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How to Build a Mobile App

Learn how to build mobile appsA step-by-step guide for beginners with tips and resources on how to build a mobile app. Whether you're a small business or a large company, don't worry - you can become an app builder.

Mobile apps have changed how we live and work in our day-to-day lives. Serving a remote workforce is a requirement amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Mobile apps can improve worker productivity and customer engagement during this time.

Mobile apps can transform the workplace. They can also be entertaining and educational. But where do you start if you want to build a mobile app?

Flesh out your Goals

Many mobile apps are often solutions to a problem. Before you can build an app, you need to identify goals for your app. These goals can be to entertain or solve a problem. Outline your application goals.

If your goal is to solve an issue, think about how the app could help. What criteria would indicate that your app successfully solved the problem? If an app for filling out forms isn't faster than using a pen and paper, it won't increase workplace efficiency.Goals and success metrics will help flesh out your app idea and give you a clear vision.

Research your app idea

How to research your app ideaHaving an app idea is great, but will anyone use it? Do your research to ensure a market exists for your internal enterprise solution, social media platform, or new app idea. You must have a valid app idea with real market demand. No one will use your app if there's no market for it.

Are you building an app to replace paper forms in the workplace?

Talk to people who use these forms and find out when and where they're filling out forms. Are they filling out paperwork in the office? Or out in the field where network connections may not exist? Do they need access to other information, such as handbooks or spreadsheets?

If your plan to publish your app to the public in the app stores, research existing apps on the market. How will you stand out from the competition? What are the weak points of apps on the market? How could you fill the gaps that other solutions leave wide open?

Mockup your app

How to design your mobile appWireframes are an incredibly powerful tool in your app development toolbox. A wireframe is a blueprint of what your application does. 

Mockups should include:

  • basic screen layouts
  • app navigation
  • workflows
  • the UI elements users will interact with, such as buttons, text boxes, or dropdowns.

Focus on how the various features of your app will work together to meet your goals.

Once you've established what your app doe determine your app's branding. Take it a step further with graphic design. Graphic design is when you pick the fonts, colors, and icons to use in your app.

Working from your wireframes, create static images of how you want the end-product to look. Provide a detailed visual guide for spacing controls.

Pick your App Development Platform and Build your App

Now that you have a design for your application, you're ready to pick an app maker.Some development methods for building your application:

Native App Development

Native app development is developing a mobile app using hand-coding. For example, native iOS apps are written in Objective-C or Swift using Xcode. Native Android apps are written in Koltin, Java, and C++ languages using Android Studio. 

Since native apps are built for a specific mobile platform, there are no limitations to what you can create. Unfortunately, native app development can take a long time.

Native app development also requires one or more developers fluent in the programming language for the target platform. You must also build a separate app for every platform you plan to deploy. This greatly increases the time and cost to develop your app

Mobile App Development Frameworks

How to choose the best mobile app development software

Mobile app frameworks are an alternative to native development. Solutions like React Native and Apache Cordova let you develop an application using JavaScript that can run on iOS and Android. 

Overall, it takes less time to develop apps with a mobile app framework compared to native development. However, a technical expert will need to develop an app. They also take more time to create than other app development methods.

Drag and Drop Development Platforms

Drag-and-drop platforms let you build apps without any technical knowledge.These codeless solutions provide a graphical interface. You simply pick pre-designed elements to develop your application. You can build apps very fast with these types of platforms, but at a cost.

Drag-and-drop platforms don't require technical skills to create mobile applications. However, they offer little flexibility in what you can do. You are limited to the features built-in to the solution. Customizing your application can be expensive and burn time if you can do them at all.

Building apps with Alpha

Alpha Software's app development platform combines the speed of drag-and-drop with the power of native development.

Using Alpha TransForm, non-technical people can turn any form into an impressive rich media mobile app for smartphones in minutes. Power users and developers can even add advanced functionality. The product has a rich API. It can also leverage hundreds of megabytes of "on-mobile device" data and media, plus a very rich API.

Developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop and deploy any web or mobile business app from scratch. Connect to existing databases and workflows. Add additional security to protect corporate data.

Alpha Anywhere has also integrated with several options for building mobile apps. The software integrates with solutions including Ionic Appflow, to make it easy for you to get your app to your customers.

Test your app

Ensure your app works as it's designed. Test throughout the development process. You'll want to make sure your app has a great user experience and intuitive user interface. There are several tools you can use to test your application before you ship it.

Emulators

Emulators simulate running your application on an iOS or Android device. You can use emulators to find many issues in your application. Xcode and Android Studio both include emulators for their respective platforms. Alpha Anywhere's integrated mobile emulator also lets you test your app within the development environment.

