In 2023, the global mobile app market is expected to reach $935 billion. That’s a massive jump from the $581 billion in 2019. So, if you’re thinking about building a mobile app, just know there has never been a better time.
But where do you even start? Even better, what does it take to build a successful mobile app in 2023?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the entire process, from idea to launch. We’ll also share some expert tips on what it takes to create a successful app in today’s competitive market.
So, let’s get started.
How Do You Know if Your App Idea is a Good One?
It doesn’t matter if you have an idea for a killer new app or just want to improve upon an existing one; the process is always the same — it all starts with a great idea.
Do I Need an Idea Before I can Share My Idea with Anyone?
A common question we get asked a lot is, “Do I need an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) before I can share my idea with anyone?” The answer is No. You don’t need an NDA to discuss your app idea with anyone, including us.
If you’ve never heard of NDAs, these are legal contracts stating that any information shared will be confidential. In other words, if you tell someone about your great new app idea after they sign an NDA, they can’t go out and build the same app or tell anyone else about it.
While NDAs can be helpful in some situations, we don’t recommend them when you’re starting. The reason: at this stage, you want to get as much feedback as possible on your idea. And the best way to do that is to share it with as many people as possible.
The last thing you want to do is tie yourself (and the other person) up in legal knots when all you’re trying to do is get some feedback.
So, save the NDAs for later and start sharing your idea with some of your trusted friends and family. There’s no harm in talking to strangers, too — they might have some great insights.
The point is, to get your idea out there and start collecting feedback as soon as possible. It’s the only way to ensure your app starts off on the right foot.
Scratch Your Own Itch
The best ideas usually come from solving your own problems. In other words, scratch your own itch. Think about the things that bother you daily and see if you can turn that into a solution others would be willing to pay for.
For example, let’s say you’re a musician who always forgets to practice your instrument. You could build an app that reminds you to practice every day.
Or let’s say you’re a busy mom who always forgets to buy groceries. You could build an app that creates a grocery list based on your recipes.
The point is the best ideas usually come from solving your own problems. So, start there.
Examples of apps that scratched their own itch:
- Product Hunt: This app was created by Ryan Hoover because he was tired of always missing out on the latest and greatest new products.
- Trello: This app was created by Fog Creek software to help them with their own project management.
- Spotify: This app was created by Daniel Ek because he was tired of the other music streaming services available at the time.
Do Your Research
Once you have an idea, it’s time to do your research. That’s where you determine if the app has a ready market or if other similar apps already exist.
The first place to start is with some good old-fashioned Google searches. For example, if you’re thinking about building a to-do list app, search for “to-do list app.” That will give you an idea of the competition and what people look for in a to-do list app.
Next, head over to the App Store and Google Play Store and see if any apps are similar to the one you have in mind. If there are, look at the reviews and see what people are saying. That will give you some insights into what people like and don’t like about the existing apps.
Finally, talk to some people you think might be potential users of your app. Ask them if they would use such an app and what features they would like to see. That’s called user research, and it’s one of the most critical steps in the app development process.
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to start developing a prototype of your app.
Do a Sanity Check
Most of the apps you see on the App Store or Google Play started out as nothing more than an idea in someone’s head. And that’s exactly where your app should start — as an idea.
The first step is to do a sanity check. That is where you sit down and ask yourself if your idea is actually worth pursuing. To do this, you need to answer the following questions:
- What problem does my app solve?
- Does the problem frequent enough to enough people to warrant an app?
- Does the app we’re about to build solve the problem in a better way than the existing solutions?
If you can answer all of these questions with a resounding “yes,” then you’re on the right track. If not, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Note that this is not a market analysis but a simple check to see if your idea will make a good app.
Der App Ideas
A duh app idea is an idea that’s so great. It should have existed yesterday. It’s something so obvious that you can’t believe someone hasn’t already built it.
An example of a duh app idea is an app that automatically mutes your phone when you’re in a meeting. This is something that should have been built into the iPhone from day one, but it took until iOS 7 for someone to finally do it.
A duh idea can also be viewed as being able to express your idea in a way that everyone immediately gets it.
If you can’t explain your app idea to a 5-year-old, it’s probably not a duh idea.
Another way to think about a duh idea is that it’s an app that people would use daily without even thinking about it.
The best duh ideas are the ones that solve a problem that you have yourself. That way, you’re building an app that other people will find helpful and building something that you’ll use and love yourself.
What exactly is a good app design?
