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How to Make an App - A Roadmap For Beginners

April 19, 2019

If you build it, they will come.

Well, that's not entirely true in app development, but that is the goal. In order for your app to be a success, you’ll need to put a lot of runs on the board.

But how do you know if the app you’re building is a winner? Whether it's a web app or a mobile app, you have to provide your users with an exceptional user experience. This will help increase new user downloads while growing your existing user retention rates. You have to keep your users by keeping them happy. 

How to make an app

There’s a lot that goes on in the background of any app development project. Let’s take a look at some of these overlooked steps.

By 2021, the total app downloads number will jump to a whopping 352 billion. Don't you want a piece of that pie? Developing an app can be scary, but by following this simple roadmap you’ll create a strong foundation for your project and your team.

1. Define your goals

Before you start to conceptualize anything, you should take a step back and think about the goals for your app. You might be thinking, “I have an idea for an app, but now what?” When you’re defining the goals for your app, they should answer these two questions:

  • What are my business objectives?
  • What are users gaining from my app?

Find a way to align your users’ benefit and business objectives. This creates a cyclical relationship for you and your customers. When you create a product that meets user needs, it encourages more people to download your app. More downloads are healthy for your bottom line and give you the resources to invest in your users and provide an even better user experience. The cycle repeats over and over again.

2. Sketch and build wireframes

These drawings will be key to your app’s success. A wireframe is essentially the blueprint for it and is made up of a series of simple lines and boxes. Wireframes define where the elements of your app live on screen and your job is to figure out why.

app wireframe example

Sketch a wireframe for every page of your app. Then map out your user flows and how the screens will connect and interact with one another. Keep your users’ goals in mind during this process. What are they trying to accomplish on each screen? It’s also important to get feedback on your wireframes from your team.

Learn From the Pros: Don’t just take my word for it! Check out a few app wireframe tips from expert designers and developers.

3. Create your app design

Now that you have a solid base, you can begin the design process. Your app design is what your users think about when it comes to your app. From fashion to function, what does your app say about you?

The design is what makes your app user-friendly. In this stage of the app development process, you have to marry your app’s user interface (UI) with your overall user experience (UX). Think ahead! How is your app UI going to translate into your marketing materials? This is where you nail down the look and feel of your app, and for everything related to it. You can’t have a successful build without UI/UX working together in harmony.

4. Choose a development path

It’s time to decide how you want to develop your app. If you decide to hire a developer, they will do the heavy lifting in the back-end to set up servers and databases, and create a plan to leverage existing components like APIs and SDKs. (Hint: Utilizing some of these tools help keep cost down, like free APIs.)

You can also decide to take a “DIY” approach if your app is fairly simple and straightforward. There are many drag and drop app builders that allow non-developers to easily create great apps.

See the Easiest-to-Use Drag and Drop App Builders →

5. Conduct testing

Test, test, and test again. Software testing may seem like a tedious process, but it’s absolutely necessary. This allows you to get feedback internally and externally before your official app release. External testing, or beta testing, gives you the opportunity for feedback from real users in your target market.

software testing process

Don’t be scared of feedback. Wouldn’t you rather know something isn’t working right? Or that your users’ expectations are different than what you first thought? Think of beta testing as a very soft launch to a limited number of people. You’ll be able to fix bugs and mitigate other issues before the public sees them.

6. Launch your app

Congrats, you did it! But don’t be fooled, the work is far from over. Marketing an app should be an ongoing (and fun) process. For instance, you’ll eventually have updates that need to be conceived, tested, pushed live, and then communicated to your user base.

On average, consumers use only 10 apps on a daily basis. You have to find a way to make yours stand out and then offer enough value so it becomes part of their routine.

Related: Creating your own app is a great resume booster if you're pursuing software engineering as a full-time career. Learn what else it takes to become an app developer from the experts.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Making an app might seem impossible, but you just learned that there are many steps in the process that don’t require you to write a single line of code. When in doubt, hire a rockstar team to help you where you think you fall short.

Now you may be wondering how much it costs to make an app.  Learn what to expect when you're budgeting for your next project.

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