How do I build an app?

How do I build an app?

So you have an app idea and don't know what to do next. Don't fret. We have you covered here! Learn how do you build an app in the 7 steps we have detailed below.
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Things Needed?

- A Great Idea
- Time to explore the validity of your idea and the existing competition
- A Mockup tool or old fashioned pencil and paper
- Programming background, access to funding and programming talent, or use of a no coding app platform

Steps to go from great app idea to finished app:

Step 1: A Great Idea
It goes without saying that all great apps start with an idea. We assume that if you're here reading this article that you already have one. Is it unique? Will people pay for your app? Is there a demand for your app idea that nobody has yet satisfied? You'll need to have these answers as well as answers to many more questions too.
Step 2: Market Research
So you have your idea, but is it an idea that you're ready to spend the next 6 months to a year working on? Do you have the time and funds available to make your idea a reality? The first thing we would suggest is to do some research to see if there are already apps similar to your idea. Just because you have never heard of a similar app doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The Apple App Store and Google Play Stores are great places to start your research.

Let's assume you haven't found any similar apps, you'll next want to determine the target market for your idea -- age range, sex, occupation, interests, etc. -- and then find people in this market and ask them what they think of your idea. Would they pay for it? Does it solve a nagging problem that they have? Often people will think your idea is good, but it isn't something that solves a big problem in their social or work lives and therefore while they would like to have it, they don't "really" need it and therefore will not pay for it.

Make sure before you begin the development process, you are convinced that your app is solving a major need within the target market.
You are now convinced that your idea is a great one. Congratulations! Before we consider how to build the app, we should start the design process. If you have the funds to hire a professional designer, this would be a good time to do so, but we would suggest you do it yourself. You can use pencil and paper to sketch out some of the major screens but there are also many free, or inexpensive mockup tools that are made for this phase. We recommend a site call moqups.com but there are plenty of other great services you can find online by searching for "mockup tools." If you know photoshop or other drawing/design programs you can find a number of really nice mockup templates to help you get started. Most are free. For example, here is a good list of free template resources.

We would suggest that you create basic designs for your major app sections. No need to be too detailed in terms of colors, design elements and graphics. In this phase you are just trying to come up with the basic functionality of the app so you can share your ideas with others in the next phase.
Step 4: Determine How You Will Build Your App
You next have to decide on the best way to go about building your app. Your technical skillset, budget and your time availability will have a lot to do with it. The basic options are:
Hire a Professional
Creating a Custom App can cost as little as $5,000 and as much as several hundred thousand dollars depending on the complexity of your app. We have a blog article called How much does it cost to build an app? which you can review.

There are a number of resources to help you find a developer or agency. Craigslist is good local resource for finding developers. We also highly recommend Upwork.com if you are comfortable with working with overseas firms. Of course we would love to discuss your app idea and our services at The APP Company if you would like to talk with us. You'll also likely need to hire a designer to help you with the app design and to work on the UI/UX of the app (user interface). Craigslist and Upwork are great resources for hiring designers too. If you are looking to create a logo we suggest logotournament.com. You select the amount you are willing to pay and logo designers all over the world will create logos for free and you decide on the logo you are willing to pay for.
Do it Yourself (DIY)
If you already know coding this is likely the most cost-effective method to get started. You can later bring on a programmer if you need additional help. There are many free and paid resources to learn app coding. Apple has some great resources to learn Swift, their app programming language. Google has similar tutorials for the Android market.
Use an App Maker Platform
There are several services available which make it relatively easy to create an app with no programming experience required. The App Company Platform is one such service and it produces beautiful and feature-rich native apps for both iOS and Android. You can learn about it here.

Google has a service called Flutter which will create native apps for both Google's Android platform and Apple's iOS platform. It does require a bit more technical skill than our platform, but it will greatly speed up development.
Step 5: Create a Budget
Your development cost will vary greatly depending on the method you choose. If you are both a designer and programmer and don't need to hire outside resources, your cost for development might be zero. If you use a platform like The App Company platform the cost will be as low as $149/month. Custom development will be thousands or tens of thousands depending on the firm you decide on and the complexity of the app. A designer will cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.

Your app might also need some third party web services for payment processing, hosting, storage, attribution, messaging, etc. Be sure to account for all potential costs and come up with a payment schedule for such services. For example, if you and the developer agree on a budget of $10,000, it will typically require a payment schedule in the 30/40/30 range; meaning you pay 30% upfront, 40% after some set of successful deliverables, and 30% when the app is successfully completed and on the stores.
Step 6: Develop a Timeline
You are the general contractor of your app. While you can just wing it, we strongly suggest you develop a detailed timeline which sets out all of the tasks, who will be responsible for each task, when the tasks begin and end, how much will each task cost and when will the payments be due. You can use excel, google sheets or a project management/budgeting app or online service for this phase. We often use and recommend Trello or Asana for this. Both have free plans.
Step 7: Create a Marketing Plan
One thing we find that many of our clients fail to consider properly is marketing. We have successfully built some great apps for clients and they have budgeted for the development but once the app hits the stores they have no budget left for marketing. We have found that a marketing budget required for a successful app often far exceeds the cost of developing the app. Sure some apps just magically take off with no budget. An online website or blogger discovers your app, writes about how much they love it, Apple features it on the app store and boom. You have a hit app making thousands of dollars a month. These stories exist of course but they are the exception. Most successful apps take a lot of hard work to get the word out. There are many free or inexpensive avenues such as contacting online and print editors asking them to look and review your app, press releases, creating a website featuring your app and try to get it to show up on search listings, word of mouth, etc., etc. Ultimately, you'll likely need to pay for marketing. Facebook and Google Search Ads are both very popular and effective. Social media paid sponsorship and promotion often work well, especially if you can find influencers who appeal directly to your target market. In future articles we'll write more about this important subject.

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