Beginner's guide to building an app

Mobile app ideasMobile apps are big business. They’re so big, in fact, that it can be hard to imagine how many there are or how much money people are making from them.

Almost every day it seems that someone has made a mint from an app – and businesses of all sizes are benefiting from the growing mobile app economy.

So, how do you get a piece of that action? How do you create an app to help your customers? And how do you turn that great idea into a money-spinner?

Mobile apps: first, learn coding

If you’ve decided to build an app, the first thing you need to do is to learn how to program a computer. Right?

Actually, wrong. Very wrong. Despite the many adverts you see that say you can create an app with no programming skills, or learn to program apps in 21 days, the truth is that gaining the skills to write a really good app takes a long time.

And even when you have some skills you’ll eventually hit that classic wall: how do you solve the bugs in your apps?

The creation of every app - and indeed all software - is based on figuring out how to make it work one bit at a time. It’s a bit like building a unique car engine from scratch. It takes some time.

The fastest way to solve these problems is to have experience. But if you don’t write apps all the time then you'll never have enough experience to really make your app shine.

You are an expert, but not in mobile apps

So, it’s not likely you have the experience and knowledge to build a really great app. But that’s ok, because you don’t actually need it. Although you’re not an expert in building apps, you are already an expert in something just as important: you know what your great idea is, or you know what your business needs. You just need to make sure you use that expertise.

Here’s a good example. American photographer Lisa Bettany knew what would make a great photography app. So she co-created Camera+ on the iPhone. The app has been a great success.

You don’t need your own programming skills. You need to form a team.

Working with mobile app developers

Traditionally, smaller businesses have seen computer programmers as being too expensive for them to employ. But that’s changing. There are armies of freelancers out there, all looking for their next big project. To create your mobile app, you need to find someone you can work with on terms you're both happy with.

You can find developers through sites like Elance, PeoplePerHour and Microlancer. It’s also a good idea to use Google to search online for developers in your area – and ask your business contacts for recommendations.

There are loads of developers out there. Some charge strict hourly rates. Some will negotiate deals for the right app. Using a freelancer won’t cost you as much as a full time staff developer – and finding the right freelancer will give you a lot of flexibility.

Working with your developer

Once you’ve found a developer you can work with and you know what you want to be built, you can get on and actually build the mobile app. Doing this is all about communication. Your developer needs to keep you updated and you need to be very clear to them what you need.

The best way to get things done quickly and efficiently is to be very honest with your developer and to listen to their advice. You are the expert on your app, but they are the expert on delivering it.

Between these two fields of expertise there may be a need for some compromise. It’s basically a balancing act. Don't be alarmed by this. It is normal. At times it may be hard to keep the faith, but so long as the end result works then everything will be fine.

And, of course, you’ll have an app you can be proud of.

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