How To Make An App (In 9 Steps)

Written by: Reinder de Vries, April 19 2017, in App Development, Indie App Business

How to Make an App with Swift and Xcode

You’ve got an app idea. Awesome! Learn how to make an app, even if you don’t have any coding experience. Go from Zero to App Store with these 9 steps!

  1. Your App Must Solve A Problem
  2. Do Market Research with App Store Optimization
  3. Find and Research Competitors
  4. Set Up Your App Landing Page
  5. Create Your App’s Mockups
  6. Use A Graphic Design Template
  7. Develop Your iOS App with Swift and Xcode
  8. Publish Your App in the App Store
  9. Continually Market Your App

The world needs more indie app developers like you. Entrepreneurs who are willing to risk it! Who put blood, sweat and tears into building an app that brings value to those who need it.

Building an app ain’t easy, but it’s probably not as hard as you think. I’ve gathered these 9 steps you need to take to go from Zero to App Store, taking ideation, validation, design, development and marketing into account.

What are you waiting for? Let’s get to it!

Your App *MUST* Solve A Problem

The single most important factor to develop an app is solving a problem. You can execute any of the 9 steps from this article flawlessly, but if your app doesn’t solve a problem, it’ll definitely fail.

So… “solve a problem”, it sounds so obvious, right? “Solve a problem,” they said, “and you’ll be rich,” they said. Easier said than done!

Let’s start with the problems some popular apps solve:

  • Facebook solves the problem of staying in the know on your family’s lives, killing time, and connecting with friends
  • SnapChat kinda does the same, but then has an “instant photo sharing” take on it
  • Trello, a popular to-do management app, helps you and your time organize tasks, documents and notes
  • FarmVille, the popular digital farming game, helps you kill time, brings excitement and a sense of achievement
  • Headspace, the popular mindfulness meditation app, helps you get “headspace” and develop a sense of calm

A few things immediately stand out here:

  • The real product you sell is the solution to the problem, not the app itself – the app isn’t the product
  • It doesn’t make sense to copy an app, and the solution to the problem it solves, unless you do it better than the competition
  • “Problems” aren’t really problems, as in, you’re on the toilet and you ran out of toilet paper, but instead, the problems apps solve are more conceptual

It often helps to first solve a problem without an app, and then automate and scale the problem-solving by turning it into an app. You can organize to-do’s with pen and paper, but you can also do that with an app.

Don’t think about Facebook when you’re trying to come up with a problem your app can solve. Start with real people’s problems! Why do all the work when it’s right there in front of you?

A few examples:

  • Help people fall asleep faster, and get a good night’s rest, by making a sleep meditation app
  • Help people achieve their goals faster, and smarter, by creating a goal-setting journaling app
  • Help people kill time, and get excited, by creating a mildly addictive arcade game

Don’t attempt to come up with an app idea out of the blue, but instead focus on data that’s already out there. Quora questions and answers, Facebook Group discussions, comments on Hacker News – there’s a lot of chatter about problems out there, if you know where to look.

Note: My course, Zero to App Store, shows you how you can “ideate” great app ideas. It uses, among others, the “X-for-Y” technique: this app solves X for person Y. It’s a great way to “niche down”! » Learn more

Got a killer app idea?

Grab the App Toolbox 2017 to learn how to save time building your app, and how to 10x your app installs in the App Store. With the toolbox, you’ll immediately know how to move forward to build better, more profitable apps.

Get The App Toolbox

Do Market Research with App Store Optimization

Once you’ve settled on one or more app ideas, it’s best to do a bit of market research before you bring your ideas to life.

Many app developers go from the idea phase right into the app development phase, missing a very important step: market research. Even though your app idea may sound great, it’s just an idea until you’ve proven people want it, and want to pay for it.

The often-heard “Build it, and they will come” is untrue in this case – build it, and *crickets*! Don’t assume that people will want to buy your app, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking: “This app idea doesn’t exist yet, so people must want it!”

Let’s look at a few ways of doing market research for your app…

Google Keyword Planner

Start with Google Keyword Planner, which is a tool that’s used for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-Click Advertising (PPC). It’s a great tool to find out how many people use Google to search for a particular phrase or keyword.

