Meet The Developers: Anand Nair

A few months ago on Windows Appstorm I reviewed Fontli. For me this was something brilliant, without Instagram on our Windows Phones Fontli filled a gap in the image social network category. Since then I’ve been using Fontli consistently and normally can’t go a single day without checking up on the latest images.

If you would like to read my full review follow this link: Fontli: Embrace The World Of Typography.

I’ve always been keen to interview the developers of some of the apps I love and today I have my chance. Anand Nair, UX designer, is an integral part of Fontli’s team and he was kind enough to let me interview him. Read on to find out what happens in the background of Fontli and how the team is structured!

Thanks for taking the time out of your day to speak to us. Could you start by introducing yourself?

I am Anand Nair, a user experience designer by trait. I used to work with Imaginea Labs (www.imaginea.com)- a product engineering services company and Fontli shaped up during in 2012 when we were looking at increasing our own mobile development portfolio.

How many people work on Fontli? Is it a close knit family of people or a big group of like minded folk?

We are a very small team of five who find time in-between our daily tasks to develop and support Fontli. We have 2 iOS developers- Sayed and Mani, one WP expert- Parthi, and a backend Rails Engineer- Satheesh. None of us have a very strong typographic background to be honest. Me being a designer I was the closest to the world of typography (and once considered Typography as a serious career choice:) so I shared with the team the nuances of typography and the spirit of the project. They all got interested and liked the idea of building something useful than usual photo sharing apps.

Where did the idea of Fontli come from? And is the product today exactly how you pictured it?

As I mentioned, back in my design school, I used to take huge pride in claiming to be a type expert. We used to take bragging rights every time we found out the difference between Helvetica and Accidents Grotesque! Fontli perhaps is the byproduct of such snobbishness. I wanted to make a product for the ‘wannabe’ font nerd like me. A resource to discover great type, new fonts and help others (and boost ego) in finding typefaces they are looking at.

Fontli has a fantastic interface which really amazing users.

When did you decide that Fontli should be focused on Typography, did this spring from a passion of the teams?

As I mentioned, the original idea was always to do something with typefaces. But we did not think of Fontli as a photo sharing app first. The initial thought was to build a puzzle game where people can keep a part of a typeface as their avatar and let others find out what typeface it is and then gain points. Somehow, it was not convincing me as an idea and soon the thinking shaped up into designing a social tool to capture and collect typography.

I see Fontli as an app which fills a gap in the market? Was this your original plan?

Yes. We realized that apart from Myfonts’s own “Font app and forum”, there are no good tools to discover typefaces. But, both the above products are very task driven and extremely logical in their approach. We wanted to focus more on discovery and social aspects that will bring more value in terms of user engagement. We weren’t looking at developing Fontli as a specialized tool, but as something aimed at people like us who love typography and arts.

The social side of Fontli really makes it special.

When did you decide that launching the app on the Windows Phone network was the right move to make? Or was this always the plan?

Nothing was planned to be honest. We released the iOS version within 4 months since we started work in Dec 2011. Our plan was to have a good community first than going for scale straight away. Also, as I mentioned, we are a small team with external funding, so the resources and time were also limited. Between feature releases and bug fixes for iOS itself, we were finding it difficult to support another platform. But Windows Phone captured my imagination and being inherently typographic in its core design principle, we found it extremely surprising to not find anything related to typography on the app ecosystem. So Parhi joined our team and started learning Windows Phone development and rolled out Fontli for Windows.

On your average day do you use any apps to help your general workflow?

The team uses Dropbox a lot to share files and Google Docs to capture requirements. Also its preview features are very useful in evaluating how the designs look on the mobile device. Mailchimp is used for managing our mailers. We have a Storify account where we collect all feedback we get on social media. Customer support is often done with Twitter and Mail. We recently signed up for Freshdesk for better help desk management and ticket handling system. Apart from that we use a bunch of web tools like Invasion to share and collaborate on designs. We also do a lot of doodling on paper to quickly explain ideas to each other.

Fontli is already a fantastic application, but what does the future look like for you and the team?

We have already started work on the new iOS app and the new web version for Fontli. The web version is something that we are really excited about. We hope to reach more users and devices that way. A lot of ideas are on paper, including ideas to make Fontli more tuned to a graphic designer’s daily workflow by integrating it deeply into his workspace and softwares of daily use. That way, showcasing the progress of work will become easier. We are also trying to get in touch with more foundries to get sponsorships. But a lot depends on how we will be funded for this project. We need a heavy boost in terms of investments and sponsorships to make Fontli further ahead.

Wrap-Up

At Windows.Appstorm we extend many thanks to Anand and his team. The work they have done to produce Fontli is brilliant and we wish them the best of luck for the future. All of us will be closely watching for future advancements.

Remember to check out the full Fontli article if you missed it last time.

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