Mobile apps for iOS and Android are big business, as is evidenced by the fact that as of December 2014, apps were being developed 4:1 against PC software, according to Tech.co.
There’s a lot of great ideas, a great deal of talent, and a high demand for app development. But most people don’t have a team of mobile developers at their beck and call waiting for their next inspiration.
That’s where Yalantis comes in. A highly-skilled team of mobile developers based out of the Ukraine, Yalantis has been developing apps since the early days of iPhones in 2008.
Yalantis’ Ekaterina Subbotina took a moment to tell us about Yalantis and the early days of mobile development, and share what they’ve learned along the way and some useful insights on developing your own iOS and Android apps.
First off, can you introduce us to Yalantis? Where are you based out of? When was your company formed? What inspired you to start Yalantis initially?
We are a mobile app development team located in the city of Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine. We have been around since 2008.
Seven years ago, development services for mobile were just emerging, following the appearance of the first iPhone in 2007. Apple’s creation became a cradle for Yalantis, as developing apps for iPhone was our first strategy. The reason for that was not an omnipresent love for Apple, but market research. Alexander Kholodov, one of Yalantis’ co-founders and a developer himself in the past, discovered that the demand for iPhone apps on Elance, an online staffing platform for freelancers, exceeded the offers by a large margin. We started with an aim to fill the empty niche existing in the iPhone apps development. After a while, Yalantis became one of the top mobile app development firms, and our expertise was replenished with Android and UI/UX design.
Read more about Yalantis here.
What are some different industries that you’ve worked with over time? What are some things that are different depending on what industry you are working with?
We’ve been working with a great variety of people from different industries. The major spheres include real estate, dating, health & fitness, music, etc. We are really very diversified. That’s because our clients are mostly start-ups, so we help them make a great mobile product no matter what niche they chose. This helps us gain expertise in new areas and grow as a tech team. We also work with individual entrepreneurs, established companies (like Zillow, the USA based leading real estate company), and even non-profit organisations (like ODMP application, which was developed for one of the most visited memorials in the world that commemorates American and Canadian law enforcement officers).
What are some challenges that come with working with proprietary software like iOS, and how do you get around that? How much time did you have to spend to become adept at Apple’s programming language?
Our narrow focus — iOS and Android only — allows us to perfect our skills more effectively. We are constantly deepening our experience in mobile app development by engaging in a variety of projects, including those that require the knowledge of the latest technology and services. This is how we learn new tools and frameworks and innovate our approaches to product development. We do code reviews on each project, experiment with pair programming, and arrange tech meet-ups and conferences both inside our team and with developers from other companies.
Yalantis’ shared office space allows specialists from different departments, such as iOS and Android, design and quality assurance, management and sales, and even administrative, to freely collaborate. We literally created a community inside our team. This way of organising people is highly important, as it lets us come up with great ideas, exchange experiences, get some help, deal with difficulties, share achievements and simply have fun.
Can you tell us about some of your apps? For starters, can you talk a little bit about Life Buzz? What does it do? How is it different than other aggregator sites and software out there? How popular has it been? How does Lifebuzz discover the trending information? How long did it take you to make?
Lifebuzz is a content sharing website whose owner turned to us to port it on mobile. The app is similar to an RSS reader, but we also implemented the ability to leave Facebook comments for those who’d like to discuss the news. Detailed information on every article comes from the server in a form of a web page.
The project was supposed to take 220 hours, according to the initial scope. However, during the development process, we experimented with ads, design, and features, which resulted in the increase of the development time by approximately 340 hours.
Could you also tell us a little bit about the NYC Apartments app? Again, where does the app go about sourcing that information? Have you heard any success stories, given New York’s notoriously difficult housing market?
The StreetEasy app provides accurate and comprehensive for-sale and for-rent listings through partnerships with all of the largest real estate brokerages in New York. The StreetEasy website attracts nearly 1.2 million monthly unique home shoppers in the New York region.
StreetEasy belongs to Zillow, the leading real estate marketplace on mobile and the Web. Zillow acquired the company in 2013 to extend its market leadership to the country’s largest and most important real estate market.
Zillow and Trulia, which is now a combined company, currently work with existing MLS systems and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to get access to their data. Listings may also come from 3rd party vendors, real estate companies, real estate agents and FSBO (For Sale By Owner). The real estate market in the USA is very competitive. After Zillow acquired Trulia, it became the owner of 71% of online real estate traffic.
