Behind every good app, there’s a good programmer

Nathan Halley (right), lead developer of the UMSL smartphone application, discusses the app with Robert Hughs, a junior majoring in biology, during the student Expo held Aug. 22 on North Campus. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Nathan Halley is a computer guy. It’s in the University of Missouri–St. Louis staffer’s blood, something passed down to him from his grandfather Hardy Fuchs, who founded the Information Services & Technology department at Washington University in St. Louis.

“I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t multiple computers in the house,” said Halley, data base programmer/analyst-specialist for Information Technology Services.

Like his grandfather before him, Halley’s left his own mark at UMSL as the primary developer of the university’s first smartphone application. The free app made its debut for iPhone and Android in April, about six months after the initial discussion involving its creation. Other contributors to the development of the app included Jon Hinderliter, manager of web and electronic communications for University Marketing and Communications; Paul Pratte, data base programmer/analyst-principal for ITS; and Bethany Aurand, a UMSL art student who designed the app’s appearance.

The process of making the UMSL smarthpone app wasn’t always easy, said Halley, who had never developed a mobile app before. A lot of trial and error went into making the final product available for download. And he did that while juggling other tasks for ITS like working on the UMSL website.

“There were times when I just wanted to throw my computer out the window,” Halley said.

Fortunately, problem solving and overcoming obstacles are what Halley likes best about working with computers. And while he worked his way through, say, the iPhone version of the app, it’s not as though the subsequent Android version was a breeze. It was like apples and oranges.

“Or Apples and PCs,” Halley said. “”It’s totally different software, so you could end up having to writing everything from scratch.”

The hard work resulted in an app that has 16 features spread over four pages. It includes access to the university’s social media channels, a campus directory with one-touch dialing and access, a student directory, campus maps and campus news and events. Students, Halley said, are the primary audience for the app.

“But I think there’s good stuff on there for anyone on campus,” he said.

And there’s room for growth.

“It’s definitely a work in progress,” Halley said. “We’re planning to have regular updates. I know that some of the features we’re looking at adding in the future include access to The Current and a UMSL libraries search function. We’re always thinking of new ideas.”

That’s not all that’s in the works. Halley said a Windows Phone 7 version of the UMSL smartphone app is in the final stages of being tested and could be available as early as next week.

Having trouble with the UMSL smartphone app or have an app feature idea to suggest? Email Nathan Halley at


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