How To Create Your First iPhone App (2012 Edition)

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Update: 01/10/2012: The original version of this article by Jen Gordon was published in August 2009. It was thoroughly revised and updated by the author in September 2012. — Editorial Team

Since the iTunes App Store launched in 2008, over 500,000 apps have been approved by Apple, and thousands more app ideas are scrawled on napkins across the world every day. But question remains, how can a person with limited technical skills create an iPhone app?

How To Create Your First iPhone App1

The good news is anyone can make an iPhone app, it’s just a matter of knowing the series of actions you need to take to make it happen. Be sure to bookmark this article because it will serve as a guide for learning the process for creating your first iPhone app, going step by step from idea to the App Store.

What Is Your Goal?

The first thing to look at when embarking on any product development or entrepreneurial venture is your goals for the project. Having a vision of what you want to achieve at the outset is an important barometer that will confirm whether the development process is heading in the right direction.

Define Your Project Goal2

Let’s look at an example. Jim is an “idea person” who wants to create an app that brings in passive income but that doesn’t require him to quit his day job. Jim understands that to achieve this goal, he will need to employ others who can do the work of updating the app, fielding customer questions, responding to feature requests, etc. If Jim hadn’t defined this goal in advance, it’s likely that he:

  • would not have planned in advance to hire help,
  • would be unhappy with the time commitment required for him to take on the work personally.

Whether you’re an individual like Jim, a marketing director, or an IT professional creating apps for internal use, having a project goal will help make your app development process a success.

Here are some examples of project goals:

  • Create an app that doesn’t require hands-on day-to-day management.
  • Create an app that becomes a full-time business for me and a team.
  • Create an app that promotes my existing product or service.
  • Create an app that is purely for fun and not for profit.

Action item: Write down the goal you hope to achieve by creating this app.

What Are Your Expectations?

When I consult with people who have ideas for iPhone and iPad apps, the question they most frequently ask is, “How much can I expect to make?” Unfortunately, this is difficult to answer. The following factors are unique for each application:

  • Cost to produce,
  • Popularity,
  • People responsible for managing its success.

All of these factors contribute to the financial success of your app. Base your expectations on this knowledge and on the documented proof that a wide variety of people are making profitable apps every day:

Realistic revenue projections will be different for each app, but here’s an example:

ABC application will show a profit of 10% in the first 60 days after launch, based on the success of XYZ application, which has a similar user base and functionality.

Individuals and companies alike are creating apps to solve problems and to entertain, and yet the process of making apps is still cloaked in mystery. Next, we’ll look at what goes on behind the scenes of an app’s creation and give you a step-by-step process for making your own idea a reality.

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/create-first-iphone-app.jpg
  2. 2 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/define-a-goal.png
  3. 3 http://www.gogogabi.com/
  4. 4 http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fitunes.apple.com%2Fus%2Fartist%2Flima-sky%2Fid285874818&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNHNfDb27tSOpnFjAP8GXG9S_SzGzg
  5. 5 http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/driftlab-inc./id405957092
  6. 6 http://montessorium.com/
  7. 7 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jesus-calling-devotional-by/id444553118?mt=8
  8. 8 http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/electronic-arts/id284800461?mt=8
  9. 9 http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/zynga/id295913422?mt=8
  10. 10 http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/mlb.com/id281969992
  11. 11 http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/disney/id284888248?mt=8

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Jen Gordon is a designer, writer and founder of mobile design training site, Tapptics. She teaches Idea People how to make apps here. She teaches fellow designers and developers how to create beautiful and usable apps here.

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  1. 1

    Way do you NOT telling me how to create an APP

    -2
  2. 352

    I found the article very interesting, however i always have this doubt… what about avoiding programmers and designer from stealing you ideas when showing them your sketchs and so on? do you guys think it is common to have problems with that? or as you said the would lack the 80% or 60% that marketing efforts represent in a successful app?

    2
  3. 703

    We are trying to create an app for our company first, that will lead into our industry.. I have a process to start small with my company and then expand in future releases and versions.. This article was very informative.. Any developers, designers and the likes please send me your info and qualifications.. I am ready to move forward immediately once we build the team to make this happen.. I will need nondisclosure statements, this is a hired gig but feedback and better ideas are always rewarded.. shoot me an email with your info if you are on the development side, I do not have time to do much more than help design the structure and some project management assistance.. Emial greg9706@gmail.com..

    0
  4. 1054

    Interesting “How To” when Step 4, the first step that gets close to the creating of the actual app says to hire others to create it. Of course we can hire others to market, to program and design… I thought reading about how to create an application meant I’d be reading about how to create it.
    This isn’t a guide to creating an app. It’s a guide to preparing and marketing one and that’s all.
    Besides my criticism, however, I do thank you for the interesting tips.

    1
  5. 1405

    hi, i tried to do this in school.. i got suspended, so im bored and right now, im in the principals office getting suspender….. :( thx a lot, IHU and btw… this didnt work.

    ppppppppppppppppppppooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooopppppppppp

    6
  6. 1756

    I have an idea for an app that could generate lots of $$ but free to the public. I am an idea person with no IT experience but would be willing to negotiate a hefty percentage to the person who could develop it. Where would I start?

