Q&A with the Boss

Founded in 2012, TouchFoundry has grown in size over the years from a one-man team to tight-knit group of people who are equally excited about playing and working in the tech space. This didn’t happen magically, though. Hard work, persistence and determination from it’s founder Fabio Longano, have helped establish TouchFoundry’s credibility within the Web and App usability and development space. We sat down for a brain picking session and Fabio happily obliged, giving us some personal insight into the brain behind the brand.

Where did it all start?

A few years back there was a lot going on in both the design and development space – but not much really happening in the very critical space in between (where design meets code which translates into usability). We were seeing a lot of products being developed that were flawlessly designed but hadn’t an ounce of technical savvy, alongside products that were on the bleeding edge of technical performance but were butt-ugly and a far cry from half decent user experience. There was, and to a large degree still is, a huge gap in the market for a consolidated team to tackle all three: beautiful design, sensical user experience and sexy, standards compliant code. Thus out of both passion and necessity for making the digisphere better, TouchFoundry was born.

What gets you excited?

New ideas and passionate people. I love it when we have clients that bring fresh new thinking to the table. It’s the same feeling of “anything is possible” when you’re sitting with your mate at the cafe speaking about “the next best thing.” What follows next? The wonderful art of the brainstorm, the mind-meld: Ideas spark creativity, creativity fuels passion and passion results in awesome work. The beautiful thing about new ideas is that they usually bring with them boundless energy tethered to their core. This results in great production momentum and synergy between teammates. It’s addictive.

The beautiful thing about new ideas is that they usually bring with them boundless energy tethered to their core. This results in great production momentum and synergy between teammates. It’s addictive.

Pet peeves?

Bad, bad, bad user experience, apathy, ignorance and “doing it for the money”. There is so much opportunity that this wonderful world (both digital and analogue) has to offer us. It’s therefore, our responsibility, if not duty, as human beings to do everything in our power to make it a better place. Stop doing things for the money – it has such a negative impact on not only what we do, but how we do it – and moreover it impacts all those around you. This plague takes shape in many forms… I’ve seen it in the face of extremely terrible (neglected) user experience; apathy and complacency amongst peers and even at the worst of times, manifesting as ignorance and disrespect. Love what you do. Respect those you interact with. You owe it to yourself and those around you to make this rock a better place 😉

What would you say to SA youngsters wanting to get into the dev game?

Again to my point above – do it for love, not for money. You’ll only produce sub-standard work that will end up making more work for others. So be in it 100% – live it, breathe it – or get out. The second point, on a lighter note, do NOT neglect user experience. If you’re not considering the people you’re building for, you’re wasting your time. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Becoming a developer has a host of power and responsibility that comes with it – do not abuse that power. Code in moderation. Be smart, be agile, stay productive. Ask for (and truly listen to) critical feedback. Stay humble because arrogance will be your downfall. Remember there’s always someone smarter than you, so learn to partner and collaborate effectively rather than going rogue-meets-cowboy, you’ll be amazed with the results. Lastly, be an A-teamer. Don’t settle for B-team work – push back and stay true to your gut – have a voice – an opinion – otherwise, we all collectively get reduced into a puddle of undervalued “IT support” folk. And that’s just demoralising and humiliating for everyone 🙂

 If you’re not considering the people you’re building for, you’re wasting your time. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

What sort of work do you value?

Work that is done with maximum effort. From simple beautiful responsive mailers to complex multi-functional cross-platform mobile apps. If it’s good – they will come. And then ask for seconds.

iOS VS Android?

Tough question – as they both have their place. Personally, I’m an Android user – as I need day-to-day access to the development agility that the platform provides, iOS comes with a whole bunch of red tape and admin overhead for ‘simple tasks’ from a development standpoint. From a product perspective, to be frank – it’s a love-hate relationship with both platforms. I don’t think either of them can be argued as truly better than the next. I love the user-centricity of the iOS platform, but hate the limitations and ring-fences it places on and around its users. I love the flexibility, extensibility and power-potential of Android, but hate the glitches and inconsistencies that come with it. That’s why I carry and Android and an iPad (in my backpack) wherever I go.

Your favourite apps at the moment?

Really loving Yahoo News Digest at the moment, as it makes reading the news such a pleasurable experience. I’ve also become an avid Blinkist fan – providing exceptional value for money and a great, smooth experience. I’m also brushing up on my Italian and learning Russian with Duolingo from time to time – a great example of gamification and, once again, amazing user experience. Google Photos is also a pretty powerful little app/service I’ve come to adopt and enjoy. Oh yeah – then there is our very own Cars.co.za app (shameless plug), which is a beautiful demonstration of the power of HTML5 for developing native applications!

Your favourite things to do when you’re not running your biz?

I like to decompress with activity – either playing some Ultimate Disc or Soccer. Nature also plays a vital role in keeping me centred and sane amongst the madness that is Monday to Friday. My pet passion is travelling – on my off-time I like to fantasise about where I’m going to next, planning itineraries and experiences abroad – I mostly like experiencing the difference in cultures, and seeing how people are doing things on the other side of the planet – seeing what great ideas and experiences I can take back home.

Anything else you think we should know about you?

Honesty, generosity and my sense of humour are the three characteristics I feel keep me and most of the people around me sane. Some people think I’m a hard-baller sometimes – I’m usually just acting in mutual best interest. Sometimes, though, I’m absolutely dead right, then I’m just trying to relentlessly prove my point (I’ve been likened to a pitbull with lock-jaw at times). Don’t challenge me to an argument about the Marvel Universe or Foosball. You will lose.