How can I create an app?

It’s hard to imagine our daily lives without apps. Every company – regardless of size or industry – uses the opportunities that apps offer them and their customers. And even private individuals have promising ideas that they want to design as an app. We explain what you need to know about creating an app yourself.

App erstellen - so funktioniert es

Alexandra Müller

App, Guides

It’s hard to imagine our daily lives without apps. Every company – regardless of size or industry – uses the opportunities that apps offer them and their customers. And even private individuals have promising ideas that they want to design as an app. We explain what you need to know to create an app yourself.

What is an app?

App is the short form for “application software”. It is an application program on computers, smartphones or tablets that can provide a wide variety of functions. With the use of apps, the functionality of a device can be advanced, but they do not have any system-related functionality. This means that the device also works without apps. The term “app” became established with the opening of Apple’s App Store. Millions of apps now exist. In the first quarter of 2021, the number of available apps in Google Play Store was around 3.5 million, while Apple had around 2.2 million.

Differences between apps

There are three types of apps, as they can be created using different technologies: native apps, web apps or progressive web apps (PWA), and hybrid apps.

Native apps

Native apps are more or less the original form of apps. They are created specifically for a certain operating system in the related programming language and offered in the stores. Native apps can access specific device functions, such as camera or GPS, and enable the use of certain functions even offline. If you want to create a complex app and have high demands on the smartphone’s performance, native apps are best choice. However, since each app has to be developed individually for the corresponding operating system, there are also high development costs.

Web apps

A web app, or progressive web app (PWA), is a website with features of a native app. Web apps are completely browser-based and therefore independent of operating systems. Accordingly, only one cross-platform version needs to be coded, which shortens development time and reduces cost. To use the app, neither a download nor an installation is necessary. Since 2019, it is even possible to offer web apps in Google Play Store. For App Store from Apple, this isn’t available. The disadvantages are the limited functionality and the mandatory need for internet access, as the apps cannot be used offline.

Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps are a combination of web apps and native apps. They are based on web technologies such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, but run in a webview container. This allows hybrid apps to access most of the features of respective operating systems. It is also possible to publish hybrid apps in Apple’s App Store as well as Google Play Store. Since only one mobile app has to be created for iOS and Android, development time and effort are lower than for a native application, which in turn means lower costs. In terms of performance, however, hybrid apps cannot keep up with native apps, which means that the user experience also suffers.

Coding apps – how does it work?

Programming an app is not easy, as you need to know one or more programming languages to do it. There are different operating systems that are not compatible. This means that you have to learn a specific programming language for each manufacturer. Basically, apps need to be coded for Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems, as they dominate the smartphone market. Other systems, such as Blackberry OS and Windows Phone, do not offer any economic added value. Therefore, we want to introduce you to Apple iOS and Google Android as below.

Coding apps for iOS

Apple uses the iOS operating system for all of its devices. To create apps, you need to know the Objective-C or Swift programming languages. There is also an official programming software called Xcode, which is provided by Apple free of charge. MacBook users – and only them – can download Xcode from the App Store with an Apple ID. The iOS SDK (Software Development Kit) is necessary for installation. Within Xcode, an application can finally be created using the programming languages.

Coding apps for Android

In contrast to iOS, Google’s Android operating system is used on many different smartphones and tablets. The basic requirement for coding apps is the Java programming language. If you have knowledge of C++, you will also quickly get to learn Java, as the two languages are very similar.

The most common development environment for programming an Android app is Android Studio. To use Android Studio, you also need to install the latest versions of Android SDK and Java Development Kit (JDK). The programs can be used on any computer and are free of charge. Android Studio was developed by Google just like the Android operating system and therefore includes all specific features.

How does the app appear in the store?

If you want to offer an app in the store, the procedure again depends on the operating system.

Apple’s App Store requires registration as a developer. There is also an annual fee. This amounts to 99 € for private providers or 299 € for companies. Apple also receives a provision on the sales of your app.

