If you want to build an iPhone app in 2020 you have plenty of options.
The first is app builders, which have made it easy for people without a large budget or knowledge of coding to build a personalized app. You just choose the features you want, add the content, and your app is ready to go.
Meanwhile, e-learning platforms have made getting to grips with Swift—the Apple coding language—easier than ever. This gives anyone with time and determination the tools they need to build an iOS app from scratch.
If you want to leave the app creation process to a professional, hiring a developer is now easier than ever due to platforms like Upwork.
Whichever way you choose to build your iOS app, the steps you use will be similar. You have to plan your app, build it, test it, and then launch it to the public.
In this article, we’ll go through the entire iPhone app development process to show you what you need to do at each stage.
Table of Contents
How to Make an iPhone App in Eight Simple Steps
Define Why You Want to Build an App
The first step to making a great app is to define why you want one.
This stage is essential as it will dictate what you do during all the other parts of the iPhone app development process. Once you know what your app is for, you can be sure that all the features you add to it will push you towards this goal.
To define why you want an app, think about which of your business goals it will help you achieve.
The key is to be specific.
Simply saying that you want an app to increase sales of your product isn’t much help, as there are many ways you could do this.
Instead, consider whether there is a specific problem your business is struggling to overcome.
- Retailers with a high customer churn rate may want a way to encourage repeat buyers.
- An independent radio station may want to increase customer interaction.
- A restaurant or takeaway service may want to reduce its reliance on takeaway aggregator apps by providing a takeaway service of its own.
Consider the Features That Will Help Solve This Problem
Once you have defined your problem, you can begin to ask how an app will help to solve it.
Start by writing down some features that you think will help. Make sure all these features push you towards the goal.
If you are unsure about exactly what it is that you want your app to do, the next step on competitor research will help with inspiration.
What Is Your Budget?
At this stage, you can also begin to think about how much money you want to spend on your app as this will define how you build it.
There are many ways you can build an app, and we will explore these in more detail later on in this post.
Here is a quick summary of the options in order of cheapest to most expensive:
- Code the app yourself. This is the cheapest way to build an app, although it requires a lot of time and expertise.
- Use an app builder. App building platforms like AppInstitute allow businesses to create an app based on customizable templates. It’s similar to the way you might use Wix or Squarespace to build a website. App builders are a cost-effective option for businesses on a budget, and they allow you to create an app without any knowledge of code.
- Pay a developer. Paying a developer to build an app for you is one way to get a fully customized app. This is the most expensive option.
Perform Competitor Research
The next step is to check out your competitors for inspiration. This will show you how other businesses in your industry are using their app. It can point to issues you should watch out for, as well as any features that might be useful.
You may already be aware of companies in your space that have apps.
Most coffee shop owners know that Starbucks has an incredibly popular app. Therefore, it makes sense for those in the coffee industry to check out the features Starbucks offers.
Even if you don’t know of any competing apps, it’s usually easy to find some. Just perform a Google search or head over to the appropriate category on the App Store.
Start by searching for large companies within your industry.
Try the Apps Yourself
Once you have downloaded some competitor apps, it’s time to try them out. Make a note of the features these apps have and what you like or dislike about them.
- What do you think is particularly useful about the app? Are there any features that you really enjoy using, and if so what is it that you enjoy about them?
- Is there anything that you think either doesn’t offer value to the user or could be improved? If so, how would you improve it?
- What are the main features of the app, and what are the secondary features? Consider how the company has structured the app.
- What does the app do to encourage people to use it? Is there a signup offer? Or does it send frequent notifications?
- What menus does the app use and how easy is it to navigate? Consider where the app places each of its features and whether you wish any were more visible.
Check Customer Reviews
You should also check out customer reviews on the App Store to see what people are saying about the app.
If there are common complaints, make a note of them so you can avoid the same mistakes when building your app. On the other hand, if many people say they enjoy a specific feature that wasn’t originally in your plan you should consider adding it.