Shell Apps

Shell applications are apps you install on a device that run your app without installing your app directly. For example, Alpha Software offers the Alpha Launch app, available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play. It can be used to install and run apps on a mobile device.

The shell app's plug-ins limit the range of what you can test. If your app uses custom plug-ins that aren't core to your development package, be aware. You may not be able to test all of the features in your app.

How to test your mobile app with end-users

On-device Testing

It's essential to install and test your application on all popular mobile devices. Emulators and shell apps are useful testing tools, but they have several limitations. 

Apple's TestFlight and Google Play Console let you install and test your app on a device.

Make sure to test your app on several different devices. Recruit some of the people who will be using your app to test it out. Provide a way for users to report issues they encounter. Allow users to suggest usability improvements.

Publish your app

Once your app is done and tested, it's time to ship! Mobile apps are typically published to the app stores. Each app store has a set of criteria your app must meet before it will be accepted.

Apple and Google Play documentation details these requirements. Make sure your app meets their requirements before submitting it. You may also need to purchase a developer account for the platform. Apple requires a paid Developer Account to submit apps to the App Store.

How to publish your appDoes building mobile apps for deployment using Xcode and Android Studio seem daunting? There are cloud services available that make it easy to generate the files required to ship your app. For example, Ionic Appflow is integrated into Alpha Anywhere to simplify the app submission process.. Alpha Anywhere mobile apps built with Ionic Appflow can be directly submitted to the app stores.

Depending on how your app works, you may also need a server. A serve would provide data hosting, user authentication, workflows, web services, or other business processes.

You can choose to self-host on your own server or opt for a service like Alpha Cloud. With Alpha Cloud, the management of the servers and software required by your app is handled for you. This shifts the tasks of keeping your servers running off your plate, letting you focus on your app.

Once you're in the app stores, spend some time optimizing your listing in the app store. You'll want to spend some time crafting an application name, description, and enticing visuals to help boost your app's visibility. This process is called app store optimization and is vital to help people find your app.

The core factors for ranking well in app store searches include using relevant keywords in the app name and description. You also need compelling branding and engaging app visuals. Include screenshots and videos that convey how your app works. 

Spend time researching what search terms users are using that may relate to your app.

Your target audience may not associate the same words you associate with your app. Incorporate these terms into your app's description and name. Having the right keywords will increase the visibility of your app. Repeat this process to refine your search terms.

Having inviting visuals encourages people to click on your app when it shows up in search results.Highlight the key features of your app in your screenshots. Also include a preview video, so users understand what your app will look like when they download it. 

Spend time crafting an app icon that stands out. A camera icon may be an obvious choice for a photo app, but find an attractive camera image. Putting careful thought into branding will help you beat your competition and drive more eyes to your app. 

Gather User Feedback and Reviews

How to gather mobile app feedbackThe number of app downloads and positive app reviews also affect your ranking in app store searches.

The first time you publish your app, you will have no reviews. Engage with your users to find out how the app works for them and ask them to leave a review. Reviews will help boost your app's visibility. They give you insight into how the app is working.

App development doesn't stop when you ship. It's a continuous, iterative process. If you find that your app isn't working for your customers, incorporate that feedback into your application.

What changes could you make that would solve some of the challenges they face? What features could you add to make your app even better? Take what you learn and incorporate it into the next version of your app. Your users will thank you.

Have an idea? Start Building Today with Alpha Anywhere Community Edition

Get free software to build appsDownload Alpha Anywhere today to start building your mobile applications. Web and mobile applications can be built and deployed using Alpha Anywhere Community Edition. Get up to speed with Alpha Anywhere with our beginners tutorial on how to build a mobile application.

When you complete this mobile app tutorial, you will have built a successful app for iOS and Android devices. You'll access the low-code app development training resources, videos and documentation.  You'll be on your way to becoming an expert mobile application developer. You can take legacy business applications to smartphones or create completely new task-based apps.

Step 1: Get Free Mobile App Development Software: Alpha Anywhere Community Edition

Step 2: Start the Mobile App Tutorial: Build Your First Mobile App with Alpha Anywhere

 

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About Author

Sarah Mitchell
Sarah Mitchell

Technical Writer and Documentation Expert at Alpha Software

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The Alpha platform is the only unified mobile and web app development and deployment environment with distinct “no-code” and “low-code” components. Using the Alpha TransForm no-code product, business users and developers can take full advantage of all the capabilities of the smartphone to turn any form into a mobile app in minutes, and power users can add advanced app functionality with Alpha TransForm's built-in programming language. IT developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop complex web or mobile business apps from scratch, integrate data with existing systems of record and workflows (including data collected via Alpha TransForm), and add additional security or authentication requirements to protect corporate data.

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