We’ve been working with Zillow for about four years now, developing their real estate apps for iOS and Android. You can read about real estate apps on our blog.
Could you talk just a bit about the Entourage app? What does it do, and how is it different than social media groups or something like meetup.com? Who seems to respond the best to Entourage?
Entourage is not the same as Meetup. In Meetup, you register and then join the groups that share the same interests. In Entourage, you need to create a group of your friends when you register. The idea is to meet other groups of friends. Entourage is not a dating project; it allows groups of three people maximum to meet other groups according to the search parameters they have set. If two groups like each other, they can chat. You can’t create events like in Meetup.
Users can invite friends to their group in Entourage via email and SMS unless they are registered in the app.
You’ve got a section on your website for your competencies. Could you briefly recap what are a few areas where Yalantis particularly excels? For app developers, how important is it to always be growing and honing your skill sets? Are there any resources, either online or off, that are particularly useful for developers to keep learning?
We are particularly good at developing material design animations. You can check them out in our Github repository. Other areas where we excel include real-time messaging, audio playback, tracking time, integrations with payment systems, e-commerce, maps and geolocation, and so on. At present, we are actively engaged in improving our expertise in video effects and learning Swift programming language. We are also one of the best UI/UX studios. Works by our designers can be seen on Behance and Dribbble.
We believe it’s a matter of primary importance for any tech company to continue growing. The technology landscape changes very fast. That’s why it’s vital for a company like ours to always be up-to-date with the latest developments and establish expertise ahead of the curve.
We recommend developers participate in different developer communities. Yalantis is a member and an active participant in such organisations as Google Developer Group, CocoaHeads, and Dribbble community of designers. We often initialise and host events on behalf of these organisations.
Here are some online resources for mobile developers:
Could you give a brief, hypothetical rundown on what the process might be if a company were to contact you with an idea for an app? How long might the process from conception to completion take?
We provide a rough estimate that we send to a client together with a list of questions, comments, and suggestions. Then we make a call with a client and our team members to discuss a project and specify its scope. When all the details are clarified, we make a thorough estimate that takes into account the decisions we reached during negotiations.
The process of development often starts with Sprint Zero, which is a preparation week during which we plan every iteration, make wireframes and basic design, compose user stories, and create project-related documentation.
We use Agile methodology in the product development and divide all our projects into repeated time-boxed development cycles called iterations. Each iteration is usually two weeks long and includes a slice of functionality delivered through collaborative work from specifying requirements to design, testing, and deployment. All members of our development team communicate with clients every day. At the end of each iteration, we make demos and submit a build to a client for feedback.
Our projects last about three months on the average.
How much have you seen the app environment change since you’ve been involved with it? What are some of the most exciting developments you’ve noticed, and what makes them so promising?
A lot has changed since we started, from screens of mobile devices getting bigger every year to a revolutionary change in the landscape of today’s businesses. A few years ago, creating a new social network was a common choice for many entrepreneurs. Now, we get clients interested in creating an app that would make a major impact on their business strategy. Improvements in user experience and a growing availability of advanced mobile technology allows even small businesses with limited budgets to compete against much larger companies.
We think Google’s material design concept is the clearest expression of the new philosophy in mobile design and development. The objects on screen may look flat, but now they receive a physical presence. Design decisions made in iOS 8 and Android inspire us to create trending app features.
What makes us really happy is that mobile continues to proliferate. The key trends for the future – such as smartwatch, the Internet of things, smart TV, increased connectivity, augmented reality – are all chained to mobile OS. There is so much ahead! This makes us really excited.
What would you so say to companies that are thinking of developing their own app, but feel like they can’t afford it? What are some reasons why it’s a smart move for a company to develop their own app?
It sure is a smart move given the spread of mobile technology and wearables. A mobile app is not a matter of preference anymore. If you want to run a successful business, you must be on mobile.
We think developing an app is not as much of a question of whether you can afford it, but whether this app can actually bring you the results you expect, especially when talking about start-ups. A mobile product is all about discovery because you can never know if your idea works out, nor do you know how to make it work out until you try.
That’s why we offer our clients who feel they can’t afford building a full version of the product to develop an MVP. An early version of an app takes less time and requires a significantly smaller amount of money. What it provides, though, is a great chance to test an idea and find out if it’s viable on the market. We help our clients define the minimum set of features for an MVP and offer our support throughout the whole process of product development.