In this guide, we cover how to create an app. Whether you’re brand new to app development or an experienced pro that wants to build the next Angry Birds, you’ll need to know how to create an app.
With so many decisions to make when figuring out how to create an app, it can be tricky to get started.
That’s why we created our guide on how to create an app, including 13 steps that you can apply to mobile apps, apps for smart wearables, desktop apps, and more. If you want to learn how to create an app, you’re in the right place.
We’ve even included 5 app projects with source code for you to apply these steps and learn how to create an app in a practical way.
And when you consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average salary of more than $100,000 for programmers, learning how to create an app can be a valuable step toward a lucrative career.
So if you’re ready, let’s dive into our guide for how to create an app in 2023.
What Is An App?
The term app has become so common in everyday language that many of us instinctively have an answer for the question, what is an app?
That said, let’s summarize what an app is and where the idea of an app began.
In the simplest terms, an app is a software program designed for specific tasks or functions on electronic devices. The concept of an app dates back to the early days of computing when Ivan Sutherland created the first recognized application called Sketchpad in the early 1960s to introduce the idea of a graphical user interface.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and we mostly think about smartphones when we hear the word app. And it’s no wonder because, in July 2008, the launch of the Apple App Store marked a momentous step change in modern technology, with an initial 500 apps that ushered in the modern era of apps.
Developers could now take iOS development courses to create and easily distribute third-party applications, which led to the mobile app ecosystems we know today and the millions of apps that are available on platforms like iOS, but also on Android.
Initially, apps focused on basic tasks like email, web browsing, and utilities, but now there are apps for social networking, entertainment, productivity, health and fitness, education, gaming, finance, travel, and more.
And while mobile apps tend to get the spotlight, various other platforms have adopted the usage of apps.
- Desktop Platforms: Operating systems like Windows, macOS, and Linux now use apps versus the older parlance of programs.
- Web Browsers: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and more offer us access to web apps.
- Gaming Consoles: Popular devices like the PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch utilize apps for gaming, media streaming, and other purposes.
- Smart TV platforms: Apps within TVs are commonplace, not to mention add-on devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Apple TV.
- Wearable Devices: The use of smartwatches and fitness trackers has become widespread, and these all support apps to extend their capabilities.
- Internet of Things (IoT) Devices: Whether they’re smart home appliances or industrial IoT devices, each can be via dedicated apps.
- In-Car Entertainment Systems: These often have app integration for music streaming, navigation, and other connected services.
So whether your want to know how to make mobile apps or apps for wearable devices, the demand is most definitely there.
Why Are Apps Important?
Apps play a crucial role for individuals and businesses, so let’s explore some of the benefits of modern-day applications.
- Convenience: Apps help us perform tasks quickly and with little effort, whether it’s ordering food with DoorDash, booking a ride with Uber, or watching your favorite shows on Netflix.
- Personalized Content and Recommendations: Modern apps use machine learning to create targeted content, like personalized feeds on YouTube, product recommendations on Amazon, or curated playlists on Spotify.
- Making Technology More Accessible: Everyone can use apps like WhatsApp for messaging with basic technical skills, and many apps also integrate accessibility features like screen readers, voice commands, and more.
- Security: Most apps prioritize data privacy and protection to ensure user data remains confidential and protected from unauthorized access.
- Improved User Experience: Popular applications are built to be fast and have intuitive interfaces and appealing visuals, which is why companies collect feedback from users to refine and improve their apps.
- Increased Revenue for Businesses: For companies and organizations, apps can help them to expand their market reach and provide new revenue streams.
- New Career Opportunities: Widespread usage of apps has created many career opportunities in app development, design, testing, marketing, support, and more.
- Drives Innovation: The app development ecosystem fuels the innovation of programming languages, tools, and frameworks, as developers are constantly looking for new and more efficient ways to build apps.
