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iOS Development: 8 Steps to Take to Develop Your First App

Joana Almeida
Software Developer - - - 3 min. to read

iOS App development can be daunting for the uninitiated, but it doesn’t have to be! If you know the tools to start with and the methods to build your first app, you can get quicker results that will excite you and your team, and you’ll want to keep expanding it and developing more.

Are you ready to learn how to develop an app? You’ve come to the right place! Let’s begin!

How Do You Develop Your First iOS App? What’s the Process?

Before delving into the details and intricacies needed to know how to develop iOS apps, it’s important to know the basics.

iOS app development, especially when talking about corporate endeavors, will usually follow a rigorous process with a variation of these steps:

  1. Decide on an app idea and perform marketing research
  2. List the app’s features
  3. Create mock-ups for the app
  4. Develop the app and its features
  5. Create a marketing strategy
  6. Submit your app to mobile app stores
  7. Market your app
  8. Keep developing your app post-launch

However, the inner workings of these steps can be quite varied depending on the type of app and its target platforms.

Now that we know the basics of app development, we can answer ” How do I develop my first iOS app?” Let’s fill in the previously introduced steps with iOS-specific instructions.

how to build an app for ios

1. Decide On An App Idea And Perform Marketing Research

Before you build your first iOS app, you’ll need to decide exactly what the app will be about. There are two main ways in which you can land on your app’s idea:

  • Improve an existing app: When we use our apps, we will usually think along the terms of “it would be perfect if this app had this feature.” Odds are if you think that, a large portion of users of that app will think the same and would change to a new app if it had that feature. This method works especially well if the app is still popular but no longer maintained or doesn’t plan on adding those features anytime soon.
  • A solution to a problem: You often face problems in your daily life that an app could solve or at least remedy. These are often great points of inspiration for finding new ideas that will revolutionize the market.

After that:

After deciding your app’s focus, it’s time to search for similar apps in the market. These will be your main competitors, and it’s important to look at them not only to find ways to improve your own app idea but also to realistically analyze if it’s worthwhile to develop a competing app.

When starting out, you’ll usually want to stick to competing with smaller apps since the big apps will have many complex features, which makes it hard for a fledgling development team to compete with them. Also, people are more likely to keep using an app if it has brand recognition and will not easily change to a new app unless it offers extremely enticing features.

Another aspect to keep in mind is the types of markets you want to enter. If you want to develop an app exclusively for iOS and/or iPadOS, you only need to look at Apple’s App Store to investigate your competition. If you’re looking to develop a multi-platform app, including Android and iOS, you’ll need to look in both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store for alternatives and competitors.

Can I Develop An iOS App For Myself?

The short answer is yes!

An app that you find useful will have an audience of like-minded people who will resonate with your idea. You should try to find these people and get them to at least help you test your application. They will represent your target audience, and their opinions should be valued. Involving them in your development process can bring you unexpected insight and benefits!

2. List The App’s Features

Before starting any other work, it’s a good idea to list the features you want to include in your app after looking at your competition and analyzing the market. From there, choose a small subset of the most important (and viable) to include on release. These will be the ones to focus on during development at the start.

You can and should add the remaining features after launch and during the application’s lifetime to keep it fresh and broaden the user base. But as a starting point, it’s best to have a few well-implemented features. This is especially the case if you have a small team and strong competitors.

3. Create Mock-Ups For The App

A mock-up is a way to preview how your app will look and function without implementing it. It’s usually done either digitally or on paper and it simulates the user interactions so you can spot usability and navigation issues early on and correct them before they are implemented, at which point changes are usually more costly both in terms of time and budget.

At this time it’s also important to define the visual language of the app and how it will integrate with Apple’s interface guidelines for apps.

4. Develop The App And Its Features

You’ve done all you can to prepare your app development, so now is the time to make iOS apps.

The first step in developing an iOS app is to assemble a team

If you lack expertise in developing apps for Apple’s ecosystem, you should consider hiring professional developers with the right skills to help you translate your ideas, functionalities, and designs to the highest standards possible.

Before you start the development properly, however, there is one major consideration you should have: decide between developing a native app or a hybrid app.

Native vs Hybris Apps:

Native apps will usually have slightly better performance, but you’ll need to develop the app from scratch for each different operating system you want your app to feature in. Creating Apple apps will be mostly the same whether you’re developing iPad apps or iPhone apps. You’ll need developers with expertise in the Swift programming language and each of them should have access to a copy of Xcode to build and later publish your app to Apple’s App Store.

