The Beginner Developer’s Guide: How to Build You First iOS App

Every app developer’s dream is to build a tool that will place them at the top of the mobile market. Whether you woke up one night with a groundbreaking idea, or you identified a problem that you feel only you have the solution to, keep in mind that the road to delivering a successful app is not exactly paved with gold bricks.

Having a clear idea on your mind and developing a plan on how to successfully set that idea in motion are the first steps towards creating an app that will turn you into a top entrepreneur. This guide will help you take the idea and turn it into reality, as well as how to properly launch, promote and collect meaningful feedback.

Outline Your Idea

This should be the first step towards bringing your project to life. It does not necessarily have to be the smartest idea out there, but it has to be achievable at first. Sketch it, write down the concept, outline all the main features and start from there. Before starting the development process, you need to have all these main points written down in a clear manner.

The main goal of this step is to see if the project has a real chance of being brought to life. In order to do so, you need to first concentrate on the main features, those without which your app would not survive. Then, you can go ahead and add all the other nice-to-have features, which are also important, but not crucial and can be modified to work with the main plan.

Focusing only on the main features is what’s called an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and is what companies do, in order to speed up the development process of a project. This helps you set the ground and make your app less prone to setbacks.

Do Market Research

Don’t make the mistake of skipping market research before developing your app, as it is the one aspect that can make or break your project. Before putting more work into it, you will want to know if your idea has any room on the market.

Nobody needs yet another photo editing app that has the same features as all the others, so in order to do that, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Are there any other alternatives on the market?
  • What are the potential customers’ main wants and needs?
  • Does it follow a good business model?
  • How are you going to price the app?

Conducting good market research can help you tackle some of the issues early on and determine if your project is worth investing in. You can do so by first finding out if there is a potential customer base for your app. Next, you need to find out if there are similar products on the market; and chances are you will find quite a few. The last step should be identifying your competitors’ mistakes and avoid them or find solutions for them to integrate into your app. This can only be done if you put yourself out there and actually talk to people to find out their needs. Conducting surveys, asking your friends, launching a debate on social media, these are all methods to find out what the customers really want.

Create a Prototype

If there is one rule every big software development company is not breaking, that is creating the mockup, or prototype, of the project before development. This is mostly because, when designing an app for a client, the prototype represents a way of revealing the end result of the project before developing it.

Broadly speaking, the prototype should be a blueprint of the app’s layout, UI (user interface) and flow. There is no need to include refined UI elements or their exact position or color scheme. The mockup should be able to present the overall aspect of the app, without including unnecessary distractions. In other words, it should be the functional concept of your app, rather than the creative one.

When it comes to flow, the mockup should describe exactly what happens when the user presses one button, how you navigate between screens and, overall, how the user interacts with it. Next, you can go ahead and add various explanatory notes directly in the mockup software, or simply create a different text document, to describe what the app does.

Create the Graphic Design

After the project starts to take shape, it’s time to start creating the graphic design of the app. This includes all the visual details that will be included, from still images to effects, animations and motion design. For this step, you have two possible options: create the design yourself by using a graphics template or hire a professional to do it for you.

  • Do it yourself:deciding to handle the graphic design yourself is not entirely a bad idea, but if you don’t have enough experience, it is recommended to try and stick to a basic template specially created for iOS. This will save you time and will ensure a well-made product. You can find multiple options online, with just a bit of research.
  • Hiring a professional:if you don’t have enough design experience, working with a professional graphic designer might be the best option for you, in order to ensure the quality of the overall results. Although this requires some financial investment, the end results will be worth the money.

The end result should consist of a set of images and assets that are ready to be imported into Xcode. You will then use it to start working in Interface Builder. Keep in mind that, if you use tools such as Photoshop or Sketch, you will not be able to upload them into Xcode directly, so you will need to recreate them entirely in Interface Builder. To help you more, consult Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, as it includes a lot of useful information.

Build Your App

Finally, the part you have been waiting for: building the app. If you followed all the tips above, this final step will turn out to be easier than you would expect. To build an iOS app, you need to use two tools:

  • Xcode: this program includes tools for project management, documentation, code editing, and debug, as well as an Interface Builder. Basically, all you need in order to build the app from scratch.
  • Swift: this is the default programming language used for any app developed for an Apple operating system. You also have the option to use Objective-C, but Swift is much more intuitive.

The whole development process can be divided into two sections: front-end and back-end, which are pretty self-explanatory. When you are building the app, part of your process is integrating both ends with each other.

The front-end represents the part of the app that users see and interact with, including layout, navigation and data processing. This is the part where you create and determine everything that happens with the user experience.

The back-end includes databases, data storage, networking, as well as user management – basically, the things behind the app. Mainly, the back-end stores data that is created inside the app and uploaded to the cloud. It stores local copies of such data and updates those copies whenever new data is uploaded.

If you are a beginner with iOS development and want to learn more, you can follow online tutorials and courses for Xcode, but the best way to learn is to practice until it gets just the way you want it. Online tutorials can teach you quite a bunch of tricks, but in order to master them, you need to experiment, allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them as you go.

Launch and Market the App

The big moment has arrived! After a long period of brainstorming and hard work, you are ready to launch your app and watch it take the world by surprise. The steps you need to take in order to launch the app in the App Store are pretty clear-cut:

  • Use iTunes Connect to prepare the app’s title and metadata;
  • Use Xcode to upload the app into the App Store;
  • Wait for Apple to review your app;
  • After approval, the app will be live-published in the App Store.

After the app is up for download, you need to focus on properly marketing it, in order for downloads to increase. Oftentimes, developers get the idea that a good product needs no advertising, but that’s far from being true. Marketing is what helps your product reach the customers. It is a way of telling people your story, what you stand for and why they should choose your product over others available on the market.

A good way to market your app is to build a landing page for the app. You don’t need a complex website. Just a page that describes the app, it benefits and a link to the App Store. If you want to take things a bit further, you can go ahead and create the landing page before the app is released. This way, you can also create a waiting list where people can register prior to the release, which will help you see if there are any potential customers.