Students of Manipal, across all colleges and across all years, surprisingly have a lot of hurdles in common.
Whether it is the rush to check your internals after a bad paper, or the dissatisfaction with the food, moments like this prove that we are all different threads of the same ball of yarn. Take a look back on any week of your semester. You might remember the tough choice your 8 AM class and an extra hour of nap gave you. You might think about the midnight craving that never found the Night Canteen’s number. Disorganization seems to be an essential element to our home, away from home.
The MTTN tech team related to these issues as much as you did, and decided to do something about it. Their summer of 2018 was spent trying to find a solution to problems the entirety of the students faced here. Tireless effort and many sleepless nights later, the MTTN app was finally born. Since its inception, it has grown to not only be a part of MTTN but also the very fabric of student life.
Cambiar 2018 was where the people of Manipal first got to see the result of the Herculean effort put in. The audience and college were instant fans. The user base only kept increasing – and our major flex was that despite being a media organisation, we were the only ones in an engineering college to develop an app for it.
WHY WAS THE APP MADE?
Simply put, it is a one-stop-shop for all your needs in Manipal, as a student and as a resident.
In the initial stages, the app was being designed to fulfil three purposes—to provide a platform for information to be accessed easily. Up until this point, accessing this information consisted of a four-step process from opening the website, entering credentials to going to the right section to choose the required field. With our app, this is condensed to simply two steps—open and refresh.
The next immediate thing which was noticed was the amount of spam we all receive on a daily basis. Most people miss out on several opportunities available here simply because it got lost in their messages or feed. To counter this, our app has a separate section with a list of different events, sorted by date.
The only thing left to deal with now was life outside college. One of the biggest problems we all have faced was not finding a number we needed at the moment. This resulted in the Manipal Directory—a tap-to-call section with numbers of emergency services, restaurants, day to day facilities and much more.
Finally, as an added bonus, it is also a platform for all our content, right from our articles on WordPress to the feed on Instagram.
In the summer of 2019, the app was completely revamped to make it more user-friendly. Advanced features and powerful customisation options were added to make it a much better experience for the users.
HOW WAS THE APP MADE?
A majority of the apps we use every day are built by huge corporations – powered by high tech and developed by full-time pros. And being a humble student-run media organisation – ours was developed by teenage tech whizzes who sacrificed sleep, spent 14 long hours of coding and eventually changed the way Manipal lived. The MTTN app – available on Android and iOS, powered by coffee.
The fact that our simple app works perfectly well, at times when apps with billions of users face global shutdowns, is a testament to the sheer effort and skill of our developers.
The iOS version was written natively in Swift, Apple’s very own programming language. Previously, objective-C was preferred to develop applications on Apple devices; however, using its replacement Swift is far more advantageous. It is simply faster, better and smarter than its predecessor.
Various microservices, used for the backend code power our app. These algorithms are written in Python and Nodejs. We also rely heavily on Firebase Database as our database and storage service. Initially, we used to use Digital Ocean as our backend server but eventually migrated to Microsoft Azure Web as it is better equipped to handle the increase in traffic.
Additionally, we have our own captcha solver to log students into the SIS Portal automatically.
Months and months of hard work paid off when the MTTN app made it to the trending charts at the time of its launch. The proudest moment for the creators was when the app was listed in the Top 10 Apps of the Play Store due to its huge success and usage. The efforts put in by our team just to make life convenient for students was really appreciated by the users of the app.
As of January 2020, 1.5 million requests on our back end services have been crossed only because of our passionate team. To put that into picture, the app has been used 3,00,000 times by over 15,000 people.
HOW DO YOU START?
From a small idea on the back of a mind, the MTTN app has developed to become a massive part of the lives of students in Manipal. The app has gone through numerous improvements over the years, and our creators have put in a lot of effort to shape it to its current wondrous version. We have reached a long way, but we still have a lot to learn.
An advice that the creators have for aspiring app developers is to come up with an idea and then start building on it. Many do the opposite way and explore the tools before having something in mind. With this way, you won’t be incentivised to study and use the tools properly. Always start with an idea, and sketch it on paper. Then you can proceed with lots of research and work towards your prototype.
Another great way to start is to create a “clone” project. For instance, you can start with a WhatsApp clone. You can start working on creating the prototype, and if you stumble upon a problem, you can always look it up online. There are plenty of tutorials and articles scattered on the internet. Also, YouTube will be your best tutor in this field. It has a variety of tutorials—covering a wide variety of topics in this field of app development.
In the end, the idea behind our MTTN app was to make the lives of students more comfortable. It is quite marvellous to think that how a small group of people sitting behind their computer screens can create something so remarkable and reach out to such a vast populace of college students.
The creators have worked hard to fabricate something that people can touch, feel, and use to help in their everyday lives. This app has contributed to society in some way, and that makes us all happy and content.
—Written by Aarohi Sarma, Alankriti Singh, Siri Rajanahally and Tanya Bhatia for MTTN.