If you want to develop iOS apps on Windows, you’ll need to run the macOS operating system on a virtual machine. To do this, install macOS on the virtual machine, install Xcode, and proceed from there.

Hybrid apps, on the other hand, are made using platforms where you write the code once and port it to several platforms, while developing the interface for each operating system separately. This can be extremely advantageous since correcting bugs and adding new features requires less development time.

After this, you can start developing your app. A good idea is to introduce features one by one and test them immediately with competitors’ users to gather feedback and catch bugs and other errors. This method is usually called developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and it is invaluable for improving your product and making it ready to launch as soon as possible.

During development, you should focus on critical bugs and leave the more niche and harmless ones to be sorted out later. At this stage, you want to get a feel for the app, see if it works as you expected, and see if the users resonate with the concept. Otherwise, there is no point in continuing to work on it, and it’s probably best to see if there is a way to salvage the idea or, failing that, start over.

5. Create A Marketing Strategy

If you see your testers resonating with your app and its concept, then you’re in luck! Your app idea has paid off and it’s time to start thinking about how to sell it.

The most important factor here is deciding on the apps’ monetization strategy. There are three main ways to go about this:

  • Totally Free: These types of apps have no cost of entry or operation. They will usually make money with ads or other similar methods.
  • Recurrent Subscription: These apps start out free but include paid packages that you can purchase for a periodic fee to unlock features in the app. You can have tiered subscription packages that unlock an increasing number of features or different subscription packages that unlock specific features.
  • One-time purchase: Your users will need to pay a price to download your app. Users of these types of apps will expect this price to unlock all the app’s functionality.

After this, you need to decide on any relevant price tags for your monetization strategy.

Finally, you’ll need to market your app to let the world know it exists. Depending on the type of app and the methods available at your disposal, you’ll want to run some sort of marketing campaign. This can translate to physical (magazines, newspapers, etc) or digital (websites, social media, etc) ad slots on mediums relevant to the app’s market. Make sure to target physical mediums / websites that the majority of your target audience frequently looks at to have the maximum chance at success.

Another good marketing platform is social media influencers. Talk to a few who might be interested in your app and work out with them a promotion plan for it as it develops so they are ready when it launches.

6. Submit Your App To Mobile App Stores

This is a fairly straightforward process. 

Apple will analyze your App to approve it for the store. To prevent long publishing processes, avoid common mistakes and follow the submission guidelines. The review process can usually take a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on several factors on Apple’s side that you won’t be able to control. Always plan for the worst case and be ready for delays.

To publish an app in Apple’s App Store, you’ll need to pay an annual subscription of $99 for the Apple Developer Program (that goes up to $299 for the enterprise version), so make sure you’ve set that money aside before beginning the publishing process.

7. Market Your App

Your app is finally nearing launch or has just been launched! Time to celebrate!

But the marketing department’s job starts in full force now. You’ll want to follow your marketing strategy and adapt as the app changes and as the competition answers to your app’s disruption.

As new magazines, websites, and influencers gain prominence, pay attention and see if they can be good partners to promote your app. Contact them and establish new avenues of promotion as needed.

8. Keep Developing Your App Post-Launch

If you want to keep your users happy and your app to stay relevant, you’ll want to keep updating it and fixing any bugs that may crop up.

Remember all those features you’ve listed but had to cut down? It’s time to dig them out and start planning which ones you should prioritize implementing based on your users’ feedback. Keep doing this, and over time, you’ll have a feature-complete app that users will find hard to let go of and that will become a part of their everyday lives.

Now You Know!

how to develop ios apps

Now you know the major steps to build an app for iOS! 

Developing an iOS app can be a daunting task, especially if we’re talking about a first project and you’re just starting out. But it doesn’t have to be! If you hire the right people to help you, you’ll be sure to create a successful app that will impact people’s everyday lives.

DistantJob can help you find the developers you need to make your dreams and ideas reality. We have a wide array of expert Swift developers ready to embark on your projects, and we guarantee to find you the people that best fit your company’s culture. What are you waiting for? Contact us!

Joana Almeida

Joana Almeida, with her diverse experience as a programmer and game developer, stands out for her technical writing prowess on DistantJob, a remote IT staffing agency. Her background in software development and video game programming, enhanced by her roles in consulting and freelancing, has sharpened her expertise in areas like game design,tech stacks, UI development, and software development.

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