Students who visit the Apple App Store may have trouble deciding which Yale application to download, with choices ranging from “Yale College” to “Yale Dining” to “Yale Admissions.” A newly updated option will soon join the fray: “Yale.”
“Yale,” the official University mobile application found on both the Apple App Store and Google Play, allows users to stay connected with the school through a range of functions including a calendar of events as well as a map of active shuttle buses. While the app has existed for several years, student developers recently identified a number of problems with it. Over the course of the past few months, students involved with Yale Information Technology Services’ Student Developer and Mentorship Program rebuilt the application from the ground up, implementing bug fixes and adding features like a feed of the University’s Instagram account. Android student developer Jason Liu ’16 said that while the new iteration will likely not be released for download until the end of the semester, it will build on the existing functions of the currently available app. Developers interviewed said working on the app was an opportunity to gain computer science skills that are not commonly taught in Yale’s classrooms.
“I’m really interested in trying to bring a lot of these technological features to the Yale community, because it’s something you don’t really learn in a lot of the regular computer science courses,” Liu said. “Working on this app has been a good way to learn in a practical sense what students and myself would actually use, and it gives a more practical side to the coursework I’m assigned.”
The current version of the app was developed by a third-party company outside of Yale. As a result, student developers did not have access to the original code when creating the new product, so they had to recreate it entirely. Most of the design is copied from the old application rather than reimagined completely, according to iOS student developer Lee Danilek ’18. Liu said work on the project began in the fall of 2014.
Aside from the added Instagram feed, developers focused mostly on bug fixes rather than new features. The application is now more thoroughly integrated with the Yale database, with its directory and maps functions now drawing directly from Yale servers, Danilek said. Other issues that developers fixed included broken links, slow loading speed and multiple news-article links that all loaded the same story.
Danilek said the development process was often one of trial and error. In addition to two hours of routine assignments, he spent another five or six hours per week finding glitches and fixing them. Sometimes bugs just pop up, he said — for example, if users continued scrolling down the photo stream, the stream would eventually stop loading new photos. Danilek fixed that by coding the program to unload any previously loaded photos.
“I just play around and do everything that can possibly be tapped on, often in a weird order,” he said.
Liu said another mobile phone application geared more directly toward students, rather than toward the University community as a whole, is currently being made as well by student developers. This app would include features such as more information about courses offered at Yale, he said.
Interim Manager of the Yale Student Developers Program Jemin Lee said many of the updates to the “Yale” app were actually made during the last academic year, but that developers are continuing to tweak it.
“We are currently working on a new iteration of the Yale app, as there are some bugs right now,” Lee said in an email to the News. “It will be improving some features significantly.”
Still, five students interviewed by the News said they do not use the app.
“I deleted that app last year because it stopped working,” Tom Bu ’17 said. “Whenever I clicked on the icon, it wouldn’t even open, so now I just use ‘Yale College’ and ‘Yale Dining’ instead.”
The “Yale” app was first released in 2012.