The Art of Web & Mobile AppsLeft to right: Meg Prescott, Terrance Nelan, Jeffrey Vocell

Every quarter, The Music Hall Loft in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and NHTweetUp hold an event called Digital Portsmouth, bringing together movers and shakers in tech and business in the New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts seacoast area. On November 15, 2012, the event focused on “The Art of Web & Mobile Apps.”

Three speakers brought three different perspectives: developers, educators, and managers.

Speaking from the perspective of a developer was Jeffrey Vocell, cofounder of Trendslide. He noticed at his previous job that employees have become very good at external communications through social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but internal communication still suffered. He wanted a way to get the information he needed without bothering members of other teams that held that data or digging through reports.

Vocell started with a custom dashboard in Microsoft Excel, but quickly ported the idea to a mobile app that he developed with a partner. The two soon spun it off into its own company. In the process, he learned three lessons that he shared with the group.

  • Lesson #1: Communication is the most underrated analytics tool. Data is most effective when people share it and combine it in ways that they can see the effects of one type of data on another.
  • Lesson #2: Designing and building for mobile is very different than doing so for the web. Moreover, mobile users take very little time with an app before deciding to use it or delete it, so vital functions have to be right up front.
  • Lesson #3: Don’t try to cram too much functionality into a mobile app. Only essential components should be included because there’s not that much screen space to do anything else.

Meg Prescott, a professor at Great Bay Community College, shared some stories of working with a handpicked class of high school students learning mobile and web development. She said that the only real requirement for getting into the class was a passion for wanting to learn programming. Several of her students’ projects-in-progress are available for viewing at

The final speaker was Terrance Nelan of PixelMEDIA. His presentation, “The Care and Feeding of Developers,” focused on how to keep developers in one’s employ satisfied and productive. His number one suggestion: “Give them some interesting problems to solve.”

We think we take pretty good care of our developers here at Zco, but we always like to give them new challenges. Do you have an idea for the next app like Trendslide? Email us to make it happen!

Tags: digital portsmouth nh vocell, custom dashboard app, Jeffrey Vocell, Meg Prescott, pixelmedia, Terrance Nelan, trendslide