Practical Guide to Mobile App Development (Step by Step)

In this article, we are going to look at a step-by-step guide to becoming a self-taught mobile app developer. We are going to cover the technologies involved, the platforms, programming languages, publishing, and monetization.

By the time you finish reading this article, you should be sure of the path to take to make a fully functional mobile app and learn ways to make money with it.

A Mobile application (short mobile app) is a software/program that can be installed on a mobile phone to extend the functionality of a phone or achieve a specific task.

 

There are millions of mobile apps out there for nearly any task you can think of, from social networking to recipes, banking, gaming, music, meetings, computation, designing, animations, and the list goes on.

If you want mobile app ideas and what you need to make them, check out our article MOBILE APPS IDEAS 

Mobile applications help us to be efficient, to be entertained, communicate easily, learn, etc. As you take on the challenge to develop Mobile applications, make sure that they solve a user’s problem, only then will your mobile app be relevant in this competitive circle.

THE BASICS

Let’s start with the basic tools. To make mobile applications, you will need:

  • A computer (If you do not have one, grab one on Amazon).

programming laptop

  • You also need a text editor or Integrated Development Environment (IDE).
  • A Design software e.g. Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, Photoshop is optional but useful for quick mockups.

CHOOSING A PLATFORM

When you have the tools, you will have to decide which platform you want your mobile apps to run on. Android, IOS, Windows, or all of them.

Android has by far the largest market share, more smartphones run on Android than any other platform. It’s also relatively easy to develop and deploy android apps than say IOS apps.

In order to develop IOS apps, you need to have a Mac. For Android, on the other hand, either a Mac, a Windows PC, or a Chrome book will do the work.

We will learn more about each platform later.

NATIVE OR CROSS-PLATFORM

Another thing worth the consideration is to ascertain whether you want to develop native or cross-platform mobile applications.

Native applications are mobile apps that are built specifically for a particular mobile device.

Native applications have advantages over cross-platform applications in terms of performance, security, and speed. But they are expensive to develop, time-consuming, and quite uneasy to maintain and manage.

Cross-platform apps are developed for Android, IOS, and Windows from one codebase.

Cross-platform apps are easy to maintain and manage, they take less time to develop, and are relatively cheap to develop. Most of them are not as performant as native apps.

But with the introduction of Flutter, React Native, cross-platform apps that are truly native and highly performant can be developed. We will talk about this later.

Let’s get deep into Native and cross-platform development and the programming languages involved.

NATIVE MOBILE APP DEVELOPMENT

If you have the tools, you have chosen the platform and you have decided to go native, you will need to learn a programming language.

  • ANDROID NATIVE APP DEVELOPMENT

If you want to develop Native mobile apps for Android devices, you will need to learn JAVA or KOTLIN, google recommends KOTLIN, Kotlin is expressive, concise, and much easy to learn compared to Java.

You need to have Android Studio installed on your computer. Android Studio has many features that will help you develop and test your mobile applications. Android Studio is a full-fledged Development Environment and does not rely on third-party packages to build your app.

Mobile Applications developed in Android Studio are fast and performant and have access to all the native features of the Android Device.

Another option less common to develop native android apps is to use Qt with uses the C++ programming language.

  • IOS NATIVE APP DEVELOPMENT

If it’s IOS mobile apps you are interested in, you will need to learn Objective C or Swift. Swift is modern, fast, and clear, it is recommended and relatively easy to pick up than Objective C. You will also need a Mac and Xcode installed.

Xcode has rich features that are going to help you during the process of developing and building your Mobile apps. Xcode too does not rely on third-party packages to build your Mobile app.

The mobile apps made in this way are highly performant, secure, and fast, they also have access to all the native features of IOS devices.

CROSS-PLATFORM APP DEVELOPMENT

This is probably the easiest path to take, especially if you are coming from a Web Development background. Javascript is the language of choice if you choose cross-platform app development. With this approach, you can make Android apps, IOS apps, and Windows apps from one codebase.

This makes the development process cheap and eases the maintenance and management of the codebase. Some of the cross-platform apps are not as performant and fast as native apps. Security is also a matter of concern in some cross-platform apps. But with the use of some platforms, you can build truly native apps without compromising on performance.

The following are the most common platforms / frameworks for developing cross-platform apps.

  • REACT NATIVE

React Native created by Facebook let’s you create truly native apps and doesn’t compromise your users’ experiences.

You must learn React and JSX (a syntax extension to JavaScript) to build apps in React Native. You can also integrate some Java and Swift code where necessary.

Apps built with React Native have good performance, are secure and fast. React Native relies on third-party packages to achieve some functionality which do not come bundled with the Library. This has advantages and disadvantages of its own.

Some of the apps made with React Native include Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Shopify, Skype, Tesla, Bloomberg, Flipkart, etc. This shows how much React Native is trusted by Big Corporations.

 

  • FLUTTER

Flutter apps

Flutter SDK is Google’s UI toolkit for crafting beautiful, natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase.

Flutter uses a relatively new programming language called Dart which is easy to pick up, especially if you already know Javascript. Mobile applications made with Flutter are truly native, highly performant, fast, and secure.

Flutter’s popularity and adoption are growing really fast and learning Flutter is worth your time investment.

Some apps built with Flutter include Google Assistant, Tencent, Square, My BMW, Nubank, etc.

