Are you interested in learning how to make an app? Developing your own mobile app can be a challenging and rewarding experience. The full app development process is long and requires imagination, hard work, and dedication. But with the right tools and resources, anybody can learn how to make an app.
This article will discuss how to create a mobile application in 10 easy steps so that anyone can jump into the world of developing their own apps in 2023. You don’t need any previous coding skills or technical skills; all that’s needed is creativity, focus and patience!
Step 1: Define your idea
What is your app idea?
First, what is your app idea? Write it down. Start to make it real. This can be as simple or as detailed as you like. The key is to get it down on paper first so you can physically see it. You might think this is unnecessary, but writing it down makes it more than just an idea. Remember that an idea is just a mental thought until it is written down.
What problem is your app solving?
Next, ask yourself if your app is solving a problem. If so, what problem is your app solving? Are you the first in the market with the solution to this problem, or are you improving upon a current solution that is already on the market? Apps that solve a problem and are focused on the solution to that problem generally do better. A few tips are to think of how you got to your app idea in the first place. Where were you? What was happening? What triggered you to think “hey, an app could be useful here”?
Also, don’t be disheartened if you see your idea already out there in the market. Not all successful apps were original ideas. Did you know that Apple released the first iPod in 2001 when portable digital music players had been around since the mid-1990’s? Look at the success they had! They looked at the market, saw a problem and noticed that the solutions in place were offering a subpar user experience. So they created their own, and you can do the same. Look at your competition and see if you can improve upon the current solutions. Ask yourself how you can be the “iPod” to the market.
Step 2: Define your target audience
Who is your app for?
Now that you have your app idea in place and what problem it’s solving, the next step is to know who your app is serving by defining your target audience. You’re providing a solution to a problem, but who is this solution for? Who is experiencing that problem? Successful app businesses get inside the user’s mind and find out who exactly on a deeper level they are providing this solution for. What do they desire? What do they think about? When you know this information, it will help to shape major elements of your app.
So how do you define your target audience? The first thing you want to do is not fall into the trap of thinking “my app is for everyone.” Theoretically, yes, your app could serve everyone, but have you tried marketing to everyone? Two very different things! You want to start with a very targeted and specific, niche audience. This is an audience that refers to a specific subgroup of the target audience that has even more specific characteristics and needs. It is a smaller, more focused group that can be targeted with a more tailored approach.
For example, let’s say you are developing a new fitness app. The target audience for your app would be people who are interested in improving their physical fitness. But within that target audience, there is a niche target audience of people who are specifically interested in yoga. This niche target audience would have specific needs and preferences that are different from the broader target audience of people interested in fitness. You can create a tailored approach to target this niche audience by adding more yoga-specific features and content to your app. So ask yourself, who is my niche target audience?
Once you have this information, it’s time to conduct market research on your audience to really understand their needs and wants, so you can shape your app towards them.
Here are some ways to conduct market research for your app’s target audience:
- Surveys: Surveys are a great way to gather information on your target audience’s demographics, behaviors, and pain points. You can use online survey tools like SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Google Forms to distribute the surveys and gather the responses. Reach out to potential users to get their feedback on your app and their needs.
- Interviews: In-depth interviews are a great way to gain qualitative insights into your target audience’s needs and pain points. You can conduct interviews over the phone, via video conferencing, or in person. Similarly to surveys, reach out to potential users to get their feedback on your app.
- Focus groups: A focus group is a small, diverse group of people who are brought together to discuss a specific topic or product. They can be a useful tool for gaining insights into your target audience’s needs and preferences. Also (you guessed it), reach out to potential users to get their feedback on your app.
- Analyse data from social media: Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter provide a wealth of data on demographics, interests, and behaviors of their users. Use social media analytics tools such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or Facebook Insights to gain insights on your target audience.
- Secondary research: Use industry reports and market research studies to gain insights into your target audience and the market as a whole.
Step 3: Research your competition
Who are your competitors?
Once you have a clear idea of what your app does, who it serves, and your target audience, it’s time to research your competition. Look at other apps that are similar to yours and see what they are doing well and what they are not doing well. This will give you an idea of what you need to include in your app to make it stand out.
