You are planning to create a mobile app that will one day become a sensational hit in the market. The problem is that you don't know how to get started. Fortunately, creating an app is much easier than you may think, as long as you follow a logical, step-by-step approach.
Before you can begin this journey, you must first understand a few things about creating an app for both Google Android and Apple iOS platforms. Both Google and Apple have their own specific requirements and guidelines that must be followed when developing and designing an app.
Apple iOS, being the more restrictive of the two platforms, will reject or prohibit any apps that do not meet its standards proficiently. So, unless you want to put your blood, sweat and tears into creating an app only to have it rejected in the end, be sure to read and understand their respective guidelines.
Creating Apps for Google Android
When it comes to developing an app for the Google Play store, Google is quite lenient with their developer requirements and guidelines. Google offers a wide variety of developer services. Some are provided for free while others you might need to build on your own. Plus, there are APIs (application program interfaces) available for creating and designing your mobile app.
There is a specific application framework that Android uses for their components to be invoked whether systematically or individually. Knowing this means the difference between running the app successfully and running the app to only find that there are some performance issues/errors or bugs within the system.
As for design guidelines, Android (Google) is not very critical. They only require that you build an app that looks just as good as it functions. Do not build a very functional app only to have a boring or unappealing UI (user interface) to go with it. Proficiently conforming to Android's design framework means understanding and abiding to the building blocks of the platform.
For example, you should:
- Ensure that navigation is smooth and effortless
- Confirm and acknowledge that all actions are performed properly
- Verify compatibility with multiple versions of Android
- Check that UI elements, such as animations, buttons, and text, are displayed and function correctly
How to Develop iPhone Apps
Apple is not as lenient as Google. An example of this strict demeanor is seen in their app store review guidelines. They review apps based on five different factors: Safety, Performance, Business, Design, and Legal.
Failing even one of these aspects will result in your app being rejected from the App Store. Apple takes pride in this review process, ensuring that consumer safety is of their highest priority when it comes to publishing apps on their platform. Apple may reject your app submission because of crashes and bugs, a substandard user interface, misleading or incomplete information, and broken links.
Not only does Apple have general review guidelines for developers to follow and abide by, but they also have certain APIs with their own specific review guidelines too. Apple Pay, HomeKit, HealthKit, and App Extensions each have their own respective review guidelines. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these API review guidelines if you are planning to use any of them for your app.
Much like Android, Apple too has design guidelines for its mobile apps. The iOS Human Interface Guidelines need to be reviewed and understood before you start designing your app. Apple wants to create a sense of consistency among all apps by requiring everyone to utilize the same basic concepts pertaining to UI functionality. The UI Design Do's and Don'ts guide discusses UI design features and functions that are and aren't appropriate to integrate into your app design.
Now that you know about conforming to both Android and Apple platform specifications and guidelines, you can begin the process of building your app.
Formulating an Idea
First, you must have an idea for your app. A well-developed idea is one that will help solve a problem or help simplify something. The Facebook app makes it much easier to connect and communicate with friends and family all around the world, for example.
An idea, if not developed to solve a problem or to help simplify something, can be developed for entertainment purposes. Games and media fall under this category. The hugely popular Pokémon Go app illustrates this concept very effectively.
In this stage of the process, you should start thinking about and jotting down answers to the following questions:
- What do you want the app to achieve once built and marketed?
- How will the app function in the hands of the user?
- In what ways will the app solve or simplify the problems or processes you are targeting?
Answering these type of questions will better focus your general idea into a specific application and how it will function.
Planning and Setting Goals
Once you have an idea for what you want to create for an app, the next step is to plan and set some goals.
List all the steps you plan to take in this process, like building and designing the app, seeking third party help or assistance, testing for bugs, implementing changes, and publishing the app in the different app stores. Doing so will not only allow you to be better organized, but also allow you to have something to strive for. You'll always know the next step you need to take.
Several online tools exist for planning and managing projects like this:
- Trello - Project management tool that allows you to organize projects through the use of visual representation
- Producteev - Task management tool that offers a user-friendly and flexible experience
- GanttProject - Project management tool that is open-sourced and provides a multitude of simple and complex features
The great thing about these tools is that the base versions are free. Additional features and functions are available for a price if you so choose to purchase them, but they are not necessarily required.