Whether you’re curious about how to become an Android app developer or you want to create desktop apps like Microsoft Office and Photoshop, apps have become essential tools and features of our everyday lives, both personally and professionally.
How To Create An App In 13 Steps
So you’re ready to invent an app. Let’s dive into our 13-step guide on how to create an app. At each step, we’ll provide clear and actionable advice that you can use to create a huge range of apps, including mobile, desktop, web applications, and more.
And to help you understand what we’re asking you to do at each step, we will provide a worked example of our own (imaginary!) social media app for people in tech. This should help you figure out how to make your own app in a contextual way.
We’ll then use each step to show we can apply the advice to create our social media app for tech professionals, which we’ll call TechApp! Let’s get started!
1. Define Your App’s Purpose And Goals
To move your app from an idea to an actual product, clearly define its purpose and goals.
An important question you need to answer at this stage is “What will the app do?” or “What problem will it solve?”.
You need to have a clear answer to these questions before you invest any time or resources. Often, it’s also the first question most angel investors or funding organizations will ask.
You also need to outline the specific goals you want to achieve with your app. Your goals could be to generate revenue, increase sales, reach more customers, or collect important data. Your main goals for the app should be realistic and measurable, as this is what will guide the decisions you make in the subsequent stages.
For TechApp, our purpose is to create a professional and user-friendly platform for building meaningful connections with others in the tech space.
2. Conduct Market Research
This is when you gather information about your target audience and competitors.
Naturally, you expect your target audience to use your application, so you should get an idea of how they behave, their preferences, and their pain points. Without this, you stand the risk of creating an app that’s not attractive to your intended users.
Also, get to know your competitors, including other apps that are similar to your proposed app. Identify their strengths and weaknesses, and figure out what they’re doing well, as you can aim to replicate this in your app.
It’s also a good idea to learn about what they are not doing very well so that your app can fill that void.
Our target audience for TechApp is professionals in tech, and our competitors will include apps like Peerlist and LinkedIn.
3. Choose Core Features
A practical way to select your app’s core features is to list all the potential features you can think of. Consider the pain points you identified from the research phase. and brainstorm as many feature ideas as you can.
After making a list of potential features, decide on those that are most important and feasible. You can then quickly create prototypes and share these with potential users to collect feedback (although we’re skipping ahead a little, so hold on a moment!).
Important: Beware of feature overload! This is the concept of adding too many features early in the app development process, as this can increase complexity and overwhelm you or your development team. You’ll also have to think about what you need to learn to develop an app if you plan to do it yourself.
At this stage, keep things as simple and usable as you can. For example, Meta recently launched their new Threads app to compete with Twitter (or X as it’s now known!). And believe it or not, the Meta app launched without emoji support because they knew they could always add more features in future updates.
For our TechApp, some core features we can consider include user profiles, news feed, projects showcase, and job listings.
4. Choose A Platform
The platform you choose will depend on the type of app you want to build. Consider your intended users and their preferred devices.
Cross-platform frameworks like React Native allow you to code once and deploy on multiple platforms. You could even consider upskilling by taking a Flutter course if you want to use a different cross-platform framework
Your choice of platform is also important because it will determine the language and tools you’ll need to use for development. For example, iOS apps are built using Swift, while Android apps often use Kotlin or Java.
If you’re not sure which to use, think about your existing skills and whether you’d need to take the time out to take a Java course to learn a new language or if you can use your existing skills in a language you already know.
In general, these are the types of considerations you must make now to ensure a smooth development process.
Depending on the type of app you want to build, you might want to consider any of the following major platforms for app development.
- Mobile applications: iOS, Android
- Desktop applications: MacOS, Windows, Linux
- Web applications: Web Browsers
- Gaming consoles: PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch
- Smart TV platforms: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV
- Wearable Devices: watchOS, WearOS
- Internet of Things (IoT): Arduino, Raspberry Pi
- Smart appliances: Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit
When it comes to our TechApp, we’ll assume that our findings revealed an equal proportion of iPhone and Android users among our target demographic, which suggests we need to consider cross-platform development.
