EZToUse, PSU Altoona partner on mobile app

In addition to newspapers, cellular telephones, computers and phone directories, mobile apps have become an object of wanting information in today’s world, when and how they want it, on many different platforms.

The dependence results from the endless information available today, and a local company, EZToUse.com, has partnered with Penn State Altoona to design a mobile app. It was created by Penn State Altoona student Shane Irwin, who worked with EZToUse.com and its technology manager, Lance Carowick.

EZToUse.com is a local business directory and a navigation website for quickly searching any businesses by name or category – anywhere in the United States – in addition to using a local phone book to find that information.

With communication devices and social media dominating the lives of the general public, an EZToUse.com mobile app was developed for customers who own iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices.

The project began in 2011 and became available for public use in July 2012 so that anyone could find what they need no matter where they are.

Ed Kruger, publisher of the Altoona Mirror and general manager of Ogden Directories and EZToUse.com, was looking to expand EZToUse.com’s information technology department.

Carowick noted that Stacey Breinich, a Penn State Altoona graduate who works as a web developer for EZToUse.com, had established a friendship with Dr. Jungwoo Ryoo, associate professor of Information Sciences and Technology and the coordinator of the IST program at Penn State Altoona.

They initially contacted Ryoo with intentions of proposing a partnership to develop a mobile app for the EZToUse.com yellow pages website. The process of creating the app was important to Ryoo, but he had an ulterior motive: He was interested in exploring the methodologies that practitioners use when creating mobile apps and the effectiveness of such methods.

His objective aimed at identifying the specific engineering requirements needed to make a successful communication device. EZToUse.com financed a research grant, and the project was shortly underway.

Penn State Altoona student Shane Irwin was selected to work with Ryoo.

Irwin was a senior at the time, majoring in Security and Risk Analysis.

“When we started the project, the student didn’t know how to develop an app; now he’s an expert,” Ryoo said.

“Shane was the perfect fit,” Kruger said.

EZToUse.com, a division of Ogden Directories, was so taken with Irwin’s skills and success that he was hired after his graduation.

“It was a great opportunity as a company to benefit a college student,” Carowick said.

Beginning as a part-time employee, Irwin now works full time on various in-house applications, including maintaining and redesigning his previously designed apps.

Irwin described the app on its initial release and noted its maturity since the debut, saying, “It was simplistic, a basic learning experience. It wasn’t perfect then.”

The EZToUse.com app has recorded more than 42,000 downloads to date and is growing at a rate of approximately 500 downloads per week. It began with being available for iPhones, then expanded to Androids and Blackberry devices.

Ogden and EZToUse.com are happy with the results.

“It’s perfect now,” Kruger said. “You can use it in any location in the United States and find anything you want – in seconds.”

The EZToUse.com IT department has expanded to 13 employees and has increased its presence on social media and offering social media for managing businesses, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Carowick and Irwin have teamed to expand the app’s options to include more specific choices, and bookmarking is available for easy access.

Kruger said the expansion would not have occurred without the alliance with Penn State Altoona.

“The collaboration was a good partnership,” he said. “It benefited Shane, Penn State and EZToUse.com.”

Kruger said the EZToUse.com app is the third-most relevant app in the nation for yellow page searches. EZToUse prints 68 directories in eight states with a distribution of 4.5 million.

The App is available for a free download at The Apple App Store, or Android and Google play store or BlackBerry World.