How to Make an App, Google Keyword Planner

In the screenshot above I’ve used Google Keyword Planner to search for phrases related to “journaling app”, as research for the viability of a hypothetical Journaling App.

You can see that the total amount of searches for all the search phrases Keyword Planner suggested is 100k to 1M searches. This isn’t an absolute number, so you’d use it to compare against other app ideas.

The Keyword Planner also gives me a few more search phrase ideas, like “day one” (a competitor app) and “writing journal” (stuff people Google). In step 3 of this article you’ll research competitors and that’s where the Keyword Planner also comes in handy.

This is how you use Google Keyword Planner:

  1. Go to https://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner/Home and sign up for a free AdWords account.
  2. At the start of Keyword Planner, choose Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category
  3. In the textfield below Your product or service, input the search phrase you want to research, like “journal app”, “fitness app” or “to-do app”
  4. Leave all the other options as-is, i.e. search in the United States, for broadly related ideas, and show average searches for the last 12 months
  5. Then click Get ideas!

You can then sort the resulting table by Average Searches, showing the phrases with the highest search volume. Don’t worry about the columns for Competition and CPC, those are for PPC AdWords campaigns. You’re just looking at the data.

It’s best to follow this process a few times, using the top results as input for further research. Ultimately, you’re looking for phrases people Google for, to get a feel for what kind of app they might want.

AppAnnie

Another great market research tool is AppAnnie. Their paid products are very expensive, but the free search tool is extremely helpful for App Store Optimization (ASO).

The tool you’ll use for your research shows you which apps are found for which search phrases. AppAnnie shows you an approximation of App Store search data, so it’s “closer” to actual market intelligence compared to Google Keyword Planner. (Don’t forget that Google is a more widely used search engine, though.)

How to Make an App, Google Keyword Planner

In the screenshot above you can see the ASO Keywords for a sleep meditations app. In the top keywords you can clearly see “fall asleep” and “help falling asleep”, for which this app ranks as No. 1. This is the kind of data you’re looking for.

It takes a bit of practice to spot these kinds of keyword “stashes”. This is the broad strategy you should follow:

  • Search AppAnnie for a search phrase, like “journaling app” or “fitness”
  • Find 1-5 top apps in this category
  • Look at the top keywords for those apps

The goal is to spot apps that have optimized keywords. Sometimes the app developer has actively ranked these keywords, but often the app simply automatically ranks well. Both of these present an opportunity for you, because you can try to rank for the same keywords. In this research phase the keywords can give you insight into the viability of an app idea.

This is how you use AppAnnie:

  1. Go to https://www.appannie.com/search/, sign up for a free account, or log in, if you hadn’t done so already
  2. Type in your search term at the top, like “journal app” or “fitness”, and hit Enter
  3. Select 1-5 top apps from the list. You’ll have to assess which app is a “top app”, they’re not sorted (see below)
  4. Once you’ve selected an app, click on Keywords (ASO) in the menu on the left
  5. Sort the results page by Ranking. This will show you the search terms this app ranks best for.
  6. Repeat for the other apps, and note your findings in a spreadsheet.

Remember the goal: you’re assessing the viability of an app idea by looking at competitors, and their relative rankings based on search keywords.

You can combine Google Keyword Planner and AppAnnie to get insight into actual search keywords (what people search for), and their relative search volume (how many people search that).

It’s best to also search for the keywords and phrases you found in the App Store app on your iPhone. Make sure you’ve got the right App Store country, i.e. set your iPhone to “United States” if you want to research market data in that country. Type in the search phrase to see what apps come up, chances are the apps you find properly represent the search phrase and app category.

A great way to find top apps in any category, is to simply Google for “top apps [category]” or “best apps [category] [current year]”. This will show blogs that list top apps in that category. Open the blogs, note down the most common apps among 3-5 different articles, and you’ve got the biggest contestants for your category. Find out what keywords they rank for, and you can properly assess whether this is a market you want to dive into.

Now you understand why it pays to have competitors! If your app is truly unique, there’s no competitors you can compare, and steal from…

Note: A great tool to research ASO keywords and search volume is AppCodes. It’s a paid tool, and it gives great insights into App Store search keywords, in the research phase as well as in the App Store Optimization phase. My course, Zero to App Store, shows you how you can work with AppCodes.

