If you are thinking about entering the IT industry, or you are already there but would like to start something on your own, you have certainly been thinking about how to develop your first application.
According to Statista, Google Play Store and Apple App Store, the largest app stores in the world, had more than 5.6 million apps available in the third quarter of 2022! Only in February 2023, about 87 thousand mobile applications were published on the Google Play Store and about 31.5 thousand in March through the Apple App Store.
Development of the first app might be stressful and demanding, but numerous tools and platforms make that process easier, enabling even those with less or no technical skills to create their apps quickly.
The Internet, whether we are talking about Google, tech forums, YouTube, or popular TikTok are full of tutorials and tips & tricks on how to create your first app. Below we bring you key guidelines if you are still not sure where and how to start.
Before App development
Prior to the effort and time that you are to invest in the development of the application, there are a few key items that should be checked.
An idea or a problem you are solving
Choose to work on something that “hurts” or interests you personally. That way you will be more motivated.
Ideas that arise as a solution to a problem have a greater chance of success, and if the problem can be solved with an application, that's already a good reason to make it! Think about how the application will contribute to the solution or, if you are developing it for someone else, how it will contribute to their goals.
Confirm the need
When you realize what kind of app you want to develop, it is important to determine who truly benefits from it. Do your homework - do market research and define the target group. Focus on developing an application that the user really needs and wants.
Research the competition to understand how the application fits into the market. It is also important to understand that there is always room for improvement, so if you become aware of other applications that already deal with the same or a similar problem - do not hesitate. Maybe you recognized the missing function. To find out, you can check reviews and users' comments - what are they complaining about, does the application creator adopt user feedback and regularly update the application, etc.
List the core app functions
Once you understand the market’s shortcomings and the needs of your target group, it's time for the next step. Here you approach the development of the application in more detail, listing its key features and functionalities. Be detailed and include all the ways the user will navigate the application and what will be able to achieve.
What should you take care of? The application should be intuitive, easy to navigate and use, and fast - all these are important for the user experience. In addition to the basic ones, list potential functions that can set your application apart from the competition. Some of the most common features that applications include are: push notifications, GPS capabilities, calendar integration, and an e-commerce cart.
A search option seems to be an effective choice for e-commerce applications, while push notifications or social media integration are good ways to engage users.
Always put simplicity first - this is the first version and focus on the things that will allow the app to fulfill core functionality - everything else can be left for later. This will reduce initial development costs and help you get to market faster.
Plan the app UI flow
Don't neglect design. Not just how the app looks, but primarily how the user will experience and use it. This is extremely important to its success. Try to predict and map all the actions that the user can take - from creating an account, to a situation of forgetting the password.
You can also create a mockup or wireframe - which illustrates all the features, how the application should look and function, showing its structure and flow.
Previously mentioned frameworks also affect the creation of a technical specification, which will be important before starting the actual development, as the next step.
These "back-end" functionalities will be significant for coding and evaluating technical, not just visual challenges. They will potentially find alternative ways to achieve certain goals while improving efficiency and reducing costs.
Development method and coding
Now, we are entering the field of development itself. For this part of the process, the decision of whether you are developing a web or mobile application is crucial. The choice of the programming language you are going to use or may need to be learned, depending on the kind of application you want to make.
If you want to create a mobile app, the first decision would be to choose an operating system (OS). The two most popular are iOS and Android. In the case of an Android app, you'll basically need to know Java (or Kotlin), and if it's iOS, you can use Objective-C or Swift, the dominant app development language in that space. Software compatibility decisions will directly affect the functionality of the application.
The main difference between native and hybrid apps is that native apps are built for a specific operating system, while hybrid apps are built for cross-platform compatibility and allow developers to use a common code base on Android and iOS devices. Both certainly have advantages and disadvantages that you should research.
A large number of applications also require databases, so in cases where you create a product that interacts with a database, it will be good to know the language that deals with them, most often SQL.
No code apps
No particular technical skills and knowledge of the programming language are necessary today in order to develop your application. All thanks to the no-code app builders that allow you to create apps without code. These are platforms or tools designed to allow developers who want to develop faster and individuals with little or no technical knowledge to build web and mobile applications much easier than traditional methods.
Instead of programming, here you pick templates for creating an app, through a drag-and-drop interface.
Bubble, Zapier, AppyPie, Thunkable, and Buildfire, are some of these tools. However, it is important to know that not all app builders have features that will meet all your needs, as each of them has certain limitations. If you decide to develop applications without code, take enough time to get familiar with these tools well before choosing the appropriate one.
MVP, user feedback, and placement on the app store
When you finally start developing an application, first make an MVP (minimum viable product) and put it in front of users. Don't wait until your app is perfect for showing it to them.
The MVP will contain all the functions needed to make it work, while valuable feedback from users provides further improvements.
User feedback is certainly a part that should not be ignored, especially during the testing period prior to the app store placement. Once your application is ready to take place among the millions of applications on the app store, its setting will depend on the regulation of the store where you place it - Google or Apple store.
New versions and updates of the application should always be based on user feedback, even when the application is already LIVE.
If you stumble…
Bugs and "hitting the wall" are a regular part of the applications’ development. When facing a problem, the simplest thing you can do is to google it and try to find a solution. This type of learning is an important skill for anyone in IT.
If a little more detailed training and guidance are necessary, finding a mentor, a more experienced developer in application development, can be of good use.
And you can always turn to the Joberty community for help, advice, or opinion.