A good app is like a unicorn — you’ll know it when you see it.
But both Apple and Google provide guidelines that can help you create an app that’s functional and beautiful.
These two books are worth reading if you’re serious about building a good app:
You also want to take a look at mobile pattern websites:
These websites collect and categorise screenshots from some of the best-designed mobile apps.
So, if you’re designing an app for a to-do list, you can browse through other to-do list apps and see how they’ve designed their interface.
Of course, you don’t want to copy someone else’s Design exactly — that would be plagiarism. But you can use these designs as inspiration for your own app.
Choose a Colour Palette
Next, choose a colour palette for your app.
Remember that the colours you choose will set the tone for your entire app.
If you’re unsure what colours to choose, look at some of the best-designed apps and see what they use.
One tool you can use to help you choose a colour palette is Colour hunt.
The website collects and curates beautiful colour palettes from all over the internet.
You can browse through the palettes and choose one. Copy down the hex code of the colour palette you like and save them for your app.
Flat UI Colours
An even easier way to find a colour palette is to use Flat UI Colours.
The website provides a curated selection of flat colours that you can use in your app.
All you need to do is pick the colours you want and click to copy the hex code.
Save the hex codes in a text file or somewhere safe to use later.
If you’re an android developer, you can use this site, materialpallete.com. Here, you can select two colours, and it’ll generate a colour palette for you based on those two colours.
Create a User Flow Diagram
Once you’ve chosen your colour palette, it’s time to start thinking about how your app will actually work.
The best way to do this is to create a user flow diagram.
A user flow diagram visualises the user’s steps when using your app.
It maps out the user journey from start to finish and shows all the different screens they’ll encounter along the way.
Source: Elon Musk
Creating a user flow diagram is a great way to understand how your app will work and what screens you need to design.
There are a few different ways you can create a user flow diagram.
You can use a pen and paper or a digital tool like Whimsical or Miro.
Once you’ve created your user flow diagram, it’s time to move on to the next step: wireframing.
What is Wireframing?
Wireframing is the process of creating a low-fidelity mockup of your app.
A wireframe is a skeleton of your app — it shows the overall structure and layout but doesn’t include any visual design elements like colours or fonts.
It focuses on getting an idea of how your app will work and what screens you need without getting bogged down in the details.
You can create wireframes using pen and paper or a digital tool like Adobe XD, Figma, or Sketch.
Once you’ve created your wireframes, use the POP — Prototyping on Paper app to turn them into interactive prototypes.
POP allows you to quickly turn your paper wireframes into digital prototypes you can test on your phone.
It’s a great way to get feedback on your app idea without building anything.
Here’s how POP works:
Pop allows you to take pictures of your wireframes, link them together, and add interactive elements like buttons and links.
You can then share your prototype with others so they can test it out on their phone.
POP is available for both iOS and Android.
Design You App Mockups
Now that you’ve wireframed your app, it’s time to start thinking about the visual Design.
That’s where mockups come in.
Mockups are high-fidelity versions of your app that include all the visual elements like colours, fonts, and images.
It’s almost like you’ve time-travelled into the future and taken screenshots of your app’s pages, one by one.
The point of mockups is to get an idea of what your app will look like when it’s finished.
Mockups can be created using Photoshop, Sketch, or Figma.
If you’re not a designer, you can use a service like Placeit to create mockups.
If you’re not a designer, you can also use a service like UXpin. UXpin allows you to drag-and-drop different elements to create a mockup of your app.
You don’t necessarily need to create mockups if you’re the developer. That’s because you can just start building the app.
The worst mistake you can even make when designing your app is ripping off someone else’s Design.
Not only is it morally wrong, but it’s also illegal.
You could get sued, and you definitely don’t want that.
A safer approach would be to look for design assets that are creative commons or websites that offer free design resources.
An excellent place to start is Iconstore. They have a vast selection of icons that you can use for free.
If you’re looking for illustrations, I recommend checking out undraw.co. They have a great selection of illustrations that you can use for free.
For stock images you can use in your app’s background, I recommend checking out pexels.com and unsplash.com. Both of these websites offer free stock photos that you can download and use for free.
The importance of Design
Imagine wanting to make changes to your app after you’re done with everything. It would be a lot harder, time-consuming, and costly.
Design is important because it allows you to make changes early in the process.
It’s much easier to change something in the design phase than it is to change something in the development phase.
Design is also important because it allows you to test different ideas and see what works and doesn’t.