Here’s a customer review of the Starbucks app:
This has lots of information that a coffee shop owner can use when creating their app. The customer starts by highlighting that a useful feature is the ability to order on their mobile and then pick up the drinks from the store. This is common throughout many reviews.
The reviewer also mentions a negative, which is that people don’t have as much freedom when ordering through the app.
Therefore, a coffee shop owner can pull two things from the review:
- That they should include in-app ordering and pick up.
- That they should ensure people have access to the full menu from within the app.
When checking reviews, be sure to read a wide range of evaluations. This will ensure you are acting on broader points about the app, not just the complaints of someone who had a bad day.
For example, the below review only gives the app one star. The customer’s anger is more focused on their experience of the people who use the app and the Starbucks customer service rather than being specific to the app itself.
Survey Potential Users
The final step to take before planning the details of your app is to survey the people who are going to use it. This will show you if the features you are planning to add are ones your customers will find useful, as well as whether you are missing anything.
If you are an existing business, ask your customers to fill out the survey. Regular, loyal customers are likely to be happy to help.
You could also encourage people to complete the survey by offering a discount or a freebie.
When collecting responses, be sure to get answers from all the demographics who use your business to ensure you aren’t limited to the opinions of one group.
Here are some best practices for building a survey.
- Be aware of the recipient’s time. Try to keep the survey as short as possible and ensure that you only ask essential questions.
- Make your questions clear and easy to answer. Ensure each question is only asking a single thing and that they aren’t leading with any bias.
- When providing answers, be sure that all possible replies are covered with the options you provide. Otherwise, people may check answers that don’t apply to them just to get to the next questions. One way you can avoid this is always to include a neutral option such as “not applicable.”
- Test your survey out on a small number of participants first to see if any parts are confusing. This allows you to make changes before doing a full rollout.
How to Create a Survey for Your iOS App
You have several options for creating your survey.
First is to simply create it in a Word document, print it out and ask people who visit your business to fill it in.
This is a good way to run a survey as it means customers can complete it in person. The downside is that it can be time-consuming to collate all the answers if lots of people take the survey.
Another option is to create a Google Form and advertise a link to it at your business. This means people can access it anywhere they want, and Google displays the results in an easy-to-read format.
You can find out more about Google Forms in this blog post.
When creating questions for your survey, be sure to cover all bases. Ask broader questions about the app and its features while also exploring the smaller details.
For example, a restaurant could start by asking questions about whether people would use a loyalty service at their restaurant and then dig deeper into the details of the service.
Once you have some responses to your survey, it’s time to look at your answers and see what people think about your idea.
Plan Your App
At this point, you should have all the information you need to go ahead and plan your app.
Using the information collected from your competitor research and your surveys, write down all the features you want to build. Include details about how these features will work as well as information about how you will present them.
For example, if you want to allow customers to order from your store through your app you’ll need to consider:
- How you will take payments.
- How you will display your products.
- Whether you will require customers to log in before buying.
- How you will link the app to your existing store.
Core vs Secondary Features
You’ll also need to consider which features you will highlight as core features and which ones will be secondary.
This is important because apps have limited space and you want to ensure your most useful features are the ones that are easiest to access. Put the main features on your homepage or main navigation bar and your secondary features on secondary navigation bars.
If you’re stuck for ideas about how to lay out your app, use existing apps as inspiration.
Consider what these apps include on their home screen, which menu items are easily accessible, and which ones you have to dig a little deeper to find. This can point to the features that customers of the app find most useful.
The image below shows two examples of apps that ensure the main feature the user wants is accessible as soon as they open the app.
When you use a news app on your phone, the first thing you typically see is the main headlines because these are the stories that most people want to access.
Likewise, when you use Google Maps the first thing you see is your area along with the search bar at the top of the screen so you can instantly search for places nearby.
At this point, you can also begin to create any design elements you will need for your app. For example, will you need new logos or images? If so, you should start to collect this material so that when it comes to making your app you will have everything on hand.
