How to make an app – from design to development
Awesome Design Inspiration | Bogdan Sandu
Why did you decide to develop your own mobile app?
Did you come across a perspective entrepreneurship idea, or did you try to solve some of your own browsing problems?
Once you’ve answered this question accurately, you will genuinely have the chance to develop a successful app.
How to make apps? Once you’ve put yourself down to work, and tried to learn how to build an app, you should decide who the audience for that app will be. We prepared a short guide to help you hit off, and gathered some of developers’ best practices and advice on how to make a phone app. Pick the tips that meet your strategy, work around your idea, and you will be ready to design an app.
App design tips and ideas
Define the problem you’re trying to solve
In order to learn how to develop an app, define your idea. If not really sure what to choose, consider the common problems people have when browsing the net, and work your way around them.
Solving a problem is the reason why certain entrepreneurs are nowadays so successful, as they’ve tackled issues you probably couldn’t imagine existed.
We believe that when deciding how to make an app, you should research and explore your environment, and look for unique or faster way to accomplish a mission. The answer usually hides in real life concerns – travelers need planes to get from one country to another, but all people need cars to get from point A to point B.
Get to know what people around you need
Image source: Daniel Klopper
Most guides on how to create an app will teach you that apps only get validated if there is a genuine demand for them.
If interested to see whether your idea matches the requirements, check Google’s Keyword Planner and see the number of people who have searched for an app similar to yours.
You can even develop a landing page describing how the app can meet users’ expectations, so that you will see how many of them are genuinely interested and would sign up for it.
List down the features
When an app is validated, it means that you’re working on something people are enthusiastic to use. The least you can do to keep them on board is to list down the details of your product, or even purchase a wireframing tool and go the extra miles preparing a trial of the product.
Remember to drill down to details as much as possible, and to include all data you think would be relevant to users. For instance, describe the interface and the flow, and try to explain users how completing their activities would look like. The clearer you are, the more willing they will be to purchase your product when completed.
Get rid of features that are not essential
Another piece of advice every experienced developer would share when asked how to design an app is that you need to focus on essential features only.
This is particularly important when preparing a flow proposal, where all extras and whistles need to be removed. What matters is the core value of your idea, while anything else can be added as a ‘nice to have’ or ‘brand new’ addition. Plus, this helps reduce the initial investment, and leaves enough cash to invest in a stronger promotion strategy.
Design comes first
There are many entrepreneurs who believe that the simpler their design is, the more users will be interested in it, but that’s not always the case.
When speaking of design, you shouldn’t only refer to how the app is going to look, but rather on the experience users are going to have navigating it.
Khosla Ventures’ founder Vinod Khosla explained this in a great way, saying that design helps make technology more useful. It is because of this that we recommend you to think of graphics first, or look for a developer who thinks that way.
Create developer accounts
Choose an app store and register your developer account, so that you can sell the app through them. For Android apps, Google will expect you to pay $25 per year, while Apple demands $99 for the same service. You can register both as an individual and a company, in case you’ve formed one.
Should it be an iOS app, an Android one, or both of them?
In this aspect, you should know that iOS and Android use a completely different programming language, which is why most entrepreneurs choose a single app to save money and to start with. If your idea is to profit from the app, go straight to the one usable on iPads and iPhones. It is because most developers find it more complex to collect signups, downloads, and revenue from Play Store.
Nevertheless, if you think Android apps are more suitable for your market’s demographics, go for one. Android does a considerably good job promoting businesses, as it reveals no reviews on your business dating from before the app was published. Plus, your product goes live more or less 20 minutes after you’ve published it, and gratification is immediate.
iOS apps and how to make them
Image source: Divan Raj
With no programming experience, creating an app probably looks the most difficult thing in the world.
Once you’ve gathered some practice here and there, however, you will see that there is nothing scary about it. In fact, there are many self-taught developers who learned a little coding and came up with amazing App Store products.
Here are some of the basics: Apple uses an XCode IDE (Integrated Development Environment), both in the iOS and the Mac case. Xcode is in fact a graphical interface that can be tweaked to meet your design needs, and the best part about it is that you can download it from Apple’s website for free.
In the package you receive, you will find all necessary elements to write iOS code, and a great training suite for Apple’s Swift. The same kit is available for Mac, as in case you’re planning to develop an iOS app, you should run OS X instead.
The review guidelines in Apple’s App Store
What is both good and bad about Apple is the specific opinion it has on products distributed in its network, because of which it has developed a long list of specific rules you must know before submitting your app for testing.
