Here at Career Corner, you can read true stories of creative and confident Muslims who are smashing glass ceilings, and providing us with awesome insights into what they do.
We had the awesome pleasure of catching up with Ayesha – the UX/UI designer and founder of Daily Muslim App – to talk all things career paths, motherhood, balancing family and work, and so much more!
Salaam, Ayesha! 👋🏼 Let's dive straight in – when did you first learn about your passion for UX/UI design?
Walaikum Asalaam, Zara! So...
I've spent the majority of my years out here in Dubai and this is where I actually attended design school. I always loved painting and anything creative whilst growing up so it definitely stemmed from this!
🤝How Did You Decide to Blend Together Your Love of Islam and Your Passion for Design?
At a young age, my parent's house was always filled with Islamic books which inspired my love for reading about Islam. And then when 9/11 happened, I always felt that this major misunderstanding of Islam began to spread, and people failed to understand what the religion was about.
Off the back of this, I developed this idea to help people understand the meaning of Islam a lot better, and I created my initial website called The Meaning of Islam (TMOI).
I always struggled with reading and understanding the Quran (my siblings managed to finish it, but I took a little longer than them!). So I created TMOI because I knew that there should be an easier way for people to read the Quran, understand the English transliteration, and recite it properly with correct Tajweed.
I thought to myself, "Why not create these Youtube videos that show both the Arabic and English translation of the Quran on one slide to help people fully internalise what's being said...Alhamdulilah, they did really well."
After seeing the mass reaction to these videos, it really opened my eyes up to the effect of design and the impact it had on problem-solving.
So, Meaning of Islam was the first project I did which combined these two aspects of my life. This then led to the Daily Muslim app shortly after.
💪🏽What Prompted the Concept of the Daily Muslim App?
At the time, Islamic apps were becoming a big thing.
But every time I downloaded a new prayer times app, I would feel like the user interface (UI) was so basic!
You have these gorgeous apps that everybody is designing, and the minute you'd download an Islamic app, it would look very simple, the user experience wasn't great, and it felt very old.
So, I'd almost feel disheartened whenever I'd switch from a stunning, mainstream app to my prayer times one because of the difference in design and experience – like why should an Islam-based app be some sort of drop down from the rest?
Allah SWT loves things that are beautiful, and we as humans are drawn to things that look good to us, which is what really prompted this project.
On the other side of things, I've always loved the idea of productivity and being able to build good habits. I'd love reading the likes of Bryan Tracy, and my favourite book was 7 habits by Stephen Covey.
The question I was trying to answer when creating the app was,
"How do you motivate people to go and pray?"
Everybody knows it's time to pray and you may even see a family member praying, but how do you become inspired and motivated to read your Salah?
I wanted my app to do this.
There's hundred of apps telling people the prayer times, but I wanted to remind people of the reward and importance of getting up and performing the prayer itself.
🖌 How Did You Go About Incorporating 'Motivation for Prayer' Into the App?
It wasn't enough for me to tell people it was time for Dhuhr and so on – it was important for me to tell them that, "the gates of Jannah are open at this time".
Or that, "When you pray Asr, your Rizq is increased".
Those motivational reminders, to me, were a lot more impactful than just notifying users of the prayer times.
If the app could solve the problem of actually getting people out of their work or programme to go and pray, that's a very different ball game.
👩🏽💻So Tell Us a Little Bit About the Development of Daily Muslim App...
I actually had the app ready at the end of 2019 – but getting the app developed was a whole new Everest I was not ready for! 👀
My background is specifically in graphic design, and in 2018, I used my free time to do some design thinking – things like, relearning user experience, and understanding what a good app design looked like.
I gave myself a two week sprint where I went through the five phases of design thinking which you can view through my UX case study. This is the part where you look at things like:
- Defining the social problem you're looking to solve
- Researching the audience
- Key features you want on the app
- How to stay user-centred
- Building a prototype
In terms of development, I didn't realise how expensive it would be. Unless you know how to code an app (which I still think would be super hard to do on your own), it can be super tough bringing the design to life.
For a native app, the cost was coming to about $40,000.
I was also adamant on having all the features I planned on there – I wasn't intending to launch an app that only had 2 or 3 features.
At this point I thought,
"Unless I have someone willing to dish out $40,000, it's not going to happen."
💸 How Did you Go About Raising the Funds to Launch the App?
To get the funding, I tried out a bunch of things.
I spoke to Angel Investors but Alhamdulilah that route didn't work out, and I truly believe Allah SWT saved me. 👉🏼 When you get an investor into your app, you have to give them equity. Then the minute you give equity, they expect to be a part of the decision-making which, in the long run, would have diluted my vision for the app.
Crowdfunding was the next route I looked into, and I started a Kickstarter campaign however, contrary to other success stories, mine didn't go too well and I must have raised about $500.
I always believe that when you do good, it will always come back to you and here's an example...
One day, I was looking through my multitudes of emails, and I came across an email from a guy called Adham. He asked if I could share my Adobe Indesign files of all the designs from my YouTube Channel because he wanted to create some similar content for an Islamic TV channel, so I said "Sure!"