  • IONIC FRAMEWORK

Ionic is a complete open-source SDK for hybrid mobile app development created by Max Lynch, Ben Sperry, and Adam Bradley of Drifty Co. Ionic Framework uses Angular or React or Vue (in Beta at the time of this writing).

The Ionic Framework relies on Cordova plugins or Capacitor plugins to access native features like Camera, file system, network of the device.

Apps made with Ionic are not as performant and fast as those made with React Native or Flutter. All in all, making apps with Ionic can be cheap and time serving.

Here is the app that I made in Ionic in a day Biology Revision 

Some apps made with the Ionic Framework include Sanvello, NHS, EA, Amtrak, etc.

  • XAMARIN

Xamarin based on Microsoft .NET Framework is a developer platform made up of tools, programming languages, and libraries for building many different types of applications.

Xamarin uses the C# (C-Sharp) programming Language to develop mobile applications.

The Mobile apps made with Xamarin are secure and have good performance.

Some apps made with Xamarin are PictureX, Ups, Olo, Storyo, Evolve, JustGiving. Etc.

There are many other frameworks for making cross-platform Mobile applications but you should be good with any of the above.

Let’s move on

BACKEND PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES, DATABASES & APIs

Most of the useful mobile apps require Authentication, communications, access to databases, and other online services.

You will need to learn a programming language that you can use on the server to allow your mobile app to make API calls to your server and store application data in the database. There are many languages that can be used for this. I discussed some of them HERE.

Most common ones are NodeJS, Python, Kotlin, Ruby, PHP. As far as Databases are concerned, MySQL, PostgresSQL, Oracle, MongoDB, MS SQL server are some of the most common. Pick one of each for a start then you can easily learn the rest.

Next, you can get your own servers and configure them or you can host your app with web hosting companies or platforms like AWS, Linode, Heroku, Namecheap, Bluehost, Inmotion, Hostgator, Hostinger

You can also use a platform like Firebase which makes development easy and faster, it comes with authentications, database, file storage, analytics, cloud functions, and many more features that are helpful for mobile app development.

PUBLISHING YOUR MOBILE APP

When you are done making your app, you will need to publish it to the app store so that people can download it. There are different stores for each platform.

  • ANDROID APPS

Android apps can be published to Google Playstore. Google play store is the biggest app store with over 3.48 Million apps (Statista). You will need to open a developer account and pay a one-time fee of $25. The process of publishing to Google Playstore is straightforward and easy to follow.

  • THE AMAZON APP STORE

Another place to publish android apps is the Amazon app store. No fee is charged to publish apps on this marketplace and the process of publishing is straightforward and self-explanatory.

  • IOS APPS

Mobile apps for iPhone can be published to the Apple App Store (2.22 million apps Statista), the second-largest such platform. A fee of $99 every year is charged to publish and maintain apps on the app store.

The process to publish is relatively easy to follow and there is a lot of guidance available online.

  • WINDOWS MOBILE APPS

Windows mobile apps can be published to the Windows store. To open a developer account, you will need to pay a one-time fee of $19 (individual) or $99(Company), you also need a Microsoft account. The rest of the publishing process is relatively easy to follow.

MOBILE APP MONETIZATION

app monetization

Monetization refers to the process of turning a non-revenue-generating item into cash. Thus, this will refer to a process where you make money from your Mobile apps. There are many ways in which you can monetize your Mobile Applications. Let’s look at some of the most effective.

  • Google Admob ads: You can monetize your apps using google Admob. Those ads that appear when you are using an app or playing a game, someone is paying for them through google, and google shares that amount with the app developer.

Here is an example from the Admob page on the Admob earnings:

App development company Balloon Island has created several popular games (all free) that have generated millions of downloads. As of 2016, the company was making $2,000 daily from AdMob while still providing a great user experience for game players to keep them engaged on a regular basis

This is the most popular and simplest way of monetizing. However, you will need a lot of traffic to your app to make any significant income from this approach.

Other advertising network platforms that you can use are; Unity ads for Unity games, MoPup, Audience Network, Verizon, Adcolony, etc.

  • Affiliate Marketing: simply put is a process where you refer customers to other companies and they pay you if the customer buys the product you referred them to.

This is a good approach if you have a specified audience (niche). There are many companies out there offering affiliate programs. One of the best and easy places to start is the Amazon Associate Program.

  • Subscriptions: You can provide an app for free with a few features and add a premium monthly or yearly subscription to unlock all the features.
  • Sponsorship: You can partner with other brands that are interested in your audience. You can post sponsored content in your app for a fee.
  • In-app Purchases: This is one of the best approaches to monetizing your app, especially if it’s a game. You can sell Virtual items within your app for real money. Many games make millions of dollars this way.

Candy Crush by King is one of the best examples that earns millions of dollars from In-app purchases.

  • Selling your own goods and Services. You can also sell your goods and services to your audience. This helps you to earn cash directly from your apps.
  • Transaction Commission: you can also set up your platform as a medium of transactions and earn a commission from every transaction made on your platform.
  • Sell Your App: You can also ultimately sell your app

There are many other ways of monetizing which may not be specifically categorized. As you work with Mobile applications, you will learn more and more ways of monetization.

Go ahead and make your mobile app and publish it to the app store, it might just be the next big thing.