How to do #ASO #app Market Research with AppAnnie: https://learnappmaking.com/how-to-make-an-app/Click To Tweet

3. Find and Research Competitors

Speaking about competitors! Now that you’ve had a good look at your app’s potential competitors, you can use what you see to make your own app better than theirs.

A few ideas:

  • Read your competitors reviews to find out what negative experiences their customers had, and improve those same points in your own app. Clunky UI? No support for iPad? No cloud sync? Once you know, you can make a better app! If you’re stuck for feature ideas, “mine” your competitor’s reviews for ideas.
  • Find marketing channels your competitors aren’t using. Let’s say you found a journaling app in the App Store. When you go to their website or app landing page, you see that they don’t have a blog. Chances are they’re not using content marketing as a marketing channel, and that’s an opportunity for you. Same goes for social media marketing, a YouTube channel, and listings on sites like Product Hunt.
  • Sneaky tip: find apps that have a MS Paint-like butt-ugly UI, then copy their features, add your own branding, and make sure your UI/UX and graphics are 100% SHINY! You can improve so many apps on branding and UI/UX alone – it’s hardly stealing. This particular tactic was very effective during the switch from iOS 6 to iOS 7, when iOS’s graphics and layout changed in a major way (i.e. skeuomorphic to minimalist). It’s bound to happen again.

Read Competitor’s Reviews

You can read an app’s reviews with AppAnnie. Once you’ve clicked on an app, use the menu on the left, and click Reviews.

Don’t just read the 1-2 star reviews, but read some of the 5-star reviews too. App users that give a good review are likely to give you additional ideas on how to improve the app they already love. Negative 1-star reviews tend to be hastily written, and can be less reliable.

Compound your competitor research with keyword research. With a bit of Google-fu you can find out if an app feature is commonly requested, complained about, or mentioned.

Missing Marketing Channels

So… what about those marketing channels? Well, many indie app developers mistakenly focus all their efforts on App Store Optimization. They don’t use all marketing channels available to apps, which gives you the opportunity to steal approach their audience via a different channel.

Examples of channels are:

  • Content marketing, like blogging about a theme or topic that’s common in your app (productivity, sports, health, etcetera)
  • Social media marketing, like sharing content from other sources (easy!) that might interest your app’s audience
  • Email marketing, like sharing resources with your app’s customers via email, or boosting engagement by sending them emails about your app
  • Deeplinks or App Links, i.e. giving access to content from your app with an ordinary URL (check out branch.io for this)
  • Communities, like Facebook Groups, either for specific apps, for a specific topic, or app-related, like discount coupon groups
  • Specific networks or channels, like Product Hunt, HackerNews, news sites, app review sites, affiliate networks, etcetera

A channel that a competitor doesn’t use, is an opportunity for you. That’s all there is to it…

Marketing Strategy: X-for-Y

What if you don’t want to take a competitor head-on, i.e. become a direct competitor, or what if you want to offer a slightly different set of features?

Can you then still use competitor research? Absolutely! Check this out:

  • “People that like X, might also like Y”
  • “People that use app X, might also want to use app Y”
  • “People that read magazine X, might also like app Y”

It’s the typical X-for-Y. If your app is “Y”, what kind of “X” can you think about?

  • People that like working out, might also like a workout tracker app
  • People that like mindfulness, might also read “Mindfulness Magazine”
  • People that go to SumoCon, might also read Tim Ferriss’ blog

You can take this any way you want. The goal is to find common ground between two factors, and then find out where those people hang out.

When you have an app idea, you want to find another app that has the same audience. Reach that audience, and you’re reaching a potential audience for your own app.

4. Set Up Your App Landing Page

Repeat after me: “I will build my app’s landing page long before I build my app!”

Why? Because it’s easier to build a simple website, than it is to create an app. Your app’s landing page is all you need to test the viability and profitability of your app idea.

