So you want to create an iPhone app, eh? You may be thinking, “I have this idea that is solid gold! It can’t be that hard. Didn’t some nine year old hit it big with an app he created himself? All I need to do is make the app, sit back and get paid!”
Easy fella, easy. The passion is good. But sometimes reality bites back hard. I posted a picture of a Jeep engine that my father is piecing back together, one part at a time. To me, this represents the kind of complexity that building and publishing an iPhone app has to offer.
I have been fortunate enough to get an app published on the store. (In fact, I have a built-from-the-ground-up app that I’m currently waiting for Apple to approve.) I can tell you it’s not the easiest process in the world.
I want to share an outline of some of the obstacles I’ve dealt with and conquered. This article is certainly not intended for those who are on the way to being published. (I wish you the best.) This is not intended for those who want step by step instructions for building an app in Xcode. This is for those out there that feel like they want to start taking that first step in having an app published. Maybe you don’t know exactly where to begin, but you’re interested enough to learn.
That’s exactly where I was about a year ago. Here’s a few important lessons I’ve learned so far:
Ask The Right/Tough Questions
The first thing you need to do is ask the right questions. It’s great that you have an idea you’re excited about, but you’ve got to see if others are doing it already. Search the app store with the kind of keywords you would use for your own app. See what you find. More than likely, someone out there has published an app that shares the same key elements you want in your own app. There are now over half a million apps at the App Store, it’s very likely you will find something that is close to your original idea.
Don’t let this stop you from creating your app. You just need to make sure that your app does (whatever it does) better than the competition. Can it be faster? Could it look nicer? Might there be an easier or more fun way to interact with the app? These questions will narrow your scope and give you a positive direction to take.
If you know exactly what you wish to create and are ready to make it happen. Then you’ll need to…
Set Yourself Up
If you are like me, you dabble with tech and probably have your own website or blog. Good start. But if you want to create an iPhone app, you must enroll in the Apple Developer Program. I’ve written about this before: here and here if you’re interested. You have to make sure you set yourself up with the type of Developer account that will give you what you need. If you’re going to go it alone, get the Individual Program. If you plan on inviting others to help, go with the Company Program.
Get a Mac. You’re going to need it in order to work with the AppStore. There are some work-arounds, (which I may discuss in a future post,) but having a Mac is worth it. Yes, I know they can be expensive… My advice? Bite the bullet on this one, it’s worth it.
Look For Options That Appeal To You
In theory, once you have your Apple Developer Program set up, you can start submitting apps for approval. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, first you have to create those apps! You basically have two choices.
You can build an app from the ground up. This means writing code, creating graphics and compiling everything to work together. Depending on what you want your app to do, this process can be daunting and expensive. If you have the skills, the patience and the time- go get’m tiger. If, however, you want to outsource your ideas to those who possess these skills, prepare to pay top dollar. ($2,000-$5,000 for something relatively simple.)
Another choice is to build from an existing template. AppMakr and Red Foundry are providers of this type of app. They are much more limited in what you can do, however, they are much less expensive. You still build the app, but you create it through their framework. Different rates apply for different services, but you can get an app published through your own developer account.
Both options are viable for getting an app published. I’ve tried each. Your choice will be determined by your needs and budget.
Work, Work, Learn
If you’ve read any of my background, you know that I am actually a public school teacher full time. I have been taking my evenings and weekends to learn what I can about building apps and making the most of the experience. I have learned the process is not easy or simple, especially for someone who is not professionally involved with this type of work.
It’s not impossible, though.
I’ll continue to update what I learn. If you have any questions, I would love to hear them. There are so many details that deserve posts of their own. I’ll take a cue from my readers’ emails and comments to decide what to write next. So, if there’s something you want to know, feel free to ask.