How do I build my first app?

Are you getting ready to make your first app, but you aren’t sure where to begin? Well, don’t worry – we’ve gone ahead and made you your very own app development roadmap!

With a little bit of planning, some market research, and practicing the implementation of a few marketing fundamentals, you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful app. Unless you plan on actually coding the app yourself, your developer will be there to help you along your app creation journey.

If you want to teach yourself how to code an app, our Swift and Android development guides are a great place to start. If you’re planning on making a code-less app, here are three blogs that go over the reasons why we believe native app development will always be your best option when it comes to making an app:

Step 1: Your pain point

Ideation is the first step in your app’s development – just like any product. All apps are designed around solving a pain point – it’s why users engage with apps – Face App answers the important questions like “what will I look like when I’m old?,” Waze helps you dodge traffic, and Instagram makes every shot look like a pro took it.

Something important to note is that your app’s pain point doesn’t need to be unique – all games solve the same problem: boredom. Your app can even solve the problem using largely the same feature set as a competing app – it really only has to do one thing differently to make an impact on the App Store of Google Play.

If your app’s pain point is in line with another already existent app, download your competitor and use it a few times – research and pay attention to how the app interacts with its users, and take note of what could be changed. Next week, we’ll be going into a lot more detail on how to develop a MVP app when your competition already has a grip on the market, so stay on the look out!

If your app isn’t facing any competition, make sure to conduct as much market research as you can – it’s important to tailor your research to the purpose of your app, however. For a detailed guide on the methodology behind conducting market research for your app, check out our MVP development: Market research and pain points blog.

Step 2: Your design

When on the topic of apps, the word “design” can refer to a lot of different aspects of app development. The first part of an app that needs to be designed is your main user story. A user story can be thought of as the steps a user takes when interacting with your app.

User stories can look very different depending on the nature of your app. A workout tracker app will see lots of downtime in between periods of quick interactions from the user over the course of their workout – a gaming app will see continuous interaction for the duration of their session.

User stories are important because they give you a roadmap for how to design the UI (user interface) of your app. A lot of questions can be answered by determining your main user story – that being the most likely situation users will be in when engaging with your app.

So, if you’re making a workout app, you’d want to stick with bold, energetic colors, big buttons, and easy-to-read, quick messages. If you were making a game, while you’d most likely still work with bold colors, you’d want to include a wider range and variance of colors, your UI will be more complicated to facilitate your app’s gameplay mechanics, and messages can afford to be a little longer (not too much though – apps are about quick feedback and interaction).

Other things to keep in mind when designing your app’s UI: the most likely time of day (or night) users will be interacting with your app, where they’ll be (out and about, or sitting down), the mood they can be expected to be in, and whether or not they’ll have access to wifi (some features require a lot of data to be transferred between the user’s device and a server).

If you’d like more tips on designing an app, as well as ideas for designing an app that will keep up with users’ expectations in 2019, check out these two blogs:

After you’ve sketched out a few screens of your app, and have a little bit of an understanding of how users would interact with it, it’s time to find a developer. When searching for a developer, always start with Clutch or The Manifest, or other software development sites like DesignRush. Sites like these collect reviews of developers from past clients, and provide rankings based on their portfolio, ability to deliver, and other metrics.

This will help you narrow down your search. There’s a lot that goes in to finding and building a relationship with your developer. For more tips and info, check out our blogs on the topic:

From here, the developer you’ve partnered with will begin designing the finalized versions of your app’s frontend and backend. The frontend of your app is the UI, and is what users interact with – the backend is the logic of your app.

Backends provide the architecture that keeps your app functioning – this is where your app’s APIs (Application Programming Interface) will connect with your app’s code to provide extra functionality. An example of an API is Google Maps, or the “log in with Facebook” button some apps use – APIs can be thought of as building blocks that speed up the development of your app.

APIs are a handy tool because they (usually) do their task extremely well, and will add to the overall UX (user experience) of your app because of their robustness and expertise at what they do. You do need to be careful when selecting which APIs your app will utilize, however – there are security risks and ethical violations that can come from implementing a bad API.

The backend also encompasses the nodes in your app that connect to databases that are stored in servers – storing data in remote servers means your app takes up less storage space on your users’ devices, and it loads faster – all key factors in helping to grow and maintain your app’s user retention.

Before you settle on how your app will be designed, you need to decide which platform (iOS or Android) will be best for your app. For more information on choosing between iOS or Android, check out these blogs:

Step 3: ASO and launch

ASO – or App Store Optimization, is the process of building your app’s rank in the App Store or Google Play by strengthening these key metrics:

  • User Acquisition
  • User Retention
  • User Engagement
  • User Ratings
  • User Reviews
  • Keywords

After putting all of these metrics through a formula, your app will be ranked on the App Store and Google Play. Your app’s ranking is incredibly important – when users on the App Store or Google Play search the app store using the phrase “workout app,” the keywords you’ve selected, and the metrics created by your user data, will determine where on the list of workout apps your’s will show.

This is why keyword selection is a finely-tuned process – try to rank for keywords that are too competitive, and your app (when it’s starting out, at least) might not be able to handle the heat. Ignore popular searches and your app might miss out on a huge number of conversions. For more about ASO, check out our ASO: 101 blog.

After selecting your keywords, and collecting all the media your app will need for its page on the App Store, Google Play, or both, (that being your app’s icon, promotional text, screenshots, a promotional video), you’ll want to submit your app for review. Apple’s review process is much more stringent than Google’s, and both have one-time publication fees, and take 30% of each purchase. The App Store has a yearly fee for hosting your app as well.

Once your app is launched, you’ll want to use your standard marketing channels, and social media to get the word out there – while apps do rely heavily on ASO for growth, traditional marketing campaigns still have there place.

After launch, pay attention to user reviews and ratings, and make sure to hook your app up to an analytics service like Kumulos. These allow you to analyze detailed reports on user data, giving you the ability to find trouble spots so you can maximize your app’s user retention.

Finally, it’s time to start all over again – apps require frequent updates to stay competitive.

There’s no magic formula

Mobile app development isn’t much different from any type of software development – it can just seem daunting because it’s still relatively new. But with the right developer and idea, your app stands a good chance at being a success.

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