Of course, many businesses will already have access to this kind of information through their website or social media profile. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to reuse the same material.
Create a Wireframe
A crucial part of the app-planning process is to create a wireframe. This is a map that shows the screens on your app and what clicking on each element will do.
This is an essential step as it helps you build a compelling user experience.
There are many software tools you can use to create wireframes, including Adobe XD, Illustrator, and Canva (here is a list of software you can use along with the pros and cons of each one).
Alternatively, you can begin by sketching out what you want to include on each screen in a notepad. Don’t get disheartened if this takes some time. You are unlikely to get everything right on the first try, especially if your app has multiple features.
Also, be aware that many app builders have templates that you can use as a starting point when creating your app. If you choose to use one, you won’t have to go into as much detail in this step as the work is already done for you.
You can check out all the AppInstitute templates in our app builder.
Build Your App
Now it’s time to go ahead and build your app. As mentioned previously, there are three main ways you can do this: use an app builder, hire a developer, or code the app from scratch.
Use an App Builder
App builders are the quickest and easiest way to create a professional iPhone app.
The way they work is simple. First, you need to sign up to create an account with the platform. AppInstitute allows you to do this for free so you can check out its features before committing.
Then you need to choose a template for your app. These templates will typically be organized based on the business type. All the features these businesses need are included within the template.
Once you have selected a template, you can begin to personalize it by adding your logo, images, and information about your company in the relevant places.
At AppInstitute, we have a feature that lets you connect the app builder to your website and social media profiles. This automatically populates your app with the most useful information about your business.
The third step is to customize the template. If you want to add extra content or features to your app, you can easily do so by using the app builder. You can also choose where you want to add the feature and how you want to access it.
Code the App Yourself
The second option is to code the app yourself. This is the most time-consuming choice, and for many businesses this option falls outside their skillset.
Nonetheless, if you’re willing to put in the effort to learn how to code you’ll end up with a useful skill that will stay with you forever.
To create an iPhone application from scratch you’ll need to learn Swift. This is the programming language used to design iPhone apps.
Then you’ll need to download XCode, which is the software you will use to create your app.
Having the software is one thing, but actually learning how to code is another thing entirely. If you don’t have experience with coding, you’ll need to take a course.
The good news is that it’s possible to learn how to make an iPhone app on your own. You’ll just need to spend a bit of time getting to grips with how to do it.
While it won’t be the quickest way to create an app, it will be a fun learning experience. Here are some resources you can use to learn how to code an iPhone app:
- This course on Udemy has a 4.7 star review from over 35,000 ratings and promises to build you up from someone without any programming experience to someone who can create an app.
- Treehouse is a popular platform for learning to code in a variety of different languages. It has a course dedicated to teaching beginners how to build apps with Swift.
- Coursera has a variety of free courses from top eLearning platforms and universities that teach you how to code using Swift.
One thing that you should be aware of before you start is that XCode is easiest to use if you have a Mac or a Linux device. If you have a Windows PC, you will have to access a third-party service that allows you to use a Mac remotely or attempts to run a virtual Mac or your PC.
You can read more about the best virtual Mac software in this article by Tech Radar.
Pay a Developer
The final way to build you iOS is to pay a developer to do so. You’ll need to work with an expert to finalize the plan for your app and then actually put it into practice.
The first step is finding a good app developer within your budget. Assuming you don’t want to hire a full-time developer to be part of your team, you’ll need to hire a freelancer or an agency to build your app.
To find someone to build your app on Upwork, head over to the website and then perform a search for an iOS app developer. This will reveal a list of freelancers that fit the description.
Look at their profile, job success score, and past projects. The freelancers will also provide an hourly price so you can get an estimate of how much they will charge you.
Many freelancers will also have a popular projects section which will line out how much they charge for a specific project. Searching here can provide a better estimate of the cost of your app than looking at the hourly rate, as the time it takes someone to build an app will vary.
