March 20th 2017
iPhone and iPad app developer Rehat Kathuria talks us through how he started making apps, what you should think about if you want an app made and the pitfalls of learning to write code for iOS.
Rehat is one of the world’s best iOS developers having worked for some of our favorite companies including Lost My Name, MetaLab and Other Media. He’s made apps for every topic from sports to travel, so we wanted to talk to him about how he got into making apps, what he really enjoys about it and what new coders should know.
Hey Rehat, tell us a bit about your software development experience.
I've been developing on iOS for a little over six years now. I got taught Java during my first year of university but didn't enjoy it much; I wanted to build something that I could carry around on my phone.
One of my then professors used to also run an agency in Bermondsey so I asked him to introduce me to the iOS developers in his office. He did and they pointed me towards the Stanford Lectures on iTunes University. They asked me to build and put something into the App Store - and if I could they promised me an interview.
Four absurdly long months later, I was at the office being interviewed for a Junior iOS Developer position. I learned a lot working under one of the lead developers and he shaped a lot of my thinking and attitude towards programming.
To give you an idea of how much I learned, when I left I rewrote the app that initially got me the interview and this time I wrote it in under five hours.
iPhone - Photo by Drew Hayes
What’s the most enjoyable part of building apps?
I equate building an app to solving a massive moving jigsaw puzzle. You start with a rough idea on how you want to go about completing it, and also to a certain extent, how you want this magical puzzle to behave when it’s completed, but as you add to it you’re suddenly confronted with more puzzles. And as you begin to solve the puzzle inside of the puzzle another one appears. And it doesn’t stop. It’s constantly evolving and you’re constantly going deeper. It’s magical, frustrating, beautiful and mentally rewarding.
If I wanted an iPhone app built, what should I approach you with?
A lot of the times, an idea is sufficient as starting space, but it differs from client to client and the required deliverables. A previous client of mine that primarily sells physical goods was intrigued by the idea of having an app in the store but didn’t really know what or even if they should.
For research and development deliverables like that, it’s feasible to approach me with nothing. I prototyped ideas for said client helping them ultimately conclude that they needed a thorougher digital strategy before building an app. In an ideal world, a client would approach me with a problem that they’d like to solve. If they approach with anything more, I’d ask for them to bring an open mind to the discussion.
“Software development is tough. Keeping up with the latest technologies is hard. Replying to emails is soul-sucking. Fixing obscure bugs is not easy. Planning is arduous.”
What are the worst things a potential client could approach you with?
There’s not much, if anything, than a client approaching me with a buzzword filled brief. Not having design is fine. Not having a plan is fine too. Pretending to have both, and more, is worse.
What’s your one tip for fledgling developers?
I have many tips, but if I had to limit it to one it'd be that you should always find time for yourself. Find time to focus on your health.
Software development is tough. Keeping up with the latest technologies is hard. Replying to emails is soul-sucking. Fixing obscure bugs is not easy. Planning is arduous. Doing all that whilst maintaining your health is exhausting. Tech is a massive black hole. Avoid getting sucked in by floating at the edge. Don't forget to set aside time for yourself and occasionally step away.
If you weren’t a developer, what would you be?
As much as I love being a developer, I don't think I'll be in tech forever; I don't have the mental energy for such a feat. For the first time in my life, I'm proud enough of my photography enough to put it out into the world and that’s a beautiful feeling. I have plans for a body of work I’m currently producing that’s focused on the coasts of England and I'm hoping that when I do eventually go ahead and follow my instincts with it, this answer isn't to an "if" question, but rather a "when" one. Stay tuned.