Open Source Spotlight:

Dara Monasch / Thursday, March 19, 2015

Competition in the mobile app space becomes fiercer every day. There are more and more applications crowding the marketplace, and everyone seems to want a piece of the proverbial pie. However, many developers continue devoting their time to open source projects, and are happy just knowing that their applications are helping the greater community of their peers. What motivates these entrepreneurial, yet philanthropic developers? Infragistics Marketing Communications Analyst, Dara Monasch, spoke to the lead developer of open source app,, Darren Barklie, to dive into his team’s motivations as well as get a little information about their app!

  1. You say that was conceived on a scrap of paper 12 months ago. Can you share more of the story around how the app concept was developed?

    Since NIFTIT was founded around 18 months ago, we had always spoke of a collective ambition to build products, as well as contribute to the open source community.  Khoa and Dom (NIFTIT co-founders) threw around a few ideas to be considered by the wider team.  As frontend designers and developers, we thought we would find the mobile statistics web app the most useful for ourselves day to day.  So that initial scrap of paper was expanded to wire-frames, then full designs and eventually a fully-developed web app.

  2. Why did you decide to go open source with Can you tell us a little bit about your involvement in the open source community?

    We have the greatest respect for the open source software community.  Like most devs, so much of our daily workflow is made up of open source/free software; from operating systems down to jQuery plugins, via web browsers and content management systems.  That these resources remain free and so widely-accessible is what really drives innovation on the web.  While is a modest contribution, we are still hopeful that it is a worthwhile addition to ease and/or hasten fellow designers and developers workflows.

  3. What was the best part of developing

    Working from a completely blank canvas!  While it can be as intimidating as it is exciting, I really enjoyed the freedom afforded to the team that typically doesn’t come from working with a client.  It’s quite a different process to create something from nothing.

  4. Was wireframing always part of the application development plan? How important do you find wireframing was to this project, if at all?

    As mentioned, starting with nil content and having to conceptualize every functionality and design decision is much different than working with a client or providing a service.  Wireframing proved essential to exploring the scope of our functionality and to allow the team to make early design decisions.  Making these decisions early, before essentially “skinning” our solution with a final aesthetic, avoided any headaches later in development.

  5. You selected AngularJS for this project specifically due to the two-way data binding functionality; do you have any tips or tricks to share now that you’ve written the app, either about that functionality specifically or AngularJS in general?

    With AngularJS: know what you want to do before you do it.  With jQuery we are used to writing HTML and then manipulating it in the DOM, whereas Angular forces you to take a different approach. The functionality needs to be written into the HTML.  While this is more modular and structured, it can be difficult if you are used to writing jQuery scripts.

  6. Can you share the biggest challenge you encountered while developing

    Like responsive design, learning to be extremely fluid and adaptable throughout the development process proved to be the biggest challenge – but also the most worthwhile learning experience.  Since this was a side project, we couldn’t always be as consistent with our attention as creating a product perhaps deserves.  So it was necessary to maintain agility with both our timing and our attention.  Since there was never a right or wrong way to solve a problem, we also had to adapt this flexibility in problem-solving and solution-finding. 

  7. What do you anticipate being most used for?

    Hopefully our concept is focused enough that it is used exactly as it was conceived: as a quick-fire tool for designers and developers to retrieve key mobile device information.

  8. What has the most interesting use case been so far for

    To generalize our internal user testing experiences, I think what has been most notable is how quickly people find the device they want.  Our search functionality is really quick to respond, and the filters are easy to interpret and enjoyable to use.

  9. You mention that aims to provide data to its users in 3-8 seconds and less than three clicks. How did you decide on these metrics?

    We knew that for to be a useful tool to the community, it only had to do one thing, but do it really well.  In this case, our chief metric was the timing it took from the user landing on our page to retrieving the device information they required.  That’s why we accommodate so many different filtering options that can be utilized simultaneously.  The metrics you mention were based on in-house testing.  Should the tool gain some wide-spread use, we would consider monitoring these metrics much more closely to aid future improvement.

  10. What do you think your next project will be?

    It’s already in progress, but I don’t think we’re in a position to reveal it yet!  Lessons learned from the experience of building have refined my approach to this next project, which is much bigger in scale and ambition.

  11. Do you have any advice for developers who are considering starting their first open source project?

    I think that my advice would be to maintain your focus on doing one thing and doing it as well as you possibly can.  Identify a single problem and provide a single stream-lined and user-friendly solution.  The process of identifying the whole problem, moving through the design of a solution, before coding, testing, releasing and marketing your product will provide you with a full body of experience that will serve any developer well as they further their career.  As a user, I love sites that I can rely on for just that one task; favourites including, and

  12. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

    Just to recognize the wider team of NIFTers that supported the process from paper to product; special thanks to Nghi, Craig, Courtney, Dom, Jessica and Khoa.  I’d also like to point out that is forkable on Github, should any devs wish to contribute to the project and/or report any bugs; we’re keen to improve the product to ensure it is the best resource online for finding key mobile device information.

So there you have it! Thank you so much to Darren and the team for sharing their story with me, and letting me share it with all of you!

If you have an open source application or another venture that you think the Infragistics community would like to hear about, please reach out to Dara and let her know!