Amateur app building

Ryan Boyd
Amateur app building

Making an app may sound daunting for anyone who’s not a technology pro. How do you get your idea from your head to the app store?

Katherine McMenamin (Payment Solutions Delivery Manager at Westpac in Wellington) has built her own app. It’s called Kiwi Kidsites and helps parents find the nearest changing station around the country for when their baby needs it. It’s available on Android and iOS for a couple of dollars.

She told REDnews how she went about getting it up and running and out into the market.

SEE ALSO: Would you hire a hacker?


You wanna make an app. Where do you start?App1

First of all it's really important to have a good concept for your app. If your idea is not original, or your app does not provide something no other app does, you are unlikely to get it approved by Apple.

So do your research, plan plan plan what your app will look like and do. This doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a few scribbles on a page should be good for you to think about the user experience and functionality. 


What are the main things you need to know/be able to do?

You don't actually need to know a great deal. If you don't know the answer of how to do something, there is generally someone else in the world that can answer your question or perform the task for you. 

In my case I did not write any of the code for my app, as I do not know how to write code. Instead what I did was purchase software that would write the code for me, while I still had complete control over what the app would look like and type of functionality I wanted. 

If you are a tech whiz, then delve into the code and go for your life, and also make sure you get some friends in the app world to help you out when you get stuck. Bouncing ideas off other people and learning from their experiences is very valuable. 

One think you need to be very aware of, and protect, is your Intellectual Property. Feel free to have discussions with people, but don't give away your idea. When you sign a contract or agree to terms and conditions for software, ensure that any IP rights remain your own.


What is the basic step by step process?

You will need to have a developer account with Apple or Google or both. Once you have signed up for the developer account there are a load of resources available to you for knowledge on everything from what is technically possible to how you have to use the App Store and Google Play logos on a website, or print ad. 

There are also really good developer forums where you can ask questions while you are developing that can help you get through any glitches.

After your concept is sorted, start developing your app and once you have a prototype you will need to test it out. Be thorough in your testing. Nobody enjoys downloading an app full of bugs, so once it's launched you need it to be slick. I would recommend trying it out on a number of different devices/sizes. If you have developed for Apple then try it out for iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 screens (they are different sizes).

Once you have fixed your bugs and have a slick operation it’s time to head to the developer portals and submit that app! Google will essentially let you upload anything to their Play store, so that is usually live within about 24 hours of submitting it. Apple's approval process can take up to two weeks. This is a really important timeframe difference if you have a launch planned.


How long did it take you to make yours?App2

My only time to research what and how to do things was during my daughters one hour day naps. I had three a day to work in, as well as evenings. I pulled together my first basic Android app in about 3-4 weeks. It was very basic but a good start. 

When I decided to expand to include Apple and upgrade the user experience to be easier to use, I was already back at full time work for Westpac. This process took me a number of months to get a finished product created, and another month or so to get through the Apple approval process (I was knocked back twice).

The biggest piece of work for me so far though has been constantly updating the content of the app. Because my app is based around finding places and events, I need to be on top of adding new content all the time; it's like running a website or a blog, you can't just stop working on it or it becomes irrelevant.


What are the biggest challenges to overcome?

Getting past the Apple approval process is (as I found out first hand) pretty difficult. Be prepared for being knocked back, and keep thinking of ways to improve your offering.

Getting the app out there is only the first step. If no one knows it is there, then no one will download it. Make sure your keywords in the App Store are finely tuned, and inclusive of all the app can do and offer. 

Join App Annie to follow the progress of your app in the stores. Then you need to look into marketing the app, there are a lot of ideas on the internet if you google for how to promote your app, including becoming one of those pop up ads in other apps. Put together your marketing plan and get it done.

I also use Flurry ( which is an analytical service allowing you to see who is using your app by demographic, which parts of the app they look at, how long each session is on average etc. It would be very useful to use this to monitor usage, plan marketing and look at crash reports.

SEE ALSO: Would you hire a hacker?


What else should you do?

I have been very fortunate to be introduced to a local app development company full of intelligent helpful people who, believe me, I would not have been able to get this far without.

I meet up with them every now and again and almost have a mentorship going with them. There are lots of local meet ups of people with like-minds, so dip your toe in the water of the app development community and see how you like it.


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