5. Choose A Development Method
A software development method is a system that guides the process of managing and building software applications. As a result, it covers various aspects of the development process, such as the design, coding, testing, deployment, and even maintenance.
Some factors you should consider before choosing a development method are the project’s requirements, the size and scope of your application, and the expected time-to-market. You should also consider the level of user involvement you want in the development process.
Let’s look at some popular development methods.
Agile: Agile development breaks down the development process into small iterations. These iterations, called sprints, work on a specific set of features. Agile also emphasizes regular communication between developers. This is our preferred choice for TechApp.
Rapid Application Development (RAD): RAD focuses on quickly creating prototypes and then testing and gathering feedback from users. This works well for small to medium applications and also reduces time-to-market.
Waterfall: This methodology includes six stages. and each must be completed before moving to the next. The stages are requirements, system design, implementation, testing, deployment, and maintenance.
Whichever method you choose to adopt, you should also consider leveraging project management tools to ensure the development process is smooth and efficient.
6. Decide On The Tech Stack
This is one of the most important steps, including decisions about the best programming language, framework, database management system, hosting, and deployment. And as you’d expect, there are lots of options to choose from.
To make an informed decision, consider the type of app you are building and the intended platform. Other important considerations are security, scalability, performance, and any software development tools you need.
We’d recommend choosing technologies that are well-documented. For example, with TechApp, we will choose the following tech stack to build our application.
- Flutter: a cross-platform frontend framework.
- Redux: state management library.
- Google Firebase: Comprehensive set of backend services, including authentication, real-time database, cloud storage, push notifications, and more.
7. Design The UI/UX
Like all apps, your UI and UX are perhaps the most important part for your users, as it’s the part that they will see and interact with. It’s great to have elegant engineering behind the scenes, but without a strong UI and UX, your app cannot succeed.
This is why it’s essential to invest time and effort to create a design that is both visually appealing and intuitive.
Depending on your own preferences and skills, you can create your app design with tools like Figma, Adobe XD, and Sketch. But if you don’t have strong design skills, consider taking a UX design course or maybe hiring a UI/UX designer.
That said, let’s summarize the most important components to focus on at this stage.
- Navigation: This is essential as it’s how your users move between screens.
- Responsiveness: Design your layout to be intuitive for different screen sizes.
- Accessibility: Follow best practices to make your app more inclusive.
- Information hierarchy: Organize content on each screen in a way that draws user attention to the most important elements.
Overall, excellent UI/UX design will play a major role in the success of your app, not to mention the following benefits:
- Positive first impression: When users first open your app and are greeted with a visually appealing design, they will want to explore more.
- Improved user engagement: Providing a seamless and enjoyable experience means that users are more likely to recommend your app to others.
- Lowers support and maintenance costs: Good design anticipates user needs and provides visual cues and clear instructions, which reduces confusion and lowers the number of support requests.
When it comes to TechApp, we will be taking all of this into consideration when designing our UI.
8. Develop The App’s Frontend
This is the stage where you take your designs and turn them into reality by actually building your app's interface with elements like the menu, buttons, navigation bars, and anything else your user will see.
It’s also essential to ensure that your application is responsive and able to adapt to different screen sizes for various devices. Whether you want to build a mobile app, desktop app, or smartwatch app, you need to take this into account.
At this stage, unless you’re using a low-code/no-code solution, the front end will require coding. And depending on your app type, you’ll need to research the right language to build your front end.
On the other hand, if you want to build a mobile application, you may need to use Swift for iOS or Kotlin for Android.
It’s also important to ensure clear communication between any team members that helped to design the UI/UX and those that are doing the actual building. This is crucial to ensure the implementation adheres to the design guidelines.
Frontend development also involves integrating any necessary APIs or backend services that your app will use to function.