Some ideas:

  • You can build an app landing page in a day with tools like Instapage, Unbounce, LeadPages or Strikingly (free). If you want more customizability, I recommend Theme X for WordPress.
  • Add a pricing page to your website, with 3 different pricing options, and measure clicks on the “Sign Up” buttons. The buttons lead to a page that says: “Sign ups are currently closed. Please input your email address to get an update when our product is open for the public again.”
  • Likewise, you can simply add a big button to the landing page that says “Sign Up to get Beta Access”. You can gather email addresses of potential customers this way, even if you don’t have a beta app to test. You can get in touch with potential customers, to ask them for feedback about your ideas, and test your feature sets further.

This last idea is perhaps the most important. You need to validate any business ideas you have. What’s the easiest, most accurate way to “test” whether customers want to buy what you’re selling, without developing the app beforehand?

You’ll either ask them to purchase directly, or you gauge their interest with a close approximation (email signups, link clicks, post likes). Even though a click doesn’t prove that a potential customer will purchase your app, it gives you a good relative data point on product viability.

Here’s what I do for every app idea, always:

  • Create a one-page website, a landing page, explaining what the app does, what its benefits are, and why a customer should download it
  • Add a big button that says: “Get Access to the Private Beta”, which asks the visitor for their email address
  • I create a Facebook Ad for the app ($100 lifetime budget, $1-$2 per click), showing off it’s main feature, and I choose a target audience that’s likely to be interested in this app

When more than 10% of the people that go to the landing page sign up for the private beta, I consider this a good result. You can expect lower click-throughs for a landing page that mimics buyer intent (i.e. “Purchase” vs. “Sign up”), with a higher accuracy.

If you don’t want to spend money on validating your app idea, you can also try to pitch your app idea, or post your app’s landing page, in free channels. Examples: Facebook Groups, an email list you already have or someone else’s audience you have access to (a blog, a review site, a podcast).

Avoid pitching the app to friends, family or people that know you. You can always ask your friends for feedback, but don’t consider their “I’ll buy your app, dude!” as objective feedback. They just like you, want to follow your story, or simply don’t want to disappoint you. (If you want constructive feedback, ask your worst enemy…)

So… to reiterate: build your app’s landing page before you build your app (it’s easier), and use it to “validate” your app idea, its pricing, features, etcetera. Post the landing page in a channel, and measure responses. Set your expectations (i.e. go or no-go point) beforehand, and move onto a new idea (or refine an old idea) if you don’t get a viable result.

One last thing: are you looking for a good app business model? Check out this blog post: How To Choose A Profitable App Business Model

5. Create Your App’s Mockups

Once you’re satisfied with your business validation efforts, and once you’ve garnered a proper foundational audience for your app, it’s time to actually build the app.

Developing an app has 3 steps:

  1. Create an app mockup
  2. Design the UX/UI of the app
  3. Code the app with Swift and Xcode

You can apply the same 3 steps to building an entire app, or just to adding a new feature to an app.

Let’s first start with your app’s mockup. This is an example of a mockup:

How to Make an App, Mockups in Balsamiq Mockups

A few things stand out:

  • The mockup is a basic sketch and it’s pretty rough: no color, no fine details, no minute positioning – just basic layout building blocks
  • Every screen has a couple of notes, pointing out interactions or important details
  • The flow of the app is shown with arrows

This mockup was created with Balsamiq Mockups, a terrific tool I’ve used for 7+ years to create professional mockups.

How to Make an App, Mockups in Balsamiq Mockups

In the screenshot above you can see one of the greatest features from Balsamiq Mockups, which is the “Linking” feature. With it, you can link a UI element (like a button) to one of the pages of your mockup. When you click the UI element, you’ll navigate to the linked page.

This effectively lets you build interactive prototypes of your app. The links remain intact if you export your mockup to PDF, and if you use the “Export without margins” option, and open the PDF on your iPhone, you can use the prototype as if it were a real app. Click on the buttons, navigate through the UI, and get a feel for how the finished app will work.