If you find a freelancer you like, you can contact them and begin to discuss your project.
An alternative option is to post a job on the site and let freelancers contact you. When you do this, be sure to include information about your project so suitable applicants can apply.
Upwork is a good choice because it offers payment protection and you can see a user’s profile and job history before hiring them. However, it isn’t the only place to find freelancers. You can also check out:
How Much Does It Cost to Build an iOS App?
The price of your app will vary drastically depending on the features you need and the experience of the developer you hire.
Software review company Goodfirms estimated how much it cost to build some popular apps. It looked at products such as Tinder and WhatsApp and calculated that they cost between $40,000 and $100,000 to build.
Assuming your app is going to be more low-key than the ones reviewed by Goodfirms, you should be able to hire a freelancer to build an app for less than this. However, the cost will still be significantly higher than coding the app yourself or using an app builder.
Test Your App
Whichever option you choose to develop your app, one of the final steps of the process is to test it out. There are several ways you can do this.
Test It Using Simulator in XCode
Simulator is a feature of XCode that allows you to virtually test out your app on different Apple devices. To test your app, just select your project, choose the device you want to simulate the app on and then run the app.
You can now test out all the features of the app to make sure everything runs as you expect. If you notice anything doesn’t work how you want it to or if something doesn’t look right, this is the time to change it.
At this stage, you can also test the device out on an Apple device you own by connecting your iPhone or iPad to your computer and then selecting the device through XCode. If you have multiple devices, be sure to test your app on all of them to make sure everything works as it should.
Test the App Internally
The second stage of app testing is to ask your team to test the app. You can do this using Apple’s TestFlight software. TestFlight allows you to invite your team to install, use, and then provide feedback about your app.
To use TestFlight, first you need to upload your app to App Store Connect. You can then add up to 25 team members to test your device. Ask each person to test it on as many devices as possible. At this point, you should also begin to use your app as you would in real life.
For example, a hotel that created an app for managing bookings should ask its internal testers to pretend they are customers and make a booking through the app. By doing this, you’ll be able to get an insight into the customer experience.
At this stage, be sure to ask for feedback not only about technical bugs but also about things that could affect the user experience. For example, is the menu difficult to find? Or would it be helpful to show more information about rooms to make the booking process easier?
Test the App Externally
The final stage of the testing process is to ask people outside your company to test your app.
Apple allows you to beta test your product with up to 10,000 people. To do this, share the public link to your app listing so users can download the app.
At first, it’s best to share the app with a small number of trusted customers. Maybe start with friends or family members and ask them to use the app. As they won’t have had any part in the development process, they will look at your product with fresh eyes and can point out any potential issues you may have missed.
You can then begin to ask other customers to check out your app. Perhaps you have some regulars you trust to provide honest feedback. Another option could be sharing the app with your email list or with the social media followers who actively engage with your product.
There are also platforms out there specifically for providing beta testing services. Betalist.com, Betatesting.com and Betatesters.io allow you to post your app and have people test it and provide feedback.
It’s essential to listen to feedback from beta testers about app features and bugs. If the majority of testers say that they don’t like something or that it’s hard to use, you should seriously consider changing it—even if the feature is something you want to include.
Of course, you don’t need to consider everything. People have different opinions, so if some of your features get a mixed reaction you can use your intuition when deciding whether to make the suggested changes. Remember, you don’t need to please everyone.
Publish Your App
Now you’ve created your app and tested it out, it’s time to publish it to the App Store. To do this, create your App Store product page and then upload your app for review with Apple.
Once Apple accepts your submission, your app will be available to the public.
Create Your App Store Product Page
The App Store product page is the thing that will convince people whether or not to download your app. It consists of your app name, icon, screenshots, description, and reviews.
Presumably, you already have a name for your app. For most businesses, this will just be your company name.