When it comes to TechApp, we’ll be taking a cross-platform development approach, so we’ll use a framework like Flutter with Redux.
9. Build The Backend For Your App
If the front end represents the outward-facing aspect of your app, the backend is the engineering foundation that ensures everything functions smoothly.
In general, this must handle the business logic by managing a database to store user data and other application content.
When it comes to building the backend, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to host your backend on the cloud or locally.
When it comes to the benefits of the cloud, this is flexible, easy to scale, cost-effective, and ideal for disaster recovery and backup. Equally, local hosting can also be preferable for sensitive data or specific regulatory requirements.
You’ll also need to choose between a standard relational SQL database like MySQL and PostgreSQL or a NoSQL option like Firebase or MongoDB. And if you’re familiar with SQL but unsure how to use NoSQL, you might want to consider taking a MongoDB course to level up your skills.
It’s also really important to ensure smooth communication between your app and other external services or platforms that you need to use. A great way to do this is to implement a RESTful API that can integrate with third-party services like social media platforms and payment gateways.
When it comes to our TechApp, we’ll be using Firebase for the backend to give us access to services like real-time databases, authentication, cloud storage, hosting, notifications, analytics, and more.
10. Design Security
Security measures are a hugely important aspect of any app, and this usually includes implementing best practices to keep your app safe from attacks and vulnerabilities.
Naturally, one of the most common components of app security involves securing user details via authentication and authorizations. This is critical to ensure only authorized users can access sensitive features or data.
And depending on the app you want to build, some countries and jurisdictions may have additional legal requirements you must comply with when handling user data. Some common examples of regulatory frameworks you might need to research include:
- GDPR Compliance
- CCPA Compliance
- COPPA Compliance (if targeting children)
- HIPAA Compliance (for health-related data)
- PCI DSS Compliance (for payment data)
It’s fair to say that you need to do your research and gather the relevant knowledge you need before publishing your app. This is especially important if you plan to use cloud storage, as you’ll need to research their security practices to ensure they align with your own requirements.
And even after you’ve launched your app, you’ll still need to perform regular security audits to ensure you identify potential security weaknesses in your app. This is essential to ensure you address issues before they can be exploited.
Turning our attention back to TechApp, we will implement user verification using Twilio’s Verify API. And as we’re building with the Firebase ecosystem, we will also use Firestore to encrypt sensitive user data like passwords, private messages, and personal details.
11. Test The Application
When developing your app, you’ll almost certainly encounter situations when unintended behaviors appear. Don’t worry, this happens to all of us!
That said, this is why it’s so important to use regular testing to improve the quality and reliability of your app.
Now, there are LOTS of different types of testing that can take place during the development phase, so take the time to investigate these and ensure you implement the correct testing types for your own app.
For example, one of the most common examples is unit testing which can help to ensure that individual components or functions work as intended within an app. Another common type is integration testing, which covers the interaction between various components of an app.
If you’re not comfortable with testing, you could consider hiring a QA engineer or taking a software testing course to enhance your own skills.
Perhaps one of the most famous types of testing is the infamous beta test! This is where you release a beta of your app to potential end users to seek their feedback on how your app performs.
By closely monitoring and gathering feedback from your beta testers, you can identify potential edge cases that may have yet to come up during internal testing and then debug or refine your app based on feedback from beta users.
When it comes to TechApp, we plan to release a beta version to a controlled number of tech professionals.
12. Deploy Your Application
We’re now at the exciting stage of deploying our app! You’ve done all of the hard work, and you’re ready to release your app into the wild.
Well, your options for deployment will mostly depend on the type of application you want to build and the platform you built it for. Take a look at the table below for information on common deployment options for some of the most popular app types.