When creating your mockup, follow these steps:

  1. Start with writing down what your app does, and which main screens it needs to have
  2. Write down for every screen what it’s purpose is, like “News Article Detail” screen, and what interactions it has, like “Edit a to-do item” or “Log into the back-end”
  3. Create a mockup for every screen, and add the different UI elements and interactions to it. Go from “rough” to “fine”, so start with the big elements, and leave the detailing for last
  4. When you’re finished, add the notes and annotations, so that the mockup “explains itself” to whoever is viewing it

Once you’ve finished your mockup, here’s a little exercise you can do:

  • Print out your mockup and cut out all screens with scissors. (Please be mindful of the environment, and keep the number of prints to a minimum.)
  • Put all screens next to each other on a flat surface.
  • “Play out” the interactions in the app. Start at the first mockup, and “tap” somewhere on the screen with your finger. Assess what should happen, and move to the next mockup. Tap again, and figure out what should happen once more.
  • Continue until you’ve finished the entire mockup, reenacting all interactions.

This technique is called “Wizard of Oz”, because you’re pretending the UI/UX of your app actually works. If you don’t believe it’s a great technique, try it!

The goal is to leave your laptop screen for a while, and use your hands to physically work with what you’ve built. This engages your mind differently than a computer and a software tool does, giving you new insights for creating great UI/UX for your apps.

Ultimately, it’s important to keep your mockups and sketches as rough as possible. Resist the temptation to perfect your mockups with small details, and use a “rough” tool like Balsamiq if you can.

Don’t design mockups in Photoshop or Sketch, those tools are too detail-oriented. Look at it like writing with a thick Sharpie instead of a fine-liner: rough strokes, no fine details!

6. Use A Graphic Design Template

Now that you’ve completed the mockups of your app, it’s time to apply some magic designer sauce!

The biggest difference between a mockup and graphic design is detail. Mockups are rough sketches, whereas the actual graphic design accurately shows what the finished app will look like.

A custom graphic design is costly! Often, it’s not even required to make a custom app design. That’s why you’re going to use a graphics template (free or paid), both cutting costs and cutting time.

A graphic design template is simply a prefabricated Photoshop or Sketch file with an assortment of layouts, UI elements and colors. A template typically has a theme, like “to-do app template” or “ecommerce template”. Instead of designing the app from scratch, you simply “mock” together UI components to form your app.

Whatever you do, don’t build an app without a graphic design! Poorly designed apps stand out like a sore thumb in the App Store, and great design is definitely an impacting differentiator for your app install rate. A poorly designed app will negatively impact your app’s success.

If you’re a technically minded person, or a developer, don’t “engineer” your design. Start with your idea, make a mockup, and then use an app template to create a graphic design. Stick to the designs when building your app! Measure every margin, every dimension, and make sure your Interface Builder properly reflects the design. Make it pixel-perfect!

Too many indie app developers miss out on app installs because their app looks like it was cobbled together in MS Paint. Don’t be that app.

So, without further ado, these are my favorite app design templates:

The first UI kit, the iOS 10 GUI from Facebook, is pretty cool. It’s an exact replica of the iOS 10 graphics, layouts and design elements. You can use it to create a pixel-perfect design mockup of your app, using all the UX/UI elements available in iOS.

The best tools to create graphic designs for your app are:

Although Adobe’s software was once the standard for graphic design, I don’t recommend it anymore. Illustrator has grown increasingly complex, and Photoshop lacks sensible support for vector graphics.

Sketch has a great feature that allows you to easily export 1x, 2x and 3x image assets for Xcode. The app works with a vector-based points system similar to how the iPhone resolutions work, so you can export your graphics assets directly in the right format.

Whatever you do – make sure you’re working with the right resolution! This guide can help with that.

Another app that deserves a special mention in this section is PaintCode ($99). With it, you can design a UI element as you would in Sketch or Photoshop, and export directly to Objective-C or Swift code. Saves you tons of work!

Got a killer app idea?

Grab the App Toolbox 2017 to learn how to save time building your app, and how to 10x your app installs in the App Store. With the toolbox, you’ll immediately know how to move forward to build better, more profitable apps.

Get The App Toolbox

7. Develop Your iOS App with Swift and Xcode

Finally, in step 7 of this 9-step framework, you’ve gotten to the most complex part: coding the app.

iOS, Xcode and Swift

When you’re developing an iOS app, it’s easiest to build your apps natively with Xcode, Interface Builder and Swift. You can download and use Xcode for free. You can even install your own apps on your own iPhone, for free, with Xcode.

