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Lessons from developing an app for my university


I build an app for my university. Here are some things I learn:

Building an app for my university is my first attempt to make a product for more than 200 users. Not a lot since the app is only used by a small group of international students on campus.

The app is a student engagement tracking app. However, it is still simpler than that. The purpose of the app is for students to upload their selfies taken at events, and in return, they will have a signature or a proof of participation which is given by the navigators - the ones who help manage international students.

Anyway, before building an app, you should ask yourself why. How can it improve the experience for the targeted users? In this case, I know this app will save a lot of time. Before this app, most of the things were done on paper. Students took their photos, brought them to the office, and showed them to the navigators. Navigators will then give them a signature on paper which they had to keep and tried not to lose it. With this app, students do not have to carry their signature sheets around. And, navigators do not have to deal with students coming to the office and give them the signatures. Additionally, the number of international students coming to the university was expected to rise.

When making this app, there are 2 sides I have to focus on: the navigators and the students. I have to design a simple user experience for navigators to easily approve or reject students’ submissions. And for the students, a single page where they can submit their photos without logging in so they do not have to deal with the hassle of creating an account and forgetting their passwords.

It was winter. And new students were supposed to arrive during the spring around January. I started developing the app around November. However, I wanted to build fast, get feedback from navigators, and iterate.

My initial step was planning:

My second step was coding the app’s UI:

The third step was building the prototype to show it to the navigators. I did not even use any database for this:

A prototype was made with not much coding!

After getting feedback and iterating the MVP, it is time to move to the next step: code the complete product! Here are some things I notice:

After the launch, it was thrilling to see people start using what you had built. But problems would arise. For instance:

So the lesson here is there will always be incompatibility somewhere along the road. And there will be ways to get around with it. Design is important, in this case, text placement, and color.

In the end, the great thing after all of this is that I gain more experience as a developer, also as a designer. Another thing is, not trying to show off but, I was offered a $500 scholarship for the service.


GitHub | Global Lions Community Super App for University of North Alabama