How to Build An App

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In the world of business and tech, “mobile revolution” and “app economy” are the buzzwords of the moment. The meaning behind the hype: In a smartphone world, money will be made by those creating the programs that make smartphones smart: apps. For those who want to get in on the act, the good news is there are a record number of books, classes and websites to help you every step of the way. But the hype also clouds a very simple truth: It’s a lot easier to get started than it is to finish. Good luck.

The Concept: Are you building an app to learn the process, or to create a marketable product? If you’re creating something for the market, do some market research first. Take a look at the iPhone and Android app stores and ask yourself what your app can do differently or better than what’s already available. Focus on that as you start sketching how your app will look and feel, using tools like Brief. “You’d be better off having half as many features but having them really done and add more later,” says Alex Cone, CEO of CodeFab.

Online Learning: Are you already an experienced programmer? If not, and you want to create the app all by yourself, you will need to start out by learning foundational programming skills. Check out these online learning resources: Khan Academy, Codecademy, Lynda. Once you’re comfortable with objected-oriented programming, you’ll be ready to learn how to make iPhone apps with the Stanford University Podcast Series on iTunes University.

Offline Learning: If you learn better in person, or get stuck and need to ask questions, there are many ways to meet a mentor. Look up meet-ups in your area, which can range from casual get together to hands-on “hackathons.” For offline classes, check out local universities or initiatives like Hacker School and General Assembly in New York City.

App Services: If you don't feel up to doing all the programming yourself, try out online services like PhoneGapAppCelerator or Tiggzi. You’ll still need some programming knowledge, but not nearly as much.

Developers: And if all that doesn't work, find a developer to build it for you. If you haven’t met anyone through the process, websites like Matchist and Stackoverflow can help.