Should you work with Swift or Objective-C? If you’re starting out with building your own apps, or working as a startup, Swift comes highly recommended. If you’re an employee working with a legacy app, it makes sense to develop in Objective-C.

Cross-Platform Tools

What about cross-platform tools? You can use so-called cross-platform tools to code your app once, and export it for different platforms, like iOS and Android. This can potentially cut your development cost and time in half!

Well… not so fast. Even in 2017, cross-platform tools still have major drawbacks. Many don’t have access to native hardware, like GPU acceleration for games and animation. Most tools aren’t truly cross-platform, and function like “middleware”, i.e. they use HTML5 to create a native wrapper for different platforms. Under the hood they’re still web apps, with limited performance and functionality.

Perhaps the most promising cross-platform tool is React Native. You can code your apps with JavaScript, and React Native turns that into native iOS and Android apps. Although you can’t use many native UI components without writing platform-specific code, you can create native-looking and native-feeling apps. JavaScript is a great programming language, to learn and have learned, and Reactive Programming is a pretty cool programming paradigm.

Popular cross-platform tools include Xamarin, PhoneGap, Cordova, Ionic and Appcelerator.

Whatever you do, always choose a cross-platform tool for its benefits, and not because you don’t want to code apps natively. Especially for beginners, cross-platform tools are harder to master and require a deeper understanding of native components. If you’re a webdeveloper going native with cross-platform tools, don’t forget that a native app functions different than a web app.

Although the Swift programming language is open source, Xcode only runs on macOS. Therefore, you need a Mac computer to develop apps on iOS. It’s possible to develop iOS apps on a Windows PC, though.

One last thing: Looking for more free tools and resources for your iOS app development? Check out this article: Free Resources for App Developers

Cloud Back-End Tools

Almost any app these days has a cloud-based back-end, for instance to store user data and give users access with a username and password.

Up until 2016, Parse.com was the most popular backend-as-a-service platform. You could use the tool to plug a “spreadsheet” into your app, and use it to store data. Parse.com was easy to use, fast, and reasonably scalable up to 100.000s of users. Unfortunately, Parse.com shutdown, but they relaunched the tool as the open-source Parse Server.

Parse Server is highly recommended, especially if you’re looking for an entry-level tool that allows high customizability. You can run your own Parse Server with minimal maintenance on platforms such as Heroku and mLab. You can also install Parse Server on your own VPS, for as little as $5 a month with Linode or DigitalOcean.

The biggest upside of running your own Parse Server is learning about back-ends, system operations and cloud services. One of the downsides of the late Parse.com service is that it was too easy. Over 500.000 developers relied on the service, but they didn’t know anything at all about how it worked, and were left scrambling when Parse.com shut down.

Another recommended tool is Firebase. It’s often compared with Parse Server as an equivalent tool, although they are very different. Parse Server is a relational back-end platform, whereas Firebase uses a flat NoSQL structure. Using the Firebase Realtime Database takes some getting used to, and it’s ideal for non-relational datasets like for chat apps or realtime data apps.

Firebase also has an integrated suite of crash report tracking, app analytics, app monetization and AdMob, so it’s definitely a good choice for a one-stop-shop for apps.

Do you want to learn how to develop your own apps from scratch? Check out Zero to App Store, my iOS development with Swift course, that teaches you to go from Zero to App Store in 6 weeks. Including 12+ hours of expert video screencasts, an Instagram-like Photo App Template, and expert support. » Learn more…

8. Publish Your App in the App Store

OH YEAH! The time’s finally come to publish your app in the App Store. After ideating, validating, making mockups, designing and developing your app, you’re ready to publish it in the App Store.

Publishing an iOS app is surprisingly simple. Here’s what you need:

To publish your app, follow these steps:

  • Complete your app, make it bug-free and make sure to follow the App Store Review Guidelines
  • Create an App ID on developer.apple.com (log in via “Account”)
  • Create an App Entry in iTunes Connect, detailing all properties of your app, like name, category, age rating, and screenshots. Use this handy Publishing Worksheet.
  • Upload your app from within Xcode. First, make an App Archive, select it in Organizer, and choose Upload to App Store. Make sure to set your app’s properties to Automatically manage signing to avoid issues with certificates.
  • Select the app binary you just uploaded in iTunes Connect, and once you’ve filled in all the fields, click Submit for Review.

