People often forget that the original iPhone shipped sans its iconic app store. That's right, before "there was an app for that", there weren't any contemporary apps at all.
Of course, that has changed considerably over the past few years. These days, there are more apps than ever. Indeed, extremely disruptive business models such as Uber are only possible because of apps. (Of course, apps present their own set of challenges for developers and little companies such as Google.) Against this backdrop, I recently sat down with developer Tajddin Maghni to talk about his approach to app development.
PS: Tell me about what you do.
TJ: I'm the founder of App Design & Development by Tajddin. We're a small team based out of Las Vegas specializing in bringing high-quality apps to fruition. We generally work with early-stage startups that are solving problems that resonate with us.
PS: How did you get started building apps?
TJ: Technically speaking, I started building apps back in 1999 when I was 13 and they were more commonly called programs. I recall writing a Java applet that would complete trig and geometry questions and selling them for $5 a pop to fellow students as a freshman in high school.
As a sophomore/junior, I approached the school district's technical administrator asking him if they wouldn't mind me writing a new help desk app to replace their existing outdated solution, so after a couple of weeks I came up with DataTrack, a c# help desk app which eventually went on to have over a thousand customers worldwide, ranging from Pfizer to Nautilus to mission critical setups like the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service. It was funny being 17 and skipping class to take calls for potential customers--most of my teachers knowing full well this was happening--since the administration switched over to using it and the shortcut icon to the app was on every teacher's screen in the district.
What are some apps you've released? What are you working on now?
ORE.FM is a fantastic new way to discover underground heavy metal for iOS and Android that leverages geofencing and curated, manually approved artists to play local, truly underground metal. Metal is a genre that really turns heads to those who love it and now fans can scope out what metal's like in say, London vs Brazil vs Israel vs NY. For bands, it's an excellent way to get discovered.
As a musician, I absolutely, know first hand the struggle of getting your work noticed and ORE.FM aims to be a platform that solves this. We plan on bringing ORE to other underground genres as well.
PS: What's Enjion?
TJ: Enjion is just launching in beta and has been likened to a modern version of Microsoft Access in the cloud. In short, it enables users to create data-centric business apps on the fly. You can drag and drop a user interface (UI), hook in and collect data, then automate based upon rules and criteria. To a certain degree similar to Parse, but targeted towards enterprise developers and power users, Enjion focuses on rapidly developing business applications in the cloud. Features like inbox monitoring and workflow automation allow users to perform actions based upon the contents of emails received, like tagging, routing and approval or the creation of a new support ticket, for example. You can easily share apps created in Enjion with anyone using any device.
PS: Why is design important to you?
TJ: Art and music play a huge role in my life--I've composed and produced music professionally while doing the whole music industry hustle before coming full circle back to software, so I think I have a unique perspective. No different than a well-crafted pop song designed to be catchy to sell more singles, apps are extremely complex, functional forms of art bound by strict parameters. They have to be catchy and they have an identity that users gravitate to.
So to build a viable app--even for an Minimum Viable Product (MVP)--it can't just be functional and prototypical. People live in these apps and when it comes to choosing between two apps of similar functionality and price, a user will always go with the better-designed one.
PS: What development tools do you use?
TJ: If I'm building software from scratch, it often starts with a sketch on plain old paper and pencil or Paper by 53 on my iPad, followed by a mockup in Photoshop or Illustrator then then onto coding. Depending on the project requirements, I may use .NET and Visual Studio, Java with Eclipse or Node and Chrome's DevTools. If it's music, I'm Logic Pro all the way.
PS: How do you work? What is your current mobile device and home computer?
TJ: My current workspace includes an iPhone 6s Plus and a 27-inch iMac with a dual monitor setup.
PS: Where do you see app development heading in the years to come?
TJ: I see cloud-based application development platforms like AWS Lambda, Parse, and Enjion becoming the standard approach to rapidly developing applications. Often, there is a wide array of features such as user and state management that have to be implemented over and over for each new application; it only makes sense to offset this to third parties who will specialize at it. What's more, it allows developers to focus on quickly getting our ideas into the hands of users.