How to build a smartphone app

Experts give us the lowdown on how to launch an app in the UAE

Time In

Two insiders reveal the basics of launching a Dubai app and explain why such software is revolutionising the way we browse the web.

With new apps launching in iTunes every day, the demand for simple, streamlined ways to access web-based information on a smartphone or tablet is growing. While many of the apps on offer are designed by international programmers, in the past couple of months there have been a number of local app launches, including treasure hunt-style Urban Hunt and Arabic calligraphy app Nuqta.

So, with a growing number of app developers on our doorstep, it’s now quite simple to build your own in Dubai. But what exactly is involved in conceptualising, creating and building an app, and can anyone dabble in it?

‘It’s like writing a story,’ says Asim Bashir, co-founder of Dubai scavenger hunt app Urban Hunt, who got the idea for his app from The Da Vinci Code. ‘You have to know what’s going to happen next until the very last page.’ Bashir reiterates that having a great idea is the starting point, but there are so many other factors that come into building an app, predominantly user functionality, user behaviour and user experience.

‘Anyone can come up with an idea, but you have to think about what’s going to happen in the background, you need to think about your audience and what they need,’ he says. Nuqta spokesperson Haroon Sugich agrees that all good apps start with a brilliant idea. Nuqta, founded by London-based calligrapher Soraya Syed Sanders, is a tool for art lovers to share, source and photograph Arabic calligraphy across the region, and was launched in Dubai as the global hub of Middle Eastern art.

Yet a great idea doesn’t always translate into an app. ‘That’s the biggest hurdle,’ says Sugich. ‘There is a big gap between the creative idea of something and the way it’s used, as well as in the communications between the technical people that build apps and the creative people that come up with the ideas.’ He says potential app creators also need to think about hiccups. ‘The best approach is to look at the dark side of the spectrum – what could go wrong with the app, why it would not be useable, then work up from there and eliminate the problems. If the app isn’t very easy to use, people will stop using it,’ he says.

Bashir says it takes at least a month to build and test an app for usability from conception to completion, with the cost starting at about Dhs3,700 for the most simple interface. ‘You want it to be easy, intuitive, straightforward and not too complicated,’ he says. ‘For example, you don’t want to put your settings or features in a place that nobody will find them.’

But will apps eventually overtake standard web browsing in terms of popularity? Bashir thinks so. ‘I think apps are the new web. Nowadays most people access the web through their phones, and every company will eventually have an app in terms of accessibility to their information, whereas it used to be that you had a web page to put yourself out there. Apps are easier to access, more intuitive, they are faster to create than a website, and it’s a better way to display your information on a small phone.’
For more information on building an app, see or contact Memotech (04 451 7626).

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