Today we have the ability to talk, text, shoot, browse, and shop at our leisure, right at our fingertips. Whether you carry around a tablet, an Android, or have fallen into the Apple trap, most people today enjoy the accessibility that a mobile device brings.
If you're a talker, even landlines are becoming a thing of the past as 60 per cent of households under 35 years old opted to only use cell phones in 2013, compared to just 39 per cent in 2010.
Now that we've established that, yes, mobile phones and devices are handy, have you ever taken a few steps back to look at the operations behind your weather or music app you use every day? Who visualized how the app would look? And, more importantly, who were the brains behind the mechanics and usability of the app?
As more women look to get into the industry mostly populated by male techies, we explore what it takes to build an app from scratch for the mobile trend that won't be fading anytime soon.
The job market is looking bright for computer science new grads and aspiring mobile developers. For Jenna Tauro, she's just started to get a taste of what it's like to work in the industry. A third-year software engineering student at the University of Waterloo and a co-op student in Android development at Bridgit, a mobile application for the construction industry, Tauro says her father was a great influence in sparking her interest in development, in addition to her own curiosity.
Growing up, I really liked math and problem solving so going into this field was good for that, she explains. Even further, developing is a good way to impact people's lives, especially in mobile with it being such a big thing right now.
Doing research, implementing quick fixes through coding, and conducting tests are tasks that take up most of Tauro's day as a mobile developer at Bridgit. Once I finish doing the task, I'll ask the lead developer to look at the code and we both look through it together, she explains. We'll fix it or talk about if things could be better.
For Lindsey Witmer Collins, founder of Lindsey Witmer Collins App Design & Development, her idea to start her own business came in 2010 when she raised capital to build her own application, despite her lack of experience in the tech field. After collaboration with a few app development agencies fell through, Collins took matters into her own hands and started apprenticing with a UX expert at MIT and at a Boston-based development firm to gain more knowledge in the industry.
Eventually I started creating apps for friends along with a development partner, which ballooned into the agency I have now, she says. I focus on providing what I think this industry needs more of: trust, accessibility, and good, old fashioned friendliness.
Working with her team of four developers, Collins uses Titanium, a mobile enterprise app development platform, to deploy her products for both iPhone and Android in a single step. Overlooking a team of two designers and a client assistant, Collins describes her day-to-day as mainly interacting with clients, creating prototypes, and testing projects from her development team.
Lindsey Witmer Collins App Design & Development offers two different services to its clients: app templates and apps built from scratch. I created one app and everyone pitched in to build it, she says, explaining the app templates as a product for clients without huge budgets. And then we duplicated the code multiple times so everyone could take it and make it theirs by adding their own branding and content.
Building an app from scratch, Collins says her team works on all app ideation, creation, and development from the ground up. We begin with user experience design and then move on to graphic design and brand strategy, she explains. After that, we build the app, launch it for iPhone and Android, and help the client with app store optimization'kind of like SEO is for websites, but for apps'to maximize their visibility in the stores.
Aware of the boom in the mobile world, Collins says it's safe to say that this new software is affecting who we are and who we'll become in the future'in subtle ways, nonetheless.
Given the visibility and influence of mobile, I really think that if we build great apps, we can make a real impact.
Being a woman in a field that's mostly made up of men is no easy task, and Collins says there is certainly a need for better gender equality in the mobile development field. I think it can feel like an unfriendly environment for women, she says. A room full of computer science guys is often not a culture they fit into or want to fit into, and I think that creates a real barrier.
But where there's a barrier, there's also a window of opportunity for women in the field if their forte isn't in coding, but is more focused on areas like product design and interaction. Women have taste and sensibility, she says, which makes them excellent candidates for design and branding. That's a huge piece of the puzzle of developing good software that doesn't get enough attention, says Collins. If you're good at code but can't design a good product, you're really only halfway there.
For Tauro, she looks at the lack of women in development as an opportunity to improve upon it and provide a voice for other women in the industry.
I would say women should consider this industry because it's a fun environment where you're constantly learning and you're going to be challenged every day, she says, adding that the job also requires a great deal of independent problem solving. You're making and creating something that'll impact people's lives and it's very rewarding.
Photo: Anthony Capano, ussr/Thinkstock