Publish on App Store (iOS)
Publish on PlayStore (Android)
Package and distribute as a .exe file (Windows)
Package and distribute as a .dmg file (Mac)
Publish on Microsoft Store and Mac App Store
Host on a web server
Deploy on a cloud platform (eg. AWS, Azure)
It’s also important to point out that if you want to publish your app on platforms like the App Store, Play Store, or Microsoft Store, there are some extra steps you’ll need to be ready for:
- Creating a developer account
- Preparing the necessary app assets
- Submitting your app for review
As you’d expect, each platform has its own specific guidelines and requirements, so make sure you’ve done your own due diligence to ensure you adhere to their requirements, as this is essential for your app to be published.
We’d also say that it’s important to optimize your app’s listing on your chosen platform by writing compelling descriptions with the right targeted keywords.
If this is an area that you’re not comfortable with, hire a copywriter to handle that aspect. You should also ask users to leave reviews, as positive user testimonials can help make your app more discoverable on these platforms.
When it comes to TechApp, we’ll need to take this all into account when trying to list our cross-platform app on the AppStore and PlayStore.
13. Regularly Update And Improve The Application
Congratulations on building and launching your app! But as you probably already know, the work is not over.
The needs of your users will continually evolve, meaning that you’ll need to be ready to respond to feedback, requests, and changes in your marketplace to remain competitive.
Analyzing feedback and reviews from your users can be a valuable resource to help you stay ahead of the curve for improvements or other features that your users would like to see.
Also, it very much helps to be quick when addressing bugs, as it shows your users that you’re committed to their experience, which can generate more positive reviews.
It’s also essential to constantly monitor the actual performance of your application. If you’ve opted for a cloud-based solution, you’ll have access to a range of monitoring tools and metrics to help you do that.
Perhaps you have peak demand at certain periods, and you need to scale up your backend solution to handle that. Or maybe there’s some form of caching that you could implement to reduce latency. These are all metrics that you can analyze by monitoring performance.
If we return to the now-famous TechApp, we plan to use Firebase Performance Monitoring to gain insights into our user’s experience of our app and to address any performance issues before they escalate.
Practice Projects To Build Your Own App
Now that you know what it takes to take an application from concept to production, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get some practical experience!
And to help you do that, we’ve included a range of example apps with source code that you can use to learn how to build mobile apps, web apps, and desktop apps.
This is especially useful if you’re new to app development, as these app projects are an excellent way to use project-based learning while building out your portfolio.
Plus, if you already have skills in something like Python and you’re looking for new Python projects, turning your hand to building apps is a great way to broaden your skills while enhancing your resume and portfolio.
MongoDB, Express, React, Node (MERN)
- TypeScript fundamentals
- Basics of React, MongoDB, and Node
We really like this MERN web app project as it’s a great starting point for learning how to build React projects from a Figma design.
Some other highlights include optimizing images to store on the cloud, along with using Google Auth for user registrations.
Swift5, UI Kit, and XCode
- Swift basics
- XCode familiarity
If you’re interested in learning to become a mobile app developer and you want to know how to make a phone app, particularly if you want to know how to create apps for iOS, this app project is a great starting point. With this project, you’ll be learning to use Swift to create an iOS app that’s a lot like the immensely successful Netflix.
As an iOS development project, you’ll be focusing on using Swift 5 within XCode to create a slick interface with the same features you’d expect from Netflix, including carousels and movie tiles, movie search, and the ability to select movies to view more details.
Making a mobile app is also really relatable, as we all use them, so we can understand what a good app looks and feels like.
You’ll also be learning to implement the MVVM (Model-View-ViewModel) design pattern, which is a great way to level up your app development skills.
There’s even the opportunity to leverage the YouTube API within this app project, which is an excellent way to learn how to integrate with external API services, as this is a common requirement in app development.
Another cool idea after building an iPhone app is to consider how to make it cross-platform or even create a new version to run on Android. If you’re not sure where to start, Android development books can be a great starting point.
Back to the app! We really like this project, as it aims to create a desktop app that can be used to resize images. While it might not be as complicated as Photoshop, this is a really useful application with lots of use cases.
