Feel that you simply must hire an iOS development company, for making apps on this platform? Well, you can develop iPhone apps on your own too, by following the steps explained below.
If you want to make a mobile app, what do you do first? That’s right, you log on to the internet, and start looking for an app development company which would be best suited to handle your project. For most people, the actual development process is some sort of a black box – the app idea goes in at one end, and the final version of the app comes out at the other. That however, should not be the case – and you should have at least a rough idea about how apps are developed. You might even try to develop your own app (it’s not that tough!), with proper knowledge and all the necessary tools. In the following discussion, we have outlined the steps to create an iPhone app broadly followed by companies. You can follow them to make an app yourself too:
- Set up a Mac computer – Visit the offices of any iPhone app company, and you will find that nearly all the computers over there are iMacs. The reason is simple enough: for making iOS apps, you need an Apple computer. If you plan to make your own app, get a Mac computer, running on Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8) or later OS version. If you have not used a Mac before, you will need a couple of days to grow comfortable working with it.
- Download the latest version of Xcode – For the uninitiated, Xcode is the default integrated development environment (IDE) for iOS/Mac development experts. You will need to download Xcode 6.0.1, which comes with the iOS 8 SDK. Mobile app companies invariably use this version of Xcode too – since it is of essence at present that apps are compatible with the iOS 8 platform. Remember, on Mac systems running on versions earlier than Mountain Lion, Xcode cannot be downloaded.
- Look for a decent vector graphics program – If you wish to make an iOS app as an experiment, a free program like DrawBerry would do just fine. However, for high-end, professional standard mobile app designing – a more functional vector graphics program is required. Take your pick from Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw (there are plenty of fans of Xara Designer too). To pique user-interest and bolster downloads, an app has to ‘look good’ too, and for that, these programs are of essence.
- Learn the language – Okay, now comes the time most laymen dread – when you have to learn how to code for apps. You will need to learn up everything about Objective-C first, and then move on to Apple’s new programming language, Swift (which already has the ‘Gold Master’ status). In case you have delegated your project to an iPhone app development agency, you need not learn the languages per se – but do inquire about the coding methods that are being used.
- A text editor is generally necessary – Most mobile app developers are of this opinion, even though it is theoretically possible to do the entire coding inside Xcode. Handling long and complex codes can become particularly confusing, unless you have a text editor that supports all relevant programming syntaxes. JEdit is an editor that can serve you well in this regard.
- The ‘What’ and the ‘Why’ – Now that you have most of the tools ready, and have not yet signed up for an Apple Developer account (more on that later), take time out to think what your app would be all about. Irrespective of whether you are doing the development yourself or have got in touch with an iOS app agency – you need to be very clear about your app’s functionality, its target audience, its principal purpose(s), the monetization strategy, and the like. Mobile app development is not a domain where you can ‘think-as-you-go’ – prior planning is an absolute must!
- Register yourself as an Apple Developer – If you are making an iPhone app, you intend to release it at the app store, right (or else, there won’t be any point!)? Well, for that, you will need to register for an Apple Developer account (the annual charge is $99). Once you are a registered iOS developer, you can download sample test apps for learning purposes. You can even tweak the codes around in Xcode. The more you practice, the better you will become as a developer.
- Create a storyboard – Again, for all the newbies out there – storyboarding is the technique used for managing the visual representations and transitions of your app screens. Do a bit of research on the web, or ask any mobile app developer worth his/her salt, to find out how you can create a storyboard and assign it to your application. A common mistake that many new developers make is, storing the ‘Main’ storyboard file and the project at different locations. Please note that they have to be saved at the same location.
- Start designing the UI – Next up in the workflow of iPhone app development is the creation of user-interface (UI). You will need the Interface Builder and the Frameworks tools – both of which are provided by Apple Inc. The first makes it easy to visually implement navigation bars, buttons, labels and other in-built screen objects to your app. The second, on the other hand, ensures proper customization – so that your app actually becomes functional on iOS devices. (Note: Frameworks are required for Mac apps as well).
- Hire a graphic designer – Or if a company is handling your project, find out whether it has a separate mobile app designing (UI/UX) team. A successful app is invariably a combination of smart coding and creative designing – but it would be a folly to assume that the same person/team can do both the tasks. With practice, you might become an excellent developer, but you will still need the help of an experienced graphic designer to lend that extra appeal to the app screens. Stay away from companies which do not have specialized designers.
- Know the difference between Cocoa and Cocoa Touch – New developers have a tendency to think that working with Objective-C, Cocoa and Cocoa Touch is roughly the same. Nothing can be further from the truth. For starters, Obj-C is a programming language, while the others are app development frameworks. And if you are looking to make an iPhone app, it is Cocoa Touch (created with Foundation and UIKit) that you require. Cocoa is used for creating desktop applications.
- Add splash screen and images – The task of adding images to an Xcode 6 project requires a certain level of expertise, as any developer would confirm. There is also a difference between pictures added for hi-res and retina displays. You need to either learn the techniques, or get a rough overview about them from the representatives of your chosen iOS app agency. At this stage, you will also need to create the splash screen (the screen that is displayed as the app loads). It has to be engaging, give a basic idea about the app’s functionality, have the name and icon of the app, and MUST NOT linger for more than 8-10 seconds.
- Are you developing a game for iPhone? – Successful mobile games for kids and adults alike on the iOS platform have tremendous revenue potentials (Candy Crush Saga, anyone?). If you too wish to make a game, you will need to get familiar with the SpriteKit tool (more on that here), along with the OpenGL ES and the Game Kit frameworks. To locate controllers on iOS devices, you will also need the Game Controller tool.
- Testing and debugging – Don’t worry, you won’t have to do everything manually here. Xcode comes with a built-in iOS Simulator – which facilitates mobile app testing on a variety of simulated devices. In addition, you need to install and test the app on your own iPhone (after building the app, of course), and distribute it for testing in an expert focus group. If you are making the app yourself, seek the help of your colleagues, family members and other acquaintances for this purpose. Gather feedback on your app (regarding whether it is crashing frequently, or is making devices slower than usual, etc.), and proceed to the debugging stage accordingly. Any good mobile app company would be similarly systematic about the testing phase as well.
- Time to release the app – The hard work’s done, now you have to release your app at the store. After making the distribution build (make sure that the app is compatible with Retina display and the iOS 8 platform), you will have to connect to the iTunes Dashboard. Over there, fill up all the requisite information, and then, upload your iPhone application. This is probably the only step you need not worry about at all, if you avail the services of a reliable mobile app agency. The latter would take care of app submissions.
Once you have submitted your app, you will go into the ‘In Review’ status in a few days. You will be intimated soon enough by Apple, regarding whether the app has been approved or rejected. There is no need to get too disheartened if the latter happens – you can learn from your mistakes, and come up with a better app in future.
This is only an overview of how you should (or companies do, for that matter) go about iPhone application development projects. You will, of course, need to know all about classes, objects, view controllers, timers, and other programming nitty-gritty, before trying to make an app. Whether you have hired a mobile app company or not, you will have to do some promotions of the applications on your own too (via social media channels, emails, etc.). Most people prefer to pay a reasonable fee to a company for transforming their ideas into apps for the iOS platform – but creating a DIY app is certainly not impossible!