Apple Review will then try out your app, assess whether it follows the Review Guidelines, and release the app in 1-2 weeks.

Beta Testing with TestFlight

Before you publish your app, you might want to invite users to beta test it first. You can use TestFlight to publicly beta test your app.

You can do two kinds of tests:

  • Internal testing for just the people in your internal team. Any team member you invite must have access to your iTunes Connect.
  • Public testing for anyone (up to 2.000 people). You can give anyone access to your app by inviting them in TestFlight, with their email address.

Before you can start public beta testing, your app must pass Apple Review, which is less strict than reviewing a production app.

Tools

Once your app is published, there’s an armada of tools you can use to leverage your app and its audience.

A few ideas:

  • Use Crashlytics to track, monitor and solve crashes in a production app
  • Use Google Analytics for Mobile to measure installs, sessions, page views and engagement in your app
  • Use Fastlane to automate your app’s build process, and automatically generate app screenshots, among other automations

9. Continually Market Your App

Step 9 in this 9-step framework is a bit of a wildcard… Continually market your app!

App Store Optimization

You’ve already used App Store Optimization (ASO) to do keyword research and competitor research. Now that you’ve published your app, you can use the same techniques to improve the ranking of your app in the App Store.

First of all, 2-4 weeks after you’ve published your app, check its ranking and keywords in AppAnnie. Are you automatically ranking for typical search terms?

Second, check the ranking of your competitors again. Do you want to rank for the same keywords?

Then, with the new keyword data, do the following:

  • Add the keyword to your app’s title. This is a grey-area tactic, but if you incorporate the keyword you want to rank for in a slogan or catchphrase, you’re allowed to add it to your app’s name.
  • Include the keyword in your app’s meta keywords. You can add 255 characters of search keywords for your app. Once you’ve figured out which keywords you want to rank for, add them to the meta keywords field in iTunes Connect.
  • Include the keyword in your app’s meta description. Your App Store page can display any textual description of your app. You typically use this to inform the user about your app, show off testimonials and awards, but you can also change this text according to your app’s keywords. Simply include 5-6 mentions of your keywords for every 250 normal words.

You can also include the keywords in the captions inside your app screenshots. It’s common to include captions at the top of your app screenshots, included in the image. Even though these keywords aren’t used for search ranking, it’s a good idea to include them anyway.

A user that searches for a particular phrase, and finds that phrase on the Search Results page inside your app’s screenshot, is more likely to try out your app. After all, these search phrases and keywords are what app users type into the App Store search field!

App Marketing

Marketing your app starts long before you publish your app, and continues long after it’s published. Marketing is simply the activity of exposing your app, and it’s pitch, to potential customers.

But… what’s next, in marketing your app? You’ve worked so hard to get this far, but the road is far from over. What are next steps you can take to make your app a success?

I’ve gathered 33 points, 33 tasks you can do after your app launches.

You can start many of them before you actually launch, and do many others in the months after your first contact with the App Store.

Several of them will increase your app’s impact, spread its message. Others will simply have you double back on steps you already took, to make sure they’re working smoothly.

Almost every point on this checklist is worthy of it’s own article, resource or course. You can base an entire marketing campaign on each of parts of the checklist.

Even if your app launched a long time ago, you might want to revisit parts of the checklist to squeeze out a few extra app installs or to dig up ideas for a new marketing campaign.

Continue to: The 33-Point Ultimate Post-Launch App Checklist

Conclusion

So, there you have it! The 9 steps to get from Zero to App Store.

Solve a problem, do a bit of research, check out your competitors, set up an app landing page, create mockups, design your app, make the app, publish it, and keep on marketing!

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Disclaimer: This article does not include any paid endorsements. I actively use all mentioned tools and products for app development and marketing, and recommend these tools to you based on my own experiences.

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Written By: Reinder de Vries

Reinder de Vries is an indie app developer who teaches aspiring app developers and marketers how to build their own apps at LearnAppMaking.com. Since 2009 he has developed over 50 apps for iOS, Android and the web, and his code is used by millions of users all over the globe. When Reinder isn't building apps, he enjoys strong espresso and traveling.

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