Research is a pivotal step in the app development process. Research your competition since you want to be able to stand out from the crowd. Why should someone download your app when something similar has already been done? Research your competitors and try to offer something new or different that their apps do not offer.
You can also try to improve features that have already been established with other apps. Scope out problems or shortcomings that other similar apps have and improve the equivalent features in your app. Reading app reviews will help point you in the right direction.
It is equally important to conduct market research regarding your target audience for this app. Know who you are going to develop and market this app to since not every single group will have similar tastes or preferences. Being aware of your target audience will allow you to develop an app that will cater to their specific needs much more effectively. This leads to better customer satisfaction and appeal.
This can also be a good time for you to decide whether you are going to offer this app for free or for a price. You may also consider in-app purchases.
Developing a Wireframe
A wireframe helps to bring your ideas, such as your design and feature integration, into fruition through a visual storyboard. You will add and set up the design and features of your app here. App navigation should also be implemented in the wireframe. It is key to know beforehand how certain features or functions will be performed or accessed by the user.
Three of the most popular and best wireframing tools, according to Mashable editor Grace Smith, are:
- Indigo Studio - Allows users to quickly develop their UIs with simple and seamless features
- Mockingbird - Offers a real-time collaborative experience that is ideal for group or team based UI designing projects
To Hire or Not to Hire
Now comes the step of having to decide whether you will be creating the app yourself with the help of do-it-yourself app makers or hiring a developer or development team to do it for you.
Some of the best app making programs recommended by Grace Smith include:
- Appery.io - Drag and drop, cloud-based platform that provides real-time collaborative features
- Mobile Roadie - Multi-functional platform that provides guidance throughout the process to ensure quality is high and procedures are performed properly
- TheAppBuilder - A corporate app development platform that aids in the development of enterprise apps
They provide you with the tools and software to build the app yourself. This is a more cost-efficient option. However, if you do not feel up to the challenge or just don't want to bother with developing the app yourself for whatever reason, you can simply decide to hire a developer or development team instead.
The same is true for UI design as well. A designer or design agency can develop a custom UI for you, but you may opt to purchase a pre-created template instead. There are a number of websites with free or paid mobile app templates including those listed above. You can also find specific types of templates you might want, like "Android mobile shopping app templates."
It can be cost-efficient to purchase an existing UI template rather than having a designer or design agency make a custom one for you. However, the downside is that you will be limited in how you want the UI to look like aesthetically.
Finding Freelancers and Professionals
According to Nathan Resnick, an editor from Entrepreneur, there are three resources that practically every entrepreneur has access to and can utilize to find the perfect mobile app developer or designer for their specific needs.
- Personal Network - There are people in your network that can help either with developing and designing your app or at least providing some information that can lead you to finding the perfect professional for the job.
- Students - Sometimes you can find students at your local college or university with the help of professors that can aid you in this process since some students are looking for hands-on, real-life experience with mobile app development.
- Freelancers (Elance & Upwork) - You can hire freelance developers or designers at a reasonable rate. This can kick start your mobile app development process, regardless of the scope of your project.
Testing and Modification
Once you have your app developed and designed, you can begin testing. Perform a variety of different tests and use the app under a wide range of scenarios to seek out any bugs or glitches. Determine whether the app really functions the way you had expected, including UI navigation, features integrated, and user input. Check for input lag or delay.
This is also when you may consider any modifications that might improve the overall functionality or performance of the app. Think about taking out or adding in features, altering some of the UI navigation, or changing the design layout.
Signing Up for Developer Accounts
Before you can publish your app to the Google Play Store (Android) and the Apple App Store (for iPhone and iPad), you first have to sign up for a developer account for both platforms. Google charges a one-time fee of $25, whereas Apple charges an annual fee of $99 for their developer program. When signing up for a developer account, you have the option of signing up as an individual or a company.
Publishing Your App
Finally, you are ready to share your hard work with the world! Submit your app to the respective app store.
On the Google Play Store for Android devices, your app will be up for downloading right away with no immediate review process to be conducted. With the Apple App Store, there is a review process that needs to be conducted by Apple's team before your app can be officially published. It usually takes about a week before the Apple team will tell you that your app has either passed or failed its App Store requirements.
With your mobile app successfully developed, designed, tested and published, you have achieved an incredible accomplishment. Now, the next major hurdle is figuring out how best to market your app to the right users. Then, you can start working on developing your next app!