He said he wanted to help me in return, so he managed to get me in touch with some amazing people such as the founder of LaunchGood, a crowdfunding platform for Muslims.
I managed to raise $3500 through LaunchGood, which was incredible to get support from other Muslims, and my husband I funded the rest of the app from our savings. This meant I was finally able to get the app out there.
Allah SWT really did open doors for me.
👶🏽 As a Mother of 2, How Did You Find Building Your Business Alongside Raising Your Children, And What Advice do you Have for Working Mums?
That's an important question.
There's a misconception of women in general (let alone Muslim women) that they can't have it all– the success and the family life.
With Muslim women, you'll find that it's even harder because we're not supported from a cultural lens. You'll get the judgemental comments and then it's upon us, as the women, to have this really thick skin.
What really helped me was actually the concept of 'instilling my passion for my work into my children'.
I would tell my kids that their success isn't determined by their school grades, it actually roots from the ability to figure out what you're good at.
A lot of people go through life not knowing what they're good at or where their strengths lie. Once you know your strengths, you can really play to them.
In terms of working and raising children, we live in such an advanced time where you can work from home and make money, run a podcast and earn money, work flexible hours etc. A 9-5 is definitely not for everyone, because it really does take up a lot of your time.
Having a supportive husband is really key here, too. As long as you're having those open conversations with your spouse about your passions, your work hours and your goals – it's much easier to balance family life with career.
I'm a big advocate for explaining your goals to your children when they're at the right age, too. I talk about my visions to my 10 year-old daughter and, if anything, I hope she takes inspiration from that and knows she can do it both if she chooses.
💓 What Advice Would You Give to Women Who Want Use Their Work/Skills to Benefit Other Muslims?
The reality is that finding a full time job that is related to Islam, especially in the West, is really hard. We're living in a time where it's becoming increasingly difficult to practice our religion in many ways, but here's what I advise...
If you want to work full-time, find a job that lets you use your skill set but definitely do something on the side (or in your free time) that is beneficial for the Ummah.
Figure out the way that you can bring value to the Islamic community and other Muslims – perhaps through creating relevant content or writing blog posts and networking etc.
Find what you can do on your part and, with the help of Allah SWT, you can build this into a full-time career with the right efforts.
We're in need of more high-paying jobs in the Islamic sphere, but hopefully this changes soon.
💬 Talking a Little More About Daily Muslim App – How Have the Responses Been?
It was amazing - Alhamdulilah!
Of course with any app, you'll get the initial responses of people telling you all the bugs they're experiencing but the reactions overall were brilliant.
I had people telling me that they couldn't believe this was an Islamic App because of how different the user experience was.
I think this was a real moment where other Islamic apps stepped up in terms of their user experience and design. It became clear that there was in fact such a big gap between the way Islam-based apps looked compared to mainstream ones.
We were now moving to a time where our faith-related platforms were looking like they belonged in 2022!
One of the main aspects of the Daily Muslim app that people loved most was the dashboard 👇 which I was so happy about. I had this goal for the dashboard to be a motivational space as soon as you open the app – so this was definitely a positive!
The key with any project – whether it's design or something else – is to keep talking to your users so you can keep making those improvements. Once it's out there, you're on a mission to solve their pain points and make their life easier! ✅I’m just getting started with the app as there’s so much potential for what it can do, and plan on releasing version 2.0 this year inshaAllah with improved features and tools.
😌 Overall, what Would You Say is the Best Thing About Your Career Choice?
I think it's fair to say that my career chose me, I didn't choose it!
I always thank Allah for allowing me the opportunity to figure out my skillset and the thing that gives me joy, and then for being able to translate it into something for the Muslim community.
It's one thing finding your passion, but it's another to know you can benefit others with it.
If I didn't have 'Meaning of Islam' and my app, I would have felt a huge gap in my life. You're always replaceable at these corporate jobs, so just being able to do something for the sake of Allah is just another level of fulfillment.
Advice for Young Designers?
Find the type of design you love and take advantage of your time!
I remember when people would ask me to design logos and I'd straight away say no – it's not what I enjoyed. I loved UX and UI design so any experience you can get in your preferred field – do it!
Keep looking at other designs out there by checking out Behance, Medium, Dribble – these are all incredible resources to keep you connected to what's new.
I'm a big fan of researching case studies and would encourage any designer who's starting out to do the same – here's my UX case study if anyone wants to have a read, too!
My biggest advice would be to get inspiration from other designers but definitely make something on your own and don't copy and paste someone else's work.
There's so much beauty in originality.
We thank Ayesha for stepping into Career Corner and for allowing us to bring this inspirational piece to you all. May Allah SWT reward Ayesha immensely, place endless barakah in her business, and allow her to continue the amazing work she does. 🤲🏼
For more information on The Meaning of Islam, be sure to check out the website and download the Daily Muslim App to begin your consistent journey with Salah! Whether you're an aspiring designer or just happened to enjoy the article, drop down any questions or thoughts in the comments below! We love hearing your thoughts as always. 👇