How to Create an App from Scratch? [The Fullest Guide]

How to Create an App from Scratch?

The app market is booming, and new apps powered by innovative ideas and excellent features continue to dominate the ever-evolving app market. With several billion smartphone users worldwide, apps are likely to be the most deserving digital commodities in the world.

But sadly, only a handful of mobile apps enjoy the most traction and user engagement, while most of the app’s struggle to survive as a business with a decent user base and business conversion. This is why it is essential to incorporate the learning’s from successful app projects when starting to build an app from scratch.

If you have a nice app idea with excellent business potential, how can you shape the idea into a great app? Let’s assume you can’t spend millions on your app project like the big conglomerates. Here we will offer a step-by-step guide on how to create an app from scratch. Let’s start.

Pen Down the App Idea for How to Make An App from Scratch

Do you have a great app idea that stands apart from the rest in your niche and makes life easier for some people with some content or activities? The first step to build an app from scratch is to write the idea down as vividly as possible. The app idea should be penned down to answer the key questions like what kind of purpose and user situations it addresses, how it works, the key value propositions that make your app different from others, etc.

When considering how to create an app from scratch, your emphasis should start with the app idea. Orient the app idea with the usefulness it proposes for the audience in vivid terms. Explain why the idea is unique or partially unique compared to other competitor apps in the niche. What values it offers that other competitor apps fail to offer in that same niche.

To build an app from scratch, you need to expand this core idea into more technical details. Explain the features you want to incorporate and the ones you consider most important. These features are likely to define the core functionalities and value propositions of your app.

Follow Up Your Idea with Market Research

Market validation is a crucial aspect when considering how to build a mobile app from scratch. Now that you have penned down the core app idea, key features and the way you want the app to perform, it is time to follow this with detailed market research, know your audience and validate the app idea.

In case the app is going to serve your existing business, you can talk to your current customers and try to understand what they prefer. You can interact with your customers, request them to give their opinions or fill up forms describing their preferences.

If you are going to build a new business just on the merit of this app, you need to be more cautious. Run some surveys, carry out interviews with your target audience group and interact with many users who are likely to be interested in your app.

Make in-depth research of the apps you want to compete with. Know their key features, user experience attributes and shortcomings that need to be addressed. When you know the best and worst attributes of the competitor apps, it becomes easier to build a better app.

When explaining how to build a mobile app from scratch, experts will first advise you to emphasize the target audience. On the other hand, you need to know your target audience. Apart from knowing the demographics such as the age group, gender and regions of most of your target users, you also need to precisely know the user habits and cultural aspects that resonate with your niche. It is always advisable to develop a well-thought-out user persona that characterizes your audience in the most vivid and befitting manner.

Decide on a Platform, Type of App and Technology Stack

In explaining how to create a mobile app, platform and technology stack choice play a key role. These considerations are essential to fix the app budget, timing, and long-term future development strategy. You need to select the programming language, tools and target operating platforms for your new app project.

You can either go for a native app project and decide to build iOS and Android apps separately while considering developing one app version at a time. You can also consider making a cross-platform app with a native UI layer using advanced cross-platform technologies such as React Native and Flutter.

While the first option is great in delivering optimum platform-specific user experience, it involves a higher budget as you need to build two separate apps. The second option offers a balanced choice by allowing you to save money by reusing the same codebase for two platforms while maintaining a highly native user experience thanks to the native UI layers or UI widgets or scopes of customization offered by some frameworks.

When trying to build an app from scratch, if you cannot code or cannot hire experts, you can go for any of the acclaimed app-building platforms such as AppSheet, Appy Pie, BuildFire, etc. Some of these platforms make non-technical people’s lives easier by allowing them to build an app just by choosing a design template and using a drag and drop interface to shape the app design and functions. App builders lack customization and depth in respect of design and features, but for small budget app projects of non-technical people, they offer a great option.

How to Build an MVP App from Scratch

Let’s elucidate a middle-path approach in explaining how to create a phone app from scratch. Since you have a lean and thin development budget and want to make decisions based on market validation, it is advisable to opt for the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) development approach. As per this approach, you build a small app with lean features while keeping options for future value additions based on user feedback. You can save on the initial development cost while releasing future updates with changes and additions as per the user feedback.  

Just because you build the app with a minimum number of features that perfectly suit the app’s user experience, there are fewer chances of committing errors and coming with a faulty product. At the same time MVP approach opens up the scope of iterative development based on user feedback. 

Many successful app projects began their journey as MVP simply because of the ease and faster pace of development, the scope of iterations, power of incorporating validated design and development decisions, incremental development and the lower development cost. 

If you want to know about how to create a mobile app from scratch without getting discouraged by the cost considerations, the MVP development approach comes as the most effective one. For MVP app projects, only consider the most elementary features that easily define the basic app purpose and intended user experience and leave other features for future updates. There is a possibility that you need to consider a completely different set of changes and value additions as the user feedback after the initial release starts coming in. 

Create the Design Mockups

It is time to focus on the app design in your step-by-step efforts to build an app from scratch. You need to ensure that the app design boosts ease of use and an intuitive user experience. You need to have a clear idea about the features facilitating user interactions and how the app screens will engage users.

It can be very effective if you sketch the app screens and put your intended design into a piece of paper. Segregate the app functionalities into distinct screens. While doing this, put yourself in the user situation and understand how the app works. Decide the number of screens and decide about the user workflow from one screen to another. When you make a rough sketch involving all these, creating the app design becomes easier.

The most important thing here is to decide how you can navigate the app and get things done progressively. Small design decisions, such as having a bottom tab bar or using a sliding side menu or using a hamburger menu, are important here. Let us remind you that the most effective navigation is what looks and feels natural and thoroughly intuitive.

