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So you have a brilliant idea for a new smartphone app and want to know how to get started? Great! In this post you’ll find out how to build an app, and start transforming your creative idea into a finished product that people can download from the App Store or the Google Play Store. We’ll help you understand the critical importance of research, and make it clear why you need to be passionate about your app concept. We’ll help you identify the different skills you’ll need to succeed, and explore valuable design concepts that you can use to build the best experience for your future users.
Let’s begin with research.
How To Conduct User Research
While it’s tempting to start thinking about how to build an app right away, you should always begin your app development journey with a clear sense of your goal. To identify what this is, you should be clear on what your app will do, who your users will be, and how they will use your app. You should be asking questions such as:
- What problem will the app solve?
- What are the necessary user interactions?
- What content really resonates with users?
- What will keep your users coming back for more?
This kind of research will mean talking to real people and finding out their opinions on your app idea. If this sounds daunting, not to worry! You don’t need to be an enormous company surveying thousands; talking to friends, family, peers, and colleagues is just as useful.
You should also research any competition your app might have to contend with. Try exploring the Play Store or App Store for apps that do something similar to your own product idea. Download them to your device so that you can analyze what these apps try to accomplish, and look at the features they offer. Ask yourself whether it successfully fulfills its aims and, if so, how closely does it compare with your own concept? Understanding competitor apps will help you work out your app’s unique value—if necessary, refining your ideas so you can offer users something they can’t find elsewhere. Pro tip: If you’re not going to be unique, then you have to be better!
Creating A Great User Experience
Whenever you are using a favorite app, it is really useful to think analytically about what you like about it. Is the content well organized? Does the design look great on your phone? Are you always impressed by how quickly it functions? How many taps does it take to accomplish your goals? Also, think about aspects you would change about it. Are there functions you never use? Do you think the design relies on too much text? Thinking critically like this can help you build an understanding of how you want to craft YOUR app’s user experience.
Why You Have To Be Passionate
It is really important to choose a project you’re passionate about from the start. Your first app will require dedication, and it’s totally normal that your energy will rise and fall throughout development. Working on something you are passionate about will help keep you focused and motivated to successfully finish the project.
Get The Right Skills
All the conceptual work we’ve discussed above is critical if your product is going to succeed, but it’s only part of the challenge. You will also need to have the right technical knowledge to bring your app concept to life. Depending on your current skills and experience, you may need to learn a few things before you actually start building. Udacity offers a huge range of programs to help you start mastering the app development process. These include a range of free courses—such as How to Make an iOS App and UX Design for Mobile Developers—which provide a great introduction to essential app development skills, as well as helping you understand what other skills you need to make your app idea a reality. These courses can also help you decide whether you want to begin building an app for Apple’s iOS or developing something for Android.
A useful approach you can use to plan your skills development is to audit your own existing skillset, and identify any new skills you need to learn. To do this, start by creating two columns. In the first, you should list all of your current skills. In the second, list all of the skills you believe you will need to achieve your goal, based on what you have learned so far about app development. When you’re finished, you should cross off the skills that appear in both columns. Those that are left are the specific skills you need to develop to turn your app into a reality! Once you’ve identified the skills you need to master, it’s a simple next step to choose the right learning path.
Being realistic about your current skills is important, as it can make a big difference to which learning experience will be most effective for you, and what sort of timeframe you might need to consider for your app development.
Keep It Simple
As you use your new skills and industry research to craft your app, you should remember to keep your final design as simple and focused as possible. Your research should make clear the factors your users consider most important. For example, if there is a central problem they want the app to solve, focus solely on that problem. If they believe one element of a game sounds most fun, make that the focus of your app. This approach means you will avoid spending valuable time developing features that your users don’t prioritize.
Seek Out Support
Early app development can be a real test of your commitment, your patience, and your abilities, so it is definitely a great idea to seek out support to keep you focused and on track. If you can, it’s really helpful to find an experienced mentor who can provide guidance and direction. Industry forums are also an amazing source of peer advice when you get stuck on a problem or need some fresh ideas on what you’re working through.
Mentors and peers can also help remind you that the process of building your app is a learning experience. Even early on, it can be easy to get bogged down in overwhelming details, so it’s easier to stay motivated if you look at even the most challenging moments as part of your development journey.
It’s time to put your knowledge into action! You now have the tools you need to start turning your idea into a new smartphone app. With a concept you’re passionate about, a design based on research, and the right skills to put it all together, you’re in a great place to develop your winning idea into a finished app. We can’t wait to see what you create!