Apple allows the name to be up to 30 characters long, so you can also add further details to help your app show up in search results and provide more information about it. This is especially important if your brand name isn’t recognizable.
Here are some examples of names optimized for search results:
- 1Password – Password Manager
- Darkroom – Photo Editor
- Pacemaker – AI DJ App
You can see how each of these examples includes both the product name and a description of what the app does.
Your app’s icon is the small picture that appears next to your name, and it’s one of the first things users will see. You can use your company logo if you have one that is suitable, or you can create a specific logo just for your app.
If you are struggling for ideas, consider hiring a freelancer on Fiverr. There are plenty of people who will create an icon for you, with prices starting at just $5.
Your app subtitle is a sentence that describes or summarizes your app, so use it to highlight what’s special about your app. A subtitle appears below your title and can be up to 30 characters long. This means you don’t need to include information that is already in your title.
App Previews and Screenshots
Your app preview is a short video—up to 30 seconds—that you can use to show people how to use your app. Each app store listing can have up to three previews.
You can also add screenshots of your app in action. Be sure to choose the most interesting features and pages for your previews and screenshots to grab people’s attention.
Your description is an overview of your app and what it does. Be sure to start off with an engaging sentence as only the first few lines appear without the user having to click to read more. You can go into more detail about your app further down the page.
Consider adding bullet points that list your features and the benefits of your app, as well as customer testimonials.
You can use keywords to help people find your app on the App Store. Choose keywords that accurately describe what it does. Try to avoid broad terms that a lot of apps use as you will struggle to rank in the App Store search engine for these terms.
You can choose keywords that make up a total of 100 characters including commas, so don’t be afraid to use multiple terms.
Promote Your App
Now you have published your app, it’s time to get people to actually use it. Here are some strategies you can use.
Share with Your Online and Offline Audience
The first step for most businesses is to promote the app to their existing audience. Let everyone know about your app, including social media followers and your email list. You can also write a blog post about it or include a page on your website.
If your business has a physical presence, for example a hotel or a gym, you can promote your app throughout your premises, too.
When creating this promotional material, there are several things you should consider.
- Make sure your promotional material clearly explains the benefits of your app so people know why they should download it.
- Make it as easy as possible for people to download the app. On digital material you can simply include a call-to-action with a link to your App Store listing. On physical material you could use an AR code or tell people the specific search terms they should use to find your app on the App Store.
Create an Offer
You can create an offer to incentivize people to download your app.
For example, an ecommerce store could provide everyone who downloads the app with a 20% discount on their first purchase made through the app, or a coffee shop could give away a free drink.
The trick is to come up with an offer that will appeal to your audience. In the below image, you can see that McDonald’s appeals to its customers by offering users the chance to “redeem tasty deals.”
Ask for App Store Reviews
Reviews and ratings affect how your app ranks in the App Store search results. Where appropriate, ask your customers to review your app if they are enjoying it so that it’s more likely to appear in people’s searches.
Attract Press Attention
Another way to promote your app is to get it featured in the local press or on relevant blogs or websites. This will not only promote your app but can also help spread the word about your business.
To get press attention you’ll need a press release. Focus the story on something interesting about your app. Think about what makes it a good story beyond that you are simply releasing an app.
In the press release, be sure to include everything a journalist needs to write a story. This can include:
- Information about your app.
- Quotes from you or your team.
- Relevant, high-quality images.
- Links to your App Store listing.
- Other media, such as videos, that journalists can embed into the story.
- Also include contact information so that writers can speak to you if they need to.
To distribute this information effectively, create a sharable folder on Google Docs or Dropbox and send a link to the folder when you send out your press release.
If you want more information about how to get people to use your app, we have a complete guide to app promotion that you can check out here.
It’s Now Easier than Ever to Create an iPhone App
Hopefully, this article will have given you some inspiration to build your app. It can be a long process, but as long as you plan properly, build a great app, and promote it well, your app is sure to be a success.
If you’d like to build your app now, head over to AppInstitute to get started.