Do you need to locate a shop, find out the weather forecast, or simply play a game to while away the commute? There’s an app for that. In fact, there seems to be an app – an application you can download on your mobile phone – for everything. We all have our favourite apps, but have you ever thought about who is behind that little square tile?
One person who constantly thinks about apps you can’t live without is Nadeem Hakim, lead mobile app developer at Dubai-based digital agency, Prototype Interactive.
I develop apps so that people don’t have to worry about reminders and simple queries... then your brain can be used for something much more productive
Nadeem Hakim, Mobile app developer at Prototype Interactive
He did not set out to be an app developer. A commerce graduate and avid gamer, Hakim felt frustrated with existing games – so he made his own. Teaching himself how to programme through Google, he developed several games before being picked up by a games company in Mumbai, India.
Being an app developer requires a fiendish love for technology old and new, spending a lot of time in front of the computer and self-motivation, according to Hakim. “It’s a continuous learning curve, every two or three months you have to look for new technologies,” he explains. “No-one’s going to tell you ‘You need to learn this’, you have to push yourself.” His inspiration, he says, is Angry Birds.
One of Hakim’s most successful games apps is Parking Frenzy, with 3m downloads on the Android operating system and counting. “The idea [for Parking Frenzy] came from many people,” he says. “One of my friends was parking and we made fun of him: ‘You are not able to park my friend!’ and then we discussed it and eventually came up with the [app] idea.” Hakim started researching the geometry and trigonometry of manipulating a car within an app, before eventually hitting upon the idea of focusing on the steering wheel – moving the object from left to right, and rotating it.
Now he develops apps of all purposes for clients at Prototype. His aim is simple: to make life easier for people by helping their smartphones help them to free up time – whether to focus on more creative tasks or simply relax. “[I develop apps] so that people don’t have to worry about reminders and simple queries the phone can handle,” he notes. “Then your brain can be used for something much more productive.”
A successful app is one that stays relevant to the user and doesn’t get deleted two days later, suggests Hakim, something users make part of their life. The most successful app he has developed at Prototype is Shahid.net, an app that lets Arab broadcaster-MBC fans watch their favourite TV programme when it fits in with their schedule.
Different apps take varying amounts of time to develop, depending on scale and complexity, explains Hakim. While the average length of time to do the initial development is one to two months, refining and improving the app can take longer as he incorporates client and user feedback.
“If it is a challenging [app], it is much more interesting,” he observes. “I will spend hours and hours researching what is possible and what is not, and try and find a solution. That is what innovation is all about.”