Of course, if you’re serious about creating production-grade desktop apps like Photoshop in the future, we’d also recommend using this as a starting point before learning something like C++ with one of the best C++ courses.
Python, Django, SQLLite
- Python fundamentals
As one of the most popular programming languages, Python has become a solid choice for developing apps with the Django web application framework, which is why we’ve added this app project to build your own social media app with Django.
Like any good social media platform, you’ll need to let users create an account with login details while also including the ability to perform essential functions like uploading images, making posts, making comments, and adding likes.
As you’d expect, this is all linked to CRUD operations with a backend database, and in this project, you’ll be using SQLite.
If this project sounds like fun, but you’re not sure that you have the Python skills you need to learn how to develop an app, consider taking a Python course to plug any knowledge gaps.
React, Redux, Firebase, Tailwind CSS
- React fundamentals
If you want to learn how to develop apps, this is another great app project that requires you to create a responsive web application with React with Firebase.
Being an e-commerce app, a large part of this project involves creating a slick cart experience that allows users to add, edit, and remove items from their food orders. You’ll also learn to use Tailwind CSS to create beautiful animation effects, which is an excellent way to level up your app’s UX and UI.
Overall, this is a great app project to learn about React best practices for project structure while also getting to grips with React hooks. And don’t worry if some of these concepts sound a little strange, as you can always take a React course to get a leg up.
So there you have it, 13 easy steps for how to create an app in 2023. Whether you’re looking for a job in app development or want to learn how to create an app to enhance your skills, we’ve covered the essential steps you need to know to create your next app.
Plus, we’ve also included 5 different app projects with source code that you can use to apply these ideas on how to create an app in a practical way.
And with a bright outlook for app development across a diverse spectrum of industries and sectors, knowing how to create an app can be a lucrative skill that you can use to advance your career or have fun!
Whatever you choose to do now that you know how to create an app, happy building!
Are you brand new to programming and app development, and you're unsure where to start? Check out:
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Much Does It Cost To Build An App?
Depending on the type of app you want to build, expect to spend anything from a few hundred dollars to several hundred thousand dollars. Overall, the cost depends on the app's complexity, the features you want to add, and the development time. You’ll also need to decide whether you’ll build the app yourself or hire developers while also considering related costs like marketing.
2. How to Create an App from Scratch
If you want to create an app from scratch, check out the 13 easy steps we’ve covered above. Each of these shows the things you need to know to take an app from concept to production and launch, so whether you want to know how to create a mobile app or you’re intrigued by IoT apps, the information above is applicable.
3. How Do You Create an App Without Any Coding?
Inventing an app is a lot of fun, and if you want to create an app without coding, your two options are to hire a developer to do the coding or to look for low-code/no-code tools like Bubble, Glide, and Adalo. These tools provide pre-built templates and drag-and-drop interfaces that you can use to build an app without coding.
4. How Do You Validate Your App Ideas?
The best way to validate your app ideas is to conduct market research. This will help you understand your target audience, including their needs and pain points. You can also build a minimum viable product (MVP) to test your app, as this can be used to collect user feedback that you can use to refine and improve your application.
5. How Do You Make Money From An App?
The simplest way to make money from an app is to attach a sales price to the app’s usage, whether that’s a one-off fee or a subscription model. You can also offer in-app purchases or sell merchandise through your app. Finally, another common strategy for making money from an app via in-app advertising.
6. How Much Does It Cost To Publish An App on The App Store?
If you want to learn how to make an app for the app store, you’ll want to know that Apple charges an annual fee of $99 for any app that you publish, along with a 15-30% commission on any revenue generated from the app. The Google PlayStore charges a one-time publishing fee of $25 per app and a 12% commission on app revenue.
7. How Do I Start An App Business?
First, define your app’s purpose and target audience, then create a business plan that includes your goals, marketing strategies, and how you intend to make money from the app. You should then create a prototype of your app to test your idea and collect feedback from potential users.
People are also reading: