Meet the engine powering our next generation of apps

Author: Andy Hartwell

It’s Sunday and I’m hunched over my MacBook Air. I hit the Commit button on my version-control software and push the latest additions to my project online. I’ve just made it possible to take payments on nymbol.co.uk, and it feels like the beginning of chapter one in an exciting new story.

I started building a platform to help connect digital content like text, photos and video to physical objects in early 2012. Although I’ve written the code that powers it, it’s been far from a solo project. Claire, our erstwhile branding and print designer came up with the beautiful antler logo, and Ryan turned that brand and colour scheme into a gorgeous homepage. A change in business model and a shift in focus has meant I’ve butchered his design to a large degree, but without his work, it would have just looked like any other Bootstrap-based website.

Preview of “Concept development” copy

But… what is it?

What Nymbol does is provide a backbone for mobile apps: a content management system that’s kind to developers and easy for humans. It lets you add “objects” to a collection, add text, upload photos and videos – which are automatically converted and optimised for mobile – and include links and embeddable resources from sites like YouTube and Flickr.

The API (application programming interface) behind it makes it easy to access the data, and handles user-generated content like photos, ratings and comments. We’ve already used it for the Walking Architecture set of apps, and we have another two in development that will be powered by Nymbol.

A long road

Nymbol’s been in development since January 2012, which goes against the grain of the lean startup, where “ship” is the watchword. But it’s not by accident that it’s taken this long… well, not entirely. We had to pivot in mid-2012 when we realised Apple weren’t going to support technologies like NFC which would have revolutionised the way we accessed digital content around physical objects. But Andy and I both knew we had a product with great potential so we put our heads together and repurposed Nymbol as an engine to power apps that are based around the physical world. So I have learned something from the Lean Startup!

As 2012 rolled into 2013, I was able to start thinking about developing real projects with Nymbol, which meant I could tweak a bit here, squash a bug there, and add new features that would work not only for these initial projects but contribute to a great product that tonnes of developers could use.

And now as I mouse through some of the pages, read the docs and watch the videos on nymbol.co.uk, I feel a massive amount of pride. I’ve worked extremely hard on this first version and the really hard work is only just beginning. But I wouldn’t have got this far if it weren’t for the continued support and advice of Andy, who’s a partner in Nymbol Ltd and the only chap I’d trust to make this anything more than a bedroom project.

It’s free to get started on Nymbol, so why not sign up, and if you have any questions, post them in our developer Q&A.