When researching your competitors for building an app, there are a few key things you should focus on:
- Look at the app stores: Use the Apple App Store search and Google Play Store to find apps that are similar to yours. Make a list of these apps and take note of their features, pricing, and target audience. Test these apps on actual mobile devices.
- Analyse their features: Look at the features of your competitors’ apps and take note of what they are doing well. This will give you an idea of what you need to include in your app to make it stand out.
- Study their reviews: Look at the reviews of your competitors’ apps on the app store. This will give you an idea of what users like and dislike about the app and what you can do to improve your own app.
- Check their ratings: Look at the ratings of your competitors’ apps on the app store. This will give you an idea of how well the app is performing and how it is being received by users.
- Look at their marketing strategies: Analyse how your competitors are promoting their app. Look at their website, social media accounts, and advertising campaigns. This will give you an idea of what is working well for them and what you can do to improve your own marketing strategy.
- Check their engagement: Look at the number of downloads, active users, and engagement of your competitors’ apps. This will give you an idea of how successful the app is and how you can improve your own app’s engagement.
Analyse your competitors
There are several tools that you can use to analyze your app competitors engagement levels, such as number of downloads, active users, and engagement levels:
- Sensor Tower: This tool provides detailed app store data, including estimated downloads, revenue, and reviews. It also offers insights on the app’s performance and ranking in the app stores.
- App Annie (Now Data.ai): This tool provides data on app store rankings, downloads, revenue, and reviews, as well as insights on user engagement and demographics. It also allows you to compare your app’s performance to that of your competitors.
- SimilarWeb: This tool provides data on website and mobile app traffic, including the number of visits, page views, and engagement metrics such as bounce rate and time on site. It also allows you to compare your app’s performance to that of your competitors.
- Appfigures: This tool provides data on app store rankings, downloads, revenue, and reviews, as well as insights on user engagement and demographics. It also allows you to compare your app’s performance to that of your competitors, and track the performance of multiple apps at once.
- AppRadar: This tool provides data on user engagement, downloads, revenue, and reviews, as well as the ability to track your app’s performance over time and compare it to your competitors.
Step 4: What features will your app have?
Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience and the competitive landscape, it’s time to start thinking about which features your app will have. A common mistake to want to include too many features at once. This will be a costly and time-consuming task. Remember, focused apps generally perform better than those which are less focused.
Ask yourself what are the features needed in your app that are sufficient to satisfy your first set of users? What we are doing here is turning your idea into a minimum viable product (MVP). MVP features are the most important and basic features that your app needs to have in order to be functional and solve the main problem that your app addresses. These essential features are the bare minimum that your app needs to have to be successful and should be prioritised over other features that may be nice to have but are not crucial for the app’s main purpose. This saves you an abundance of time and resources.
To identify MVP features, you can use the information gathered from market research and data analysis to understand the needs and pain points of your target audience. Identify the features that are essential for meeting those needs, and then add additional features as needed.
The MoSCoW Matrix
To help with defining your MVP features, you can use a MoSCoW matrix. The MoSCoW matrix is a prioritisation technique that is often used to define MVP (Minimum Viable Product) features for an app. The acronym MoSCoW stands for Must-Have, Should-Have, Could-Have, and Won’t-Have. The matrix is used to categorise features based on their level of importance, and helps to ensure that the most important features are included in the MVP while less important features can be added later.
- Must-Have: These are the features that are considered essential for the app to function and address the main problem it’s solving. These features are non-negotiable and must be included in the MVP.
- Should-Have: These are features that are important, but not essential. They should be included in the MVP if possible, but can be deferred to a later release if necessary.
- Could-Have: These are features that would be nice to have, but are not essential. They can be deferred to a later release or not implemented at all if necessary.
- Won’t-Have: These are features that are not important to the app’s main purpose and can be deferred or not implemented at all.
The MoSCoW matrix helps to ensure that the most important features are included in the MVP while less important features can be added later. This can help you to focus on the core functionality of your app, while also providing a valuable and usable product to your target audience.
