popular LMS (Learning Management Systems) available for WordPress. Leveraging the LearnDash REST API we are able to pull course and lesson data directly into the mobile app. Each LearnDash micro lesson is organized into interactive and engaging cards. LearnDash lessons and cards can easily be introduced into the system and managed by WordPress administrators. Mobile app end users can easily navigate through multiple lessons and favorite any selected cards as well as share them on any social media. At the end of each micro-lesson the app user has the opportunity to submit a star rating and feedback, the user can also join in on any bbPress powered discussion around each one of the lessons. Using LearnDash cuts down on custom development costs and time when building a custom course based learning mobile app.

If you are using AppPresser as a developer and building mobile apps yourself you can use our AppLMS plugin to easily integrate your mobile app with your LearnDash powered LMS via the LearnDash API.

Custom GamiPress Integration

GamiPress is a popular WordPress plugin for "Gamification", you can easily award your website or mobile app users with points, badges, or any registered achievement types you would like to define. The idea is if you give your users awards triggered by defined user actions it will keep them more engaged and coming back to your app. Users can easily share their awards on social media to help spread the word and link to your website/app. For this project we developed a simple star points system where every time an app user completes a LearnDash lesson, they are awarded with a star and a number of predefined points. Leveraging some of the GamiPress Add-ons like the Leaderboards plugin easily gives administrators more insight into who is completing what within the app and who has the most points.

Custom BuddyPress Integration

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BuddyPress is a WordPress plugin used for building a social network out of your website or mobile app. BuddyPress comes standard with all of the features and functionality you might expect in a basic social network like member profiles, organic groups, private messaging, activity feeds, and more.

Leveraging the BuddyPress REST API we are able to push and pull data to and from an iOS and Android mobile app for a logged in app user. The built in and flexible BuddyPress profile fields make it easy to manage user profile information from the back end of WordPress while we develop any custom front end app UI that gets the profile data via the REST API. If BuddyPress doesn't have any of the data we need by default we can easily extend the BuddyPress API with a custom endpoint to access the data we need from within the app.

Building a mobile app that runs off of BuddyPress content cuts down on development time because we don't have to build a custom database schema to store the content, we don't need to develop custom API routes/endpoints, and we don't have to build a custom UI to manage the content, we just need to make sure the data we require in the app is exposed via the REST API and we can focus primarily on any custom front end mobile app UI development.

For this custom app project we only really leveraged the BuddyPress Member Profile features. If you would like to learn more about how easy it can be to build create your own social network mobile app powered by BuddyPress features and functionality, check out our AppCommunity add-on for AppPresser.

Custom Single Sign-On Integration

Basic SSO or Single Sign On is usually a must for any iOS and/or Android mobile app we develop that require a user login.

Behind the scenes of most membership based apps we build where a user can login to the app we are using their same WordPress user account for authentication. This is very typical of us to leverage the WordPress REST API and JSON Web Tokens to provide a SSO for WordPress users between the website and mobile apps.

Some projects such as DiversifySTEM required that users can also authenticate and login to both the website and the apps via another 3rd party system that they use. In this particular project, our client uses a 3rd party CRM called MPower Technologies. We worked with MPower's API to develop SSO functionality for the website and mobile app so existing OSPE members can authenticate and login via their MPower login credentials or what they call their OSPE Membership.

Custom Genesis Child Theme

With a lot of our custom app development projects our clients not only want iOS and Android apps, they also want custom WordPress themes developed for desktop and mobile browsers. For the desktop and mobile website for this project we wanted to use a popular and flexible WordPress child theme framework so we decided to use the Genesis Theme Framework by StudioPress. Using a child theme framework allows us to easily make updates to the child theme while leveraging any updates to the parent theme made by the StudioPress team. The custom website experience for DiversifySTEM on desktop and mobile browsers is slick, fast, and optimized for end user engagement.

If you are a WordPress developer and you are not using the Genesis Theme Framework you might want to take a look over some of the existing Genesis Child Themes that could give you a huge head start and help you save time and money.

Website Hosted at WP Engine

Because speed, availability, and support is important to our client we decided to recommend hosting the website with WP Engine, a popular managed WordPress hosting company.

The website and mobile apps for iOS and Android are all powered from the same WordPress install so it's important that install is as fast as can be. WP Engine offers great solutions for website caching and easily managing a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to make sure websites hosted on their platform are optimized for speed and availability.

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Brian Messenlehner