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With mobile computing booming like never before, everyone is trying to come up with the next big idea. However, only a few individuals are willing to do the work to make those ideas a reality. To leverage the ever-growing market that mobile technology offers, most entrepreneurs and aspiring developers continually seek ways of coding an app in the shortest possible time.

Especially, since the market is dynamic and highly competitive, with the need for individuals to react quickly to exploit new opportunities whenever they present themselves. Essentially, expeditiously engineering a new app that fits into ever-changing niches, evolves with market strategies, and adapts to users’ unique requirements is very possible. The bulk of this article hopes to serve as a roadmap for anyone aiming to code and launch an app within a month or less. So, without further ado, let’s delve in!

The Process of Coding a Mobile App From Scratch

Idea Generation

As a rule of thumb, it’s vital to ensure that your proposed app solves a problem. If your idea is to create an app that shows house parties happening in real-time, it’s essentially solving an entertainment accessibility issue. 

For the most part, sometimes your idea doesn’t have to be mind-blowing, but has to be greatly executed. For instance, Facebook’s idea was to create a social network for colleges. With the existence of MySpace and Friendster, social networks were novel, but the Facebook founders had a different innovative approach. It all comes down to execution! Then expansion can follow.

Friendster in its first version. Image Credit: berriebrandt.wordpress.com

You can always validate your ideas by sharing them with family and friends to refine and streamline them further.  This should give you an overall baseline of the minimum number of features the first version of your app should constitute. Ideally, since you’re on a clock, the objective is to avoid implementing every single feature, instead, focusing on the core ones.

Defining Scope & Functionality of the App

Since we are on the clock, comprehensively understanding the proposed mobile app’s scope will help you devise a faster means of building the app. Basically, in this phase, you shall need to make trade-offs on which functionality to keep or release to the public. For example, e-commerce integration, push notifications, social sharing, chatbots, or customer assistance, etc.

You might want to focus on features that set you apart from your competitors or might help you accomplish bigger business goals in the long term.

Sketching and Wireframing

Once you have figured out the core functionalities involved, assimilated the insight from your target market and competition, you are now ready to start wireframing your app.

The wireframing process will help breathe life into your potential mobile app, creating a barebones user interface for your application. It can be a rough sketch with pen and paper on how your app will look. In practice, your wireframe should leverage all the information generated in your user experience research and can be utilized to generate more feedback from potential users.

Wireframes and sketches lay the foundation for your future interface and keep you focused on the app’s technical vision. In essence, visually conceptualizing the main features, layout, and structure of the app provides you a working template for constant reference.

To convert your wireframe into actual UI designs, use software tools like Sketch and Draw.io, and ensure that your designs conform to the Design Principles for iOS or Material Design for Android.

An example of wireframing. Image Credit: mockplus.com

Choosing a Development Route

There are four ways you can develop your mobile application:

  • Native mobile application development
  • Cross-platform native mobile application development
  • Hybrid mobile application development
  • Progressive web application development

In comparison, hybrid app development could be simpler than native app development as you use the same code for most of the OS like Android, iOS, Windows, etc. However, native apps are faster and outperform hybrid apps as native app code directly interacts with mobile hardware, yet hybrid apps achieve this with the help of Plugins.

As you now get into the nitty-gritty of coding, it’s now a choice of approaches to develop the app much faster, either minimal or no coding required (low-code or no-code). In practice, low-code platforms still need a substantial amount of time to learn since they still have their own coding languages, though much simpler to learn than traditional programming languages. In contrast, no-code platforms allow for much quicker development and iterations of your app.

Outsystems offers a robust low code platform that has become widely popular. Image Credit: outsystems.com

Coding the App

This phase is essentially about converting the UI wireframes into an actual application. Assuming that you’ve taken a standard coding from scratch approach, or a low code approach, here is how your timeframe should look like. For instance, if you’re building a native Android app. This isn’t set in stone but can serve as a guiding timetable template. 

Week 1

  1. Start with coding the basics, like variables, loops, conditional logic, and methods. The assumption is you’ll be using Java since Android apps use Java to compile and run apps. Since Android coding is principally about making classes and calling them, you’ll be engaged in Object-Oriented Programming in Java. Fundamentally, you shall be programming classes and calling data and methods to other parts of your code.
  2. Pay keen attention to how you define your layouts in XML files.
  3. Once you’ve coded the app’s functionality based on conditions, you will need to make the code user interactive by programming the user inputs and outputs. The purpose is so that users can expect the exact output based on whatever their input is.