It’s important to keep in mind that MVP features are not necessarily limited to the initial release of your app. As you gather feedback from users and analyse app performance, you may find that there are additional features that need to be added in order to meet the needs of your target audience better.
It’s also worth noting that having an MVP does not mean that your app has to be basic or lacking in popular app features. It’s about finding the balance between what is necessary to address the problem your app is solving and what can be added later on, while still providing a valuable and usable product to your target audience.
Step 5: Monestising your app
Now that you have the features for your app, it’s a good time to think about how you’re going to earn revenue from your app. To start, let’s take a look at each model when it comes to making money from apps in the app store.
The free model
First the free model. The free model is launching your app for free with all of the features as intended. This is great because there is no barrier for users to download your app. They don’t have to give anything in return, leading to high-traffic numbers compared to paid apps. But how do people make money from the free model? Normally this is through advertising. As the number of customers with smartphones increases, more advertisers are switching to mobile advertising to reach their target audiences.
The paid model
The next model is charging users to download your app in exchange for a fee. The concept is simple enough – you make money when a user purchases your app. The more downloads you get, the more money you get from sales. Often this is what most people who build an app for the first time want to do. They want their investment back straight away so they charge users to download their app. Consumers must buy before they try. But this idea can often be a turnoff for users. With us living in this digital age, people want to see value first before they pull their cards out to make a purchase.
The freemium model
The final model is called the freemium model. The freemium model is having users download your app for free but with optional paid premium content i.e. in-app purchases. It allows the user to try your app before they buy. The app provides value free of charge to the consumer. Once they see they’re getting this value, such as an app making a normal day task quicker and easier, they are more likely to pull their card out and spend money with you on the app i.e. make an in-app purchase in exchange for even more value.
The most common in-app purchase you probably see nowadays is subscription in-app purchases. These are, as the name suggests, buying services or content within an app for a specific subscription period. Examples include buying a sports season pass or getting a subscription from Netflix, or Spotify. These can be non-renewing subscriptions where after the specified subscription period, the user would have to buy it again. It can also be auto-renewing, which again as the name suggests the app would automatically renew that subscription.
Only you can decide which model is best for your business and your target audience. The important thing to remember is to let the market research about your target audience and competitor research guide the decision. For us, we recommend the freemium model with subscription in-app purchases.
Step 6: Wireframing your app
With everything you have learned so far, it’s time to start creating your app design, starting with wireframes. Wireframing is the process of creating a visual representation of the structure and layout of an app before it is built. There are several tools that you can use to wireframe your app, including:
- Balsamiq: This is a popular wireframing tool that offers a wide range of pre-built UI (user interface) elements and a simple drag-and-drop interface. It also allows you to easily create and share wireframes with your team. It’s best for non-technical users as it requires no coding skills or technical skills.
- Axure: This is a powerful wireframing tool that offers advanced prototyping capabilities, allowing you to create interactive wireframes and test user flows. It also includes a wide range of pre-built UI elements, and allows you to collaborate with your team in real-time.
- Adobe XD: This tool is part of Adobe Creative Cloud, it offers a wide range of wireframing and prototyping capabilities, including pre-built UI elements, vector editing tools, and the ability to create interactive wireframes and test user flows for your app design. Again, this is a good tool for non-technical users.
- Figma: This is a browser-based wireframing tool that allows for real-time collaboration with your team. It offers a wide range of pre-built UI elements, and allows you to create interactive wireframes and test user flows. By the way, it’s our favourite for app design software. A lot of mobile app development companies will use Figma for full app designs.
- Sketch: This is a widely used wireframing tool for Mac that offers vector editing tools, a wide range of pre-built UI elements and allows you to easily share and collaborate with your team. Another popular tool for app design amongst mobile app development companies.
- InVision: This is a comprehensive wireframing and prototyping tool that allows you to create interactive wireframes and test user flows. It also includes a wide range of pre-built UI elements, and allows you to collaborate with your team in real-time.
Ultimately, the best wireframing tool for your app will depend on your specific needs, such as the complexity of the app, the platform you’re targeting, and your team’s skills and preferences. It’s a good idea to try out a few different tools and see which one works best for you. For beginners, I would recommend Balsamiq. For intermediates, try Axure and Adobe XD. For advanced users, Figma, Sketch and InVision.
