Breaking news! You can now make apps without becoming an app developer! OK, it’s not really breaking news, but it’s not quite common knowledge either.
There’s still a bit of confusion when it comes to building apps. Many people still think you need to be a developer to build apps. On top of that there are multiple platforms, iOS and Android being the two biggest ones. So people think you need to be an app developer with a specialization in one of the platforms.
Yes, in the early days of apps, you did need to know coding. For an iOS app, you would have to open up XCode and build your app in Objective-C. Not that Objective-C is particularly difficult to comprehend. It simply has a tough-sounding name, which is enough to scare non-coders away.
Fortunately, things have progressed a lot since then. As always, there are two ways to creating an app. You either hire someone else to do it, or you simply build it on your own without coding.
Hire Someone Else
This is the most popular option when it comes to creating apps. Lots of people come up with new app ideas every day, but they either do not have the time or the skills to build it themselves, so they outsource it.
With sites like Freelancer, Elance and oDesk, it’s extremely easy to find someone to develop your app for cheap. Sites like this work on a bidding system, which works in favor of the employer because freelancers tend to undercut each other just to get the job. You might find a developer from India or Philippines bidding at $1/hour where a top professional app development firm in USA or Canada would charge in the hundreds.
Just remember, cheaper is not necessarily better, and yet costlier is not necessarily better either. A high-end professional development firm charging thousands is more likely to build a better app than a freelancer charging hundreds but that’s not a guarantee.
Either way, you still need to be involved in the app development process. You can’t simply pick a firm or freelancer, explain your idea, and then sit back and wait for them to send you the final product.
Manage the process
The first step in the process is due diligence, or making sure you hire the best from all the options you have. Freelance websites provide feedback and rating systems so you can immediately eliminate freelancers with poor records. Firms have their own websites and portfolios with client testimonials.
Once you know whom you are outsourcing to, you need to clearly define the goals and specifications of the project. Set up timelines, deadlines, deliverables and checkpoints. Keep in touch with the freelancer or firm as often as you can, checking up on their progress and correcting course if required.
Outsourcing is not as simple or easy as it sounds. You can’t set it and forget it. While it does save you the time of doing it yourself, you still need to spend some time to manage the process. With the right freelancer and good management, you can create any app. On the flip side, if you don’t do the due diligence and manage the process, you can kiss your hard earned money goodbye.
Do It Yourself
If you don’t have the budget to hire someone, or you don’t feel like you can manage outsourcing, then simply do it yourself.
Just like with web development, app development has seen a plethora of app builder tools coming out over the past few years. Many of these tools allow you to create entire apps in minutes.
This makes it a completely visual process and requires no coding knowledge. Once you know your screen flows and layouts, it’s just a matter of placing the blocks in the right places.
Of course, each tool out there has its strengths and weaknesses. You need to evaluate each one based on your own needs.
From the content-based platform App Factory to GameSalad, which allows you to build mobile games, you can find something that suits your needs. You can also check out these additional services:
These three services above allow you to create your own branded app. You can build in various features like geotagging, notifications, messaging, marketing and sharing of media. Users can then interact with your brand and stay up to date on offers and news related to your brand.
Conduit Mobile has various niche-based features like reservations for restaurants, appointments for services and e-commerce for online stores. On top of that there are analytics layers, marketing tools and social media integrations.
Appsme and Appery allow you to build more generic apps. Appery uses a what-you-see-is-what-you-get drag and drop interface to make an easy task even easier.
Pricing methods also vary with each tool. Some are free while some have high monthly subscriptions. Others have a freemium model where you can use a certain number of features for free but need to upgrade for advanced features. Almost all have the option of custom coding to add even more customization to the app.
Get Started with Your App
So now that we’ve successfully busted the myth that you need to be a Mark Zuckerberg to create apps, it’s time for you to get started building your own. Weigh the various options you have, look at the time and money commitments, and then go ahead and get that idea out of your head and into a mobile phone.
And then, when the time comes, you can sell your app here on Flippa. Have you created your own app without knowing how to code? Please share your experience in the comments.
Photo by: Jenn and Tony Bot
When the time came for Melbourne-based entrepreneur Luke Meehan to publish an app in the App Store, he faced a two-month delay in getting it listed.
It was easy enough—and cheap, costing a one-off fee of just AU$30—to register and publish in the Google Play store. But the Apple Store required him to submit a DUNS number as part of the registration process, which costs AU$99 (a fee that recurs annually).
A DUNS number is “a unique nine-digit identification sequence which provides unique identifiers of single business entities,” according to the website of Dunn & Bradstreet, the organization that issues the numbers.
“That might be common to companies in the US,” says Luke, “but it’s certainly not common to companies in Australia, let alone small startups or small companies.”
And, he points out, it’s probably not common for developers in other countries outside the US.
Different Developers, Different Registration Requirements
Importantly, the DUNS number is only required to join the Standard iOS Developer Program if you’re a company. If you’re an individual or sole trader wanting to publish apps, you can join that same program without the number.
It’s free to register for a DUNS number, but outside the US, it’s not quick.
“If you haven’t got a DUNS number, it takes 15 days for it to be created, then it takes another 15 days for it to actually be replicated across to Apple’s databases.”
“There’s very little communication during the process,” he adds. “The only way to check progress is by emailing support.”
When Luke’s application stalled, he wasn’t alerted to that fact. It was only when he emailed support to find out why the application was taking so long that he was told he needed to provide more information.
A customer service rep from Dunn and Bradstreet told me that the number creation process takes around 4 business days, but updating the DUNS international database, which is used by Apple, can take up to 14 business days.
The information Apple provides on this process suggest much shorter timeframes than Luke experienced, possibly because US DUNS numbers don’t need to be added to the international database before Apple can access them.
But any company outside the US that wants to join the iOS Developer Program needs to know about this lag.
“So when we were starting out, there was a eight-week delay before we could publish an app,” Luke says.
Why Is a DUNS Number Needed?
Apple doesn’t seem to have explained this, though some have speculated that it’s just a simple way of verifying a company’s credentials.
The D&B website explains only that:
“Companies worldwide use the DUNS Number to link information about suppliers, customers and trading partners, providing a more complete picture of the risk and opportunity in their business relationships.”
What It Means for App Owners and Developers
If you’re taking ownership of an iOS app from its original developer, you’ll be needing an iOS Developer Program membership so you can control that app within the App Store, publish new versions of it, add others (if that’s what you have in mind), and so on.
If you’re running a company outside the US, and you don’t have a DUNS number, make sure you allow time for that process to take place as part of joining the iOS Developer Program.
Further, Luke explains that the iOS Developer Program membership registration process really seems to be focused on developers.
“For non-technical sole proprietor small businesses we have to invest a significant amount of time to walk them through the process of obtaining an ID. In some sections, they might as well be reading forms written in a foreign language.”
Will this approach change, as more and more non-technical business people—not developers—are required to gain memberships in order to publish apps they’ve bought (or commissioned)? We’ll have to wait and see.
On the plus side, Luke adds that it’s much easier to publish to the Google Play store where, he says, “the app ID creation process is very simple, very quick.”
“You create an app publishing ID. It costs you $30 as a once-off fee. It’s not recurring like the Apple one, and it’s just a much easier process. There’s no app ID for type A and app ID for type B, and for type B a four-week process to have a credit agency review your application.”
Just as well! App marketplace registration may take time for the new app owner or developer, but once it’s done, it’s done. Have you joined either the App Store or Google Play recently? Share your experience with us in the comments.
Photo credit: Matthew