When creating the design mockups, you need to focus on avoiding visual clutter that can only add to the distractions and cognitive load and have a negative impact on usability. Ensure every app screen has enough white space to help settle the user’s attention and easier interaction with the tap targets.

The app should allow users to get things done as easily as possible. The navigation elements to the user journey in different contexts should involve at least minimum user activities and interactions. The design mockups should deal with the user journey from the design perspective. It is advisable to try different options and put yourself in the user situation to understand how things work and how you can make usability better.

When explaining how to create a mobile app, we must draw your attention to another important step. It is the app onboarding that every app project needs to give utmost priority in creating the design mockup. App onboarding is very important to orient a new user with the app features and user experience. App onboarding offers a structured sequence to orient and educates the user. It is particularly important for complex and multilayered apps.

You have several great design tools for design mockups that you can use instead of using paper and pencil. These tools also help you create better and more detailed as well as articulated design mockups. Most important of all, correcting and rectifying your design mockups becomes absolutely easier thanks to these tools. You can get optimum freedom and flexibility of experimenting with the app design.

Among the various tools used for design, prototyping Sketch comes as the most popular one. This tool allows you to create vector-based designs that can be easily scaled up or down as per the screen sizes. Figma is another successful tool with almost similar kind of features and capabilities as Sketch. This one is browser-based and allows access on any device. InVision is another popular tool used by many for design prototyping.

Graphic Design of the App

In our step-by-step guide about how to build a mobile app from scratch, it is time to explain the graphic design of the app. Now that you have finished creating the design prototype of the intended app, it is time to shape the actual look and feel of the app by using the required graphic assets. After using the graphic asset, it must provide the actual look and feel of the app as intended by the users.

When creating the app’s graphic design, you must ensure the following.

  • One step ahead of the design mockup, the graphic design should offer the look and feel of the final app product.
  • The app’s graphic design should be neat enough to be presented to the investors or financial stakeholders to describe the app user experience.
  • Lastly, graphic design should allow developers to integrate graphic assets into their app projects.

This is the most critical step in the app design process to have a far-reaching impact on the app’s user experience design. Since this step is mission-critical for the whole project, it is advisable to engage some experienced graphic designers in the app project. Let’s explain some relevant options for delivering an engaging app design.

  • Engage a professional app designer for the design task. You can hire experienced designers with proven expertise from websites such as Upwork or Toptal. You can also look for app design features on platforms such as Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance and a few others. When coming across an app design of your choice, go to the designer profile and check whether he is a freelancer.
  • Another effective method is to use pre-done templates created by designers and sold to new projects like yours. Some websites sell pre-built app designs that app projects can buy, put to use, customize or just give a professional designer to customize the template for them. This comes as a less expensive option if you don’t require too much customization.
  • Finally, another method is to give your efforts in the app design and put things into practice as you continue to learn. If you are interested in the design, you can easily shape the look and feel of an app with ease by giving consistent efforts.

Building Your App from Scratch

Finally, our detailed guide on how to build a mobile app from scratch reached the core step. When your design is ready, you have to develop the app by following the respective guidelines for the platform and the best practices. In this step, you need to make sure you have all the required things in your hand to develop the app. Here we provide some tested and tried tips for app development.

  • As per lean development strategy, strike out any elements not relevant for the intended user purpose and r tasks.
  • Make sure you try to use a single input field to don’t need to switch modes. This can help you deliver a far better user experience.
  • Make sure you don’t use push notifications too much and only use them in relevant contexts.
  • As the app user experience and user preferences are continuously evolving, it is important to make the app future-proof and future-ready in every sense of these terms. Apart from scalable performance, the app should be able to accommodate value additions in feature and design.
  • Use robust and fast-paced database technology for the application. Using a database gives optimum priority to the data structure, app size, data security, scalability, and speed.
  • Finally, choose the development partner wisely and consider their prior experience with similar app projects, portfolio, development skills, development process, project handling, the scope of iteration, compliance and data safety, development method, client communication, etc.

Test the App

At last, it is important to test the app to keep it free from bugs, errors and all kinds of unwanted issues. In modern agile app projects, testing is concurrently done throughout the development phase. For example, wireframes are tested way before the development. The backend and frontend are tested separately.

But when the app is developed, it must go through user testing. Within is done both internally and externally. Besides developers testing the app from the perspectives of the users, the app is also tested by unknown users for unbiased feedback.

These days automation testing tools are popular to test apps with ease and by consuming the least time. Several great testing tools are available in the market, such as TestFairy, UserTesting, Ubertesters, etc.

App Deployment

You have almost got past the steps concerning how to create an app from scratch. Finally, when the app came out of the development lab and was tested, it is time to make it live in the respective app marketplaces such as Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

For deployment, you need to focus primarily on the uptime and visibility of the app. Before deployment, once again, make sure the app is completely functional. It would help if you also made sure that the app is fully backward compatible, and there are no chances for the app to experience server crashes.

Now you need to submit the app to the app markets like App Store and Play Store for scrutiny. You need to adhere to submission guidelines and follow the recommended practices and standards for getting your app approved at the first chance. This is why understanding the respective submission guidelines for each store is important.

There are also several effective tools for deploying and making an app live. If you hire a reputed mobile app development company for the project, it can take responsibility for everything, starting from the ideation and mockup design to development, testing and deployment.

Conclusion

Remember, this guideline regarding the development of an app from scratch still involves future updates and maintenance. Well, this is a key consideration for any app project, particularly lean-built MVP apps. An app project is far from a one-off development project. It involves continuous value additions through every subsequent update.