Step 7: Choose a development platform
What mobile platform do you want to build your app for? Should you launch it on Apple and their iPhone first or Google’s Android, or both? Most people who want to build an app want to launch it on both mobile platforms to start with. This is absolutely fine if that’s the route you want to go down but two words of warning.
Firstly, this can be costly because if you’re building your app for both iPhone and Android, most often you would need separate developers for each platform as different programming languages and coding skills are needed. You need a developer for each platform so you’ll have to pay for that resource.
Secondly, it can be risky. You may have done all of the research in the world but no one knows how users are going to respond to your app. If you build your app for both operating systems with twice the effort, and users don’t respond to it well, that’s a lot of your time, effort and resources that have been wasted. Now they could, of course, respond very well to your app and it could be a stroke of genius. However, because of the uncertainty involved, most people tend to start with one or the other.
So which one should platform should you start with? Let’s look at two key factors in the decision-making process.
Factor 1: Your audience
Are your audience outside of the U.S and Europe? If so, it is possible that Android should be your first priority as it dominates sales volumes of smartphones in Asia, Africa, and South America. Otherwise, iPhone would be your best shot as the average iOS user is often from North America or Europe.
Factor 2: Complexity
Developing Android apps is more complex than iOS. This is because when different manufacturers adopt the Android operating system to use in their phones, they tweak and tailor it specifically to their products. The Android version you see on a Samsung will be different to the version you see on a Sony or LG phone. Now because of these different versions of the Android operating system on the market, your app could react differently between each phone.
In contrast, Apple are the only ones who make products with iOS running on them. You won’t find hundreds of different types of them. You have the iPhones and the iPads which is a considerably smaller variety than the number of Android devices. Also, iOS users tend to keep their software up-to-date: 80% of iOS users are on the same version while there isn’t a single version of Android that hosts more than 50% of users. As a result, testing an Android app to remove bugs and crashes can take longer compared to doing so on iPhone.
Similarly to before, only your target audience data and your competitor research will dictate what platform to launch your app on first. If it was us, we would go with iOS to begin with as the programming language for your app and launch it in the Apple App Store.
But before we move on…
Choose a native programming language or cross-platform app language?
It’s important to know that there are multiple languages for app building. You can get native development and you can get hybrid development. Native development refers to building mobile apps specifically for one platform using the programming languages and development tools that are officially supported by that platform. For example, building an iOS app using native programming languages such as Objective-C or Swift and Xcode, or building an Android app using Java or Kotlin and Android Studio.
The main difference between the two is that native development builds apps that are specifically for one platform, while hybrid apps are built using web technologies and can be run on multiple platforms. Hybrid apps may have some limitations in terms of performance and access to device features compared to native apps, but they can make the app making process simpler and reduce the duration of app building time. For us, the answer is simple when choosing an app development method – use a native programming language. It’s the gold standard in app programming and you can get full access to the device capabilities.
Step 8: Your app development team
The last step is to get your development team together to help build your app. Now unless you’re planning on hiring an in-house design and development team full-time, the two options you’ve probably got for creating your app are using either a freelance app builder or a mobile app development agency. There is a third option using app building platforms, sometimes called app building software or no-code development platforms, but even now in 2023, they have limited functionality and their quality can be quite low so we’ll ignore that for now. So the question (for now) is, which should you use – a freelance app builder or an agency?
This is a common question I get asked because, well let’s face it, using freelance app builders can be significantly cheaper than using an agency particularly if you use a freelancer abroad, and that’s something I completely understand. But just as there are advantages, there are disadvantages also. Similarly, using an agency has its advantages and disadvantages. So which one should you go for? Having been in the industry for just under a decade, I feel like I’m in the best place to answer this question.