You can experiment with different designs, layouts, and colour schemes without actually having to build anything.
It’s a great way to save time and money in the long run.
The step-by-step process of taking your app from user flow diagram to wireframe, to mockup, to prototyping, to high fidelity design, and to development is how everyone should be building their apps in 2023.
Work on Your Monetization Strategy
You might think, I now have to get to android development or IOS development.
Not so fast.
Before you build your app, you need to figure out how to make money from it.
There are a few different ways to monetize your app.
You can charge a one-time fee, monthly subscription, or show ads.
You need to figure out which approach makes the most sense for your app.
If you’re not sure about how to monetize your app, I recommend checking out this article:
How to Monetzie Your Mobile App
In summary, here are a few ways to monetize your app:
- Freemium: This is when you offer a free version of your app with limited features and charge a monthly subscription for the premium version. This model works well if you have a high-value app that users use daily and don’t mind paying extra to access gated features.
- One-time fee: You charge a one-time fee to download your app. This model works well for apps that offer a specific service, such as a photo editing app.
- In-app purchases: This is when you sell digital or physical goods within your app. This model works well for games or utility apps.
- Ads: This is when you show ads in your app. This model works well for apps with a large audience and are not selling digital or physical goods.
- White labelling: This is when you sell your app to another company that sells it under their brand. This model works well if you have an excellent idea for an app but don’t want to deal with the hassle of marketing and selling it.
- Fee on Payments: You take a small percentage of each transaction made through your app. This model works well for apps that facilitate transactions, such as a payment processing app.
- Selling Your User’s Data: Not recommended or allowed on the App store or Play store, but some companies do it. It’s not a good business model and not something you should do.
Now that you know how to monetize your app, it’s time to build it.
You’ve come a long way.
You’ve devised an idea, done your market research, figured out your monetization strategy and designed your app.
Now it’s time to start building it.
There are many ways to build an app.
The first is to find a boutique development agency that builds the type of app you want. With this option, you’ll get a team of experts to develop your app from scratch.
The problem is that this option is usually the most expensive and can take a long time. Be prepared to spend at least $100,000 and wait up to a year for your app to be built.
The second option is to hire a freelance developer.
With this option, you’ll get someone who is an expert in the technology you need for your app.
The problem is that it can be hard to find a good freelancer, and you’ll need to manage them yourself.
You can find them on sites like Upwork or Fiverr.
However, you want to vet them carefully before hiring them.
The third option is to build your app yourself.
With this option, you’ll need to learn how to code or use a no-code platform like Appy Pie or bubble.
The problem is that this option takes a lot of time and effort.
If you’re not careful, you can easily make a mistake that will cost you time and money.
However, this option can be extremely rewarding if you’re up for the challenge.
The Road Map for Learning How to Code an App
You first have to understand the different types of apps:
Native apps: These apps are built for specific operating systems, such as iOS or Android. They can only work on the devices they’re built for. You have to build a separate app for each operating system.
Cross-platform apps: These are apps that can work on multiple operating systems. They’re built using cross-platform frameworks, such as React Native or Flutter.
Once you’ve decided which type of app you want to build, you need to choose a programming language.
For native apps, you need to use the specific language for the operating system you’re building for:
Android: Kotlin or Java
For cross-platform apps, you can use any programming language, but the most popular ones are:
For web apps, you need to use web technologies, such as:
Or frameworks like:
If you’re going to build your app yourself, you need to learn how to code. The best way to do this is by taking an online course or reading a book.
Building an Mobile App Using a No-code Platform
You don’t have to be a coder to build an app. No-code platforms allow you to build an app without writing any code.
In the last few years, there has been a surge in the popularity of no-code platforms. That’s because they’re much easier to use than traditional coding languages.
Plus, they often come with pre-built templates and features that make it easy to build an app without prior experience.
These tools are changing the way apps are built.
With these tools, you can build almost any type of app. Of course, there are limitations, but for most people, these tools are more than enough.
Examples of no-code platforms include:
- Appy Pie
These platforms allow you to build an app without writing any code.
You can use them to build native apps, cross-platform apps, or web apps.
The only downside is that they can be a bit more expensive than traditional coding languages.
The cost of these platforms varies, but you can expect to pay around $100 per month.
Of course, this is still cheaper than hiring a developer.
You can use YouTube to learn how to use these platforms. Many tutorials will show you how to build an app using these tools.
Alternatively, use makerpad.co, a platform dedicated to helping you learn how to use no-code platforms.