Week 2

Continue making the app more interactive by incrementally adding more inputs. Don’t forget to save changes in shared preferences and the database. During the same week, you can also refine and add tabs, side menus, toolbars.

Week 3

The third week should be about coding the elements that communicate with the web-server. The server acts as a central database and helps keep app data sync. You can exploit different libraries which can do this job.

Testing your App

Once the first version of the app is complete, you can use a simulator for initial testing. This is a highly iterative process as your app will probably crash, requiring you to fix bugs. Debugging can be tedious and time-consuming. However, it helps make your app error-free and ready for upload.

This phase will probably entail unit tests. A unit of code is the smallest testable component of a project. So, unit tests are programs utilized to detect regressions introduced by code changes to an app. They automatically exercise the features of your application and check the results. On occasion, a few developers write unit tests first, then implement methods that pass the tests.

Different levels of testing. Image Credit: guru99.com

Steps to Code an App Summarized

  1.       Generate the app idea
  2.       Do competitive market research and know your competitors
  3.       Layout and define the core app functionalities and features.
  4.       Plan the App’s UI Flow
  5.       Make design mockups and sketches of your app (UX Wireframes)
  6.       Design the Database
  7.       Build the app
  8.       Identify beta-testers and listen to their feedback and integrate relevant ones
  9.       Submit your app to the App Store
  10.   Put together an app marketing plan the market your app for maximum exposure
  11.   Iteratively upgrade the app with new enhancements and features based on market feedback
  12.   Capture the metrics

Two Other Alternative Ways to Code an App

Since this blog’s theme is rapid development, let us explore more approaches to having a quickly developed app that can be iteratively tested with sample users, improve with new feature sets, and be polished incrementally.

1. Leveraging an App Builder

App Builders are self-service app creation tools that enable users with no coding skills to develop native applications and submit them to different app stores. They are essentially low-budget tools that cover the entire development cycle, from design creation to pre-built design feature templates.

Pros

  • It’s a cost-effective approach. Since development team budgets fluctuate, app builders typically charge $20–60 per app on a monthly subscription basis.
  • App builders give you total control of your design, template, and outlook. You can introduce new features depending on your budget and determine when to launch them.
  • App builders constitute ready-made architecture. This means that you won’t have to think about element placement since a ready-made structure with examples is typically available, meaning that you’ll just have to fill everything in.

Cons

  • Lack of flexibility and uniqueness. Since app builders maintain pre-written scripts of features, you don’t have much leeway in terms of customization. And in most instances, you will find many comparable apps with the same themes as yours.
  • There is a security risk, and lack of privacy as app builders are principally third-party apps.
  • App builders are platform-dependent, which means you’ll be entirely dependent on the tool. This means that you won’t be able to easily customize to meet the standards of new iOS and Android versions.
  • There is a risk of poor user Engagement as the generated apps typically lack uniqueness, and thus won’t render great user experiences.
  • Apps built by app builders could pose technical challenges with maintenance if the platform depreciates with time and fails to support bug fixes.

Appypie is a comprehensive no-code app builder. Image Credit: appypie.com

2. Buying App Source Scripts and Customising Them

Platforms like Codecanyon allow developers to sell app templates or even complete apps which are up to par with existing market trends and requirements. These templates can be easily customized and rebranded for deployment to the app store.

Pros

  • They are quick to customize. Scripts typically have standard features that are well defined, with a set of features that are easy to customize.
  • Generally, app scripts are cost-effective and fit within different budgets, from medium to intricate apps.
  • In most cases, app script providers deliver good technical support, as you can easily reach out to the original developer in case of any challenges.

Cons

  • App scripts still have some degree of dependency as you’ll be required to understand someone else code.

Conclusion

All things considered, the mobile app landscape is a rolling juggernaut that will continue to be filled with opportunities. This is mainly because humans will always try to find easier ways of doing things. To get in on the action early, it’s essential to continuously seek ways of innovating faster, and coding an app in the shortest time possible is part of iterative innovation.

Although your first app might not really be a blockbuster hit, practice makes perfect, and the more you develop, the easier it becomes. Always take time to research and iteratively improve your ideas, and sooner or later, you might become the next Instagram or Uber!

 

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