In my experience, I believe there are two key elements to judge. In no particular order of priority, these are:
Element 1: Price
There’s no competition here and you could probably guess already – the winner goes to freelance app builders. 90% of the time, the price of hiring a freelance app builder to develop your app is significantly cheaper than using an agency. I can’t speak for all of the freelancers online, but in my experience, this has always been the case here in London, UK. Past hires have told us that the average prices of building an app with a freelance app builder can range from £1000 – £20,000.00. In contrast, building apps with an agency can cost anywhere from £50,000 to £100,000, with some even going up to hundreds of thousands of pounds and even millions.
Element 2: Team
Working with an app agency almost certainly guarantees that you’ll have a team of people working on your app. A typical team would include a UI/UX designer, a project manager, and three to four experienced developers with technical skills in various programming languages. A freelancer online mostly consists of one person, the majority of the time.
As you might already have guessed, it is much more advantageous to work with a team than with a single person who could do the design and development. Why? You want experts in each area of your app’s production. For example, let’s say you had an expert designer and you had an expert development team. The two combined would make your app look great and perform great too. But if you had a freelancer who was an incredible developer, but weak in design, because their skill-set lies in development as they’re an expert there, then you’ll have an app that performs great but aesthetically isn’t the most pleasing.
Remember, you can have the best code in the world but if your graphics look bad, people will be less likely to give your app a chance. Obviously, the ideal situation would be to have a freelancer who can both design and develop apps to an incredibly high standard, but this is rare. As a result, agencies would have to win on this point.
For us, the answer is easy – use a mobile app development company to build your app as their guidance, experience and expertise can handle the entire development process for you and tailor it specifically to your target users. You’ll be able to get a full design process including graphic design and custom app design with UI/UX designers. You get access to experienced, mobile app developers that have coding skills for various programming languages. You get access to full product documentation with project managers who have the technical skills to deliver app development projects, and some even help with app marketing strategies.
Step 9: Testing your app
Once you have coded your app, you need to test it with actual users. This is the process of making sure that your app is working correctly and that there are no bugs. It is important to test your app on different devices and in different environments to make sure that it works correctly. This is the moment where you can get invaluable user feedback to understand if the user experience is optimal in successfully fulfilling your app’s purpose. A mobile app development company can help here so don’t feel that you’re alone in this process. They often use a development environment rather than a live environment for app testing.
There are several tools that you can use to test your app and get user feedback, including:
- UserTesting: This tool allows you to conduct usability testing by having real users complete tasks and provide feedback on your app. It also provides a dashboard that allows you to analyse the results and make data-driven decisions.
- Apptimize: This tool allows you to test different versions of your app with real users in order to gather feedback and measure performance. It also provides a dashboard that allows you to analyze the results and make data-driven decisions.
- A/B Testing: This tool allows you to test different versions of your app with real users in order to gather feedback and measure performance. You can test different elements of your app such as design, layout, and features to see which version performs better.
- Feedback Forms: Feedback forms can be used to gather feedback on your app from users. You can use tools such as SurveyMonkey, Typeform, or Google Forms to create and distribute forms.
- Beta Testing: Beta testing allows you to test your app with a small group of users before releasing it to the public. You can use tools such as Testflight (iOS), which is available in App Store Connect, or Google Play Beta Testing (Android) to distribute your app to beta testers and gather feedback.
It’s worth noting that, while these tools can provide valuable insights on your app’s usability, performance, and user engagement, it’s important to combine these data with other sources such as surveys, interviews, and social media analytics to get a complete picture of your app’s performance and user feedback.
Step 10: App launch
Once you have tested your app and fixed any bugs, you can submit it to the app stores, including the Apple App Store and/or Google Play Store for app launch. This is the process of making your app available for download. It is important to make sure that your app meets the guidelines of the app store before you submit it.
Once your app is available for download, the hard work isn’t done yet as you need to promote it. This includes creating a website for your app, creating social media accounts for your app, and an app marketing plan. This will help to get your app in front of as many people as possible.
Importantly, once your app is live, it is important to maintain it. This includes fixing any bugs, adding new features, and updating the app to keep it up-to-date. By maintaining your app, you will be able to keep your users happy and ensure that your app continues to be successful.
Creating an app can be a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun. By following these 10 steps, you can create an app that is both functional and visually appealing. If you want to get started on your app, visit our Get Started page and we can help make your app a reality.