User feedback the answer to a good night out

Who needs a Time Out guide when there's London's recently launched WAP service Citikey?

Who needs a Time Out guide when there's London's recently launched WAP service Citikey?

He's only 26 years old, but already Ziad Ismail can boast over 20,000 users registered with his WAP service Citikey; a city listings guide for WAP phones and PDA's .

Founded in Stockholm in February 1999 and recently launched in London, Citikey provides bite-size chunks of information on bars, restaurants, cinemas and accommodation. It uses BEA Enterprise software which runs on a Sun operating system. And the Oracle database also sits on Sun.

Ziad explains: "I developed the initial idea and brought together the team to develop the product". The idea proved successful and earned him both the Stockholm School of Economics Business Plan and Cap Gemini's Innovation of the year 1988.

Ziad went on to develop the service, which was programmed in Enterprise Java Beans and XML, and has recently implemented a unified development system which underlies the whole working ethos at Citikey. It turns the software development process on its head, starting with the needs of the end-user which get fed back to the product manager, which is fed back to the architect. The result is software development based on what the end-users want.

The site, which receives more than 25,000 hits a day, took one year to develop from initial idea to going live, but Ziad says: "We are constantly developing the service to improve it and incorporate user feedback."

It hasn't all been plain sailing. Ziad explains the worst moment came when "the hardware turned up late so we were all working flat out to meet launch deadlines, which we did."

Sixty people now run the service, including technical, marketing and editorial staff. "With our unified development process, the whole business works to develop the service, from marketing through to international content editors," says Ziad.

The site and service were developed specifically for Citikey. "We have a full in-house integration team specialising in bringing partners together to achieve our goals. We have adopted XML and open standards to ensure full integration.

But in the fast-changing world of mobile communications, Ziad says he has to help keep an eye on the future. "We have a process of continually reviewing all emerging standards in telecoms and software industries and incorporating user feedback to develop the site and Citikey service."

Asked what his inspiration was for the site Ziad replies: "It is really the end-user who is our inspiration - and it is from their perspective that we developed the Citikey service."

And the future. "To expand the service across Europe, the US and Asia."

Curriculum vitae

  • Name: Ziad Ismail

  • Age: 26

  • Job title: founder and chief technology officer

  • Qualifications: MSc in Computer Science

  • IT skills: Those gained from the MSc and Telecomms skills

  • Hobbies: running, swimming

  • Favourite book: Information Rules by Varion Shapiro

  • Favourite club: Fasching (Stockholm)

  • Ziad on Ziad: driven, passionate, fun

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