In case you skip complying with their requirements, it could mean that Apple won’t accept your app, and that you’ve been working on a useless product. What Apple mostly cares about is your content, the graphic design and tech specs of your product.
The design guidelines imposed by Apple
As we already mentioned, Apple doesn’t only provide review guidelines, but cares about how your app looks and whether the interface is easy to navigate. Doing this, Apple intends to preserve a certain degree of consistency of its content, but rather than expecting apps to look amazing, it requires them to focus on basic UI and UX elements.
In order to understand how this works, check the page of Apple’s Human Interface guidelines. There, you can read more on their icon design expectations. You will also find a Do and Don’t lists that make it easier for novice designers to work their way to success.
Luckily, things are not as brief and general as they seem. Other great resources you can use are: Designing Great Apps – Apple’s collection of best WWDC talks that help design a working interface; and Designing a User Interface, where Apple puts together all basic tips for iOS 8 design and inbuilt Xcode tools.
Android apps and how to design them
While designing Android apps is a bit more time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be significantly harder.
Unless you’ve thought of a complex and ambitious project, you will end up undergoing a simple, few-steps process that won’t overwhelm you or your customers. An important tip is not to rush, as Android requires attention and understanding to pull strings right, and to design something good.
Android’s SDK (Software Development Kit)
SDK represents a collection of handy tools for building Android apps. Here are the most important parts you should know about:
Android allows you to choose between two IDEs (integrated development environments).
Both are designed as flexible code-writing environments where you can combine elements to put a great app together. There, you can edit and organize all sorts of files, manage a number of different packages, or get access to supporting libraries packed with useful info on emulators and devices. Basically, Android will walk you through the process even if you have no knowledge so whatever.
The most common and default IDE is called Eclipse, and it is the one that allows users to modify XML and Java pieces to make the application look the way they want it. The newest Eclipse version is available on Google, and comes with a fully-equipped package manager you can use to have your app automatically updated as soon as Google has announced it.
Android Studio is Eclipse’s main alternative, designed directly by Google, and operating in a manner similar to Photoshop. Both Eclipse and Android Studio look cool and offer hundreds of attractive features, but the same as with Photoshop, you’ll end up using a modest handful of what is at your disposal. For beginners, we recommend Android Studio, as it is the simpler IDE from the two.
Development guidelines for Android
Google took care of its users by preparing an extensive suite of resources and documentation that can teach even the least-techie user how to build his own app.
Even if you have no idea how to develop an Android product, browsing through these guidelines or looking for a tutorial is a good place to start. Here are some of the most important materials you should consider:
Google Services – Here, you can learn about all Google features used to build apps, including location maps, sign-in forms, cloud backups, and many more.
API Guidelines – This is a vast collection of coding tips on how to animate your apps, connect it to third-party software or connect it to the internet. The possibilities you will discover here are almost unlimited.
Sample Code – In this section, you will see samples of how codes should look depending on the function you wish to embed. It is a good place to learn how to test your app and correct errors before it is online.
Android guidelines for material design
Google didn’t think of developers only, but took care of designers too.
For them, there is a whole set of Design Guidelines where Google is teaching them to make apps that look breathtaking, and function impeccably at the same time. You shouldn’t neglect this part, because all elements that look basic (animations, buttons, images, and so on), are actually pretty complex to make.
Consider the price of the app: Should you make it free?
Generally speaking, the price of your app will depend on the category where it belongs. Most free apps, for instance, are intended for gaming and entertainment, where unless development was incredibly complex or required plenty of time, users are not expected to pay a penny.
Another important criterion here is how you’ve imagined monetizing your work: if interested in downloads and popularity, you can make it free and ask for money after a while, or make a free and a paid version and adjust features. A handy option is always to put a tag on it, but think of a reasonable price users would actually pay for a newcomer.
Integrate the app with an analytics service
You need analytics to follow progress, and understand where user engagement is mostly coming from.
Detailed comparison of involved metrics will also help you track the number of downloads, retention or bounce rates, customer satisfaction, and much more. There are many tools like this you can use for free, as for instance Flurry or Localytics.
Ask for feedback to improve the app’s performance
Customer behavior and usage impressions are the vital insights you need to improve the quality of your app, so make sure you collect insights from the very first moment it goes live. There is no such thing as too frequent changes, so never stop thinking of how your app can become better.
Instead of sticking exclusively to these guidelines, look for more information and collect practices from experienced developers.
Once you have all assets needed to start building, plan the next and most important step, namely getting more customers.