Publishing to Apple’s App Store step by step:

  1. Sign up for the Apple Developer Program with your Apple ID. Go to the “Enroll” page and start the registration process. If you are offering your app as an individual, you only need to provide your credit card details. Companies must also provide their tax and DUNS number. You can get the DUNS number for free on the website of the economy service company Dun & Bradstreet.
  2. Log in to the App Store Connect page. You can create a new app by clicking the “+” icon. Then you can choose a name and description for your app and upload screenshots.
  3. Test your app with Testflight or Xcode for bugs and check if all store guidelines are fulfilled.
  4. Now you can upload your app to the App Store using Xcode. You will receive a code that you need to send in via App Store Connect for verification. Following this, you will need to answer a few more questions about your app.

If you want to publish your app in Google Play Store, you need a Google account and a developer account linked to it. You will also need to provide your credit card details.

Publishing to Google Play Store step by step:

  1. Open Google developer page and link your Google account with Developer Console.
  2. Now you need to agree to the ” developer agreements” and pay a one-time $25 fee by credit card. After that, fill out your developer profile and upload your app as a signature APK file.
  3. You will get to the administration page. There you can define specific settings as well as specifying and checking information. Some information is mandatory. For example, you need to upload screenshots of your app, set a title and description, and add a graphic and category.
  4. Fill in the remaining details and configure the app-specific settings. After that, you can upload your app. After a check, your app will be listed in Google Play Store.

Automatic app creation

Even if you have programming language skills, it is not that easy to code an app. An app builder can help you. Such tools are quite intuitive to use and do the coding for you. All you have to do is select the functions and designs you want from predefined elements and put them together using drag-and-drop. Usually, there is a monthly fee for app building kits.

Open as App gives you the opportunity to create apps automatically using a no-code platform – with minimal effort. Data from spreadsheets and databases are easily converted into functional apps. Calculations are transferred directly and do not need to be rebuilt. Dashboards, tables and surveys can also be imported automatically without additional coding. You can see the first prototype of your app within minutes.

Select a no-code platform cheat sheet

Automatic app creation is not only fast, but also highly cost-efficient and does not require programming skills or a professional software developer. This counts for all stages in the life of an app: the building, deploying, publication, and maintenance. This means that truly anyone can create an app via no-code platform, which revolutionizes the app-building process.

How to select your no-code platform for app development

Design tips for your app

In addition to the functions, the design of your app also has a key role to play. The basic rules include a user-friendly interface, easy-to-understand functions and a clear design. Here is a list of the top tips for you:

  1. Clarity and simplicity: the design of your app should not overshadow its purpose. Make sure it has a clear and focused look. For example, you can use white space to divide different areas and highlight important content.
  2. Color schemes: How you use colors is crucial for the usability of your app. Select one or two colors and use them consistently across the menus, buttons, and background of your app. In addition, adapt your colors to your corporate design and use your company brand colors so that customers can identify you.
  3. Texts and fonts: Avoid overloading your app with too much text. Instead, your content should be concise and well-thought-out. Single-line text on buttons and clickable links work better. Using fewer, but well-chosen words boost the user experience hugely.
  4. Visuals: Use images only if they add value to the user. Images grab the user’s attention and can create an unnecessary distraction.

When you choose Open as App as your no-code platform, you automatically can use many of the pre-designed features that it offers. But you are always free to choose the design and layout of the elements in your app.

Become a no-code platform expert with our glossary of common terms and acronyms.

Testing and sharing your app

After your app is created, you can finally publish it. It is recommended here to let a small group of users test the app first. These should be people who are passionate about your project and have some understanding of your business and its processes. The testing period is a key phase where you will gain learnings on how to further improve your app.

With Open as App, you get different release options for different security levels. You can first launch your app in Private Mode and invite specific people to test it. In Public Mode, you can share your app via link, QR code, or on social media. For bigger companies, Open as App also offers centralized security features, so you can use the platform with all security requirements in place.

What are the costs of coding an app?

The traditional way of app creation is costly and resource intensive. If you are not a professional when it comes to programming languages, a professional app developer needs to be hired. An app cost calculator will give you a rough idea of the cost. Besides creating, there are costs for publishing the app in the store.

In comparison, using no-code platforms like Open as App is much cheaper. With Open as App, you even have the option to create a free version. You can learn more about the cost here.

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