    0
  7. 2107

    This is a great article….i feel apps for disabled is the in thing. my friend recently developed one such app for blind people. he was awarded by numerous organisations. i think people new to developing should try out this one course…its really helpful… check out http://www.wiziq.com/course/13809-iphone-app-development-xcode-cocoa-framework-jquery-phonegap

    0
  8. 2458

    G’day there, I currently have a very promising idea for a App that has not been made. The App targets a very high percentage of people as it is associated with a activity that provides entertainment and relaxation.
    I have already brainstormed the design and how I would like it perform to help to user gain the information the require as easy as possible.
    I am willing the negotiate % of the revenues and profit, with the right development team.
    If you could help me gain feed back on this App and wether the idea of this App would be a successful investment please email me.
    Cheers

    0
  9. 2809

    This is well written tutorial to understand how to create first iPhone app? All steps are good and easy to understand for everyone. It’s good for the one who want to learn and start iPhone app as a career field.

    1
  10. 3160

    This post was extremely helpful. Thank you!

    2
  11. 3511

    i love apps!

    1
  12. 3862

    Hi there. As I googled requirements for making iPhone apps I chose this site to read. I’d love to keep reading the comments and gaining feedback as to successfully making apps. I’m about to read this entire article and see what precious gems I can gain. If I’m missing any updates please advise me.

    -2
  13. 4213

    Building native iOS and Android apps is no longer a problem. DIY platfroms like SnAPPii can help you create your own app in hours without difficulties in submitting apps to stores. An ability to connect those apps to any web services makes them a good alternative to custom developers’ apps

    0
  14. 4564

    What a great, easy to consume article that covers most of the phases of the App Development Process. Anyone keen on developing apps needs to remember, there is also the all important testing phase and the maintenance phase. A quick tip when budgeting for your first app: make sure you leave enough funding to support your testing, marketing and maintenance (updates). Non Tech app Development

    0
  15. 4915

    Why there sure are a lot of App experts in here…he said sarcastically

    1
  16. 5266

    I’m currently working on an app that allows you to fart into your phone, transmit it through txt msg, and when the recipient opens the text they will feel the annihilation of your rectum.

    0
  17. 5617

    **Why, why why?** No one here is clear on why they want code or invent. If you need to make money to feed your self and family forget it. If you have money already and want to mess about because you are curious that’s fine but don’t expect to make a profit. If you are a sponge and love to soak up knowledge and want to get the construction set out, that’s OK too but again…..not an earner. It’s an urban myth that Applications or Apps is where the money is. It’s been created by the myriad of companies drooling over your cash and love nothing better than levering you away from it. Be very clear why you want to IP an app, code it up or outsource it and get it to market. One of the most important parts is ‘making the sale’. Having an app idea or coding it up is nothing if it’s not sold and a sale is not made until the money is in the bank, cleared and yours. After that you can work out your NET profit and decide to re-invest or cream off some for yourself. Be very clear on the ‘a sale is not made until the money is in the bank’. If this does not happen then you are most probably a hobbyist, semi-professional, fantasist and naive. Harsh I know, but build a bridge and get over it. Don’t forget to charge yourself for your time too. factor that in or you are cheating. What is the value of 5 hours with your kids, family or besties hanging out having a really good night out? Priceless. So is the app thing really worth doing? Never ask you friends and family what they think, you will get wildly inaccurate feedback. making money from apps involves a lot of hard to work building a sustainable Brand along with the app. Any money you spend on your app should be gambling money and you should be prepared to lose it (including your time).

    -1
  18. 5968

    Me and my friends came up with this idea of making an app for mums who send their daughters to the local school. We wanted our kids to get together in their holidays, plan activities, watch movies together, etc. All of us have smartphones and we thought – there should be an app that helps us organise get-togethers for our children. We ended up enrolling in an online course at App Instruct and spent several afternoons every week on an an app idea. When we finished the course, we knew what we wanted and engaged a family friend to build an iOS app. App Instruct’s modular approach for app entrepreneurs helped us in planning for an app that we all wanted.

    0
  19. 6319

    If you are looking for an inexpensive way to create iOS,Android and HTML5 web apps you will probably find the cloud-based platform Snappii helpful and easy to use. Even if you are not a programmer this app building platform will allow making custom native apps in hours.

    0
  20. 6670

    You won’t need to choose whether your app should be native or HTML5 as there’re lots of cloud-based services which allow making a single app that’s distibuted to all major platforms such as iOS,Android and HTML5. I’m using Snappii service currently because they offer great features that can be implemented even without coding.

    0
  21. 7021

    Thanks for sharing great resource. This is really going to help me.

    0
  22. 7372

    Here is a great video on some tips to make your iPhone apps even better! You should check it out at: vimeo. Happy developing!

    0
  23. 7723

    For those with no development experience, who would like an app to promote their small to medium enterprise, or themselves personally: http://www.zapplify.com . Very simple interface, with some essential retail chain features, and the ability to create unlimited linked pages with user-defined content.

    0
  24. 8074

    Ok I need help I have a great ideal nobody out there has anything remotely close to what I have in mind. I work in a very large and growing industry. And I know that I can make lots of money off of this and save people money at the same time. Do I have your attention yet. NO ! $$$$$$$ how about now.

    This is what I need I need somebody to make the app for me. I can do some advertising. And I can provide all the materials you will need to make it accurate. And also explanation in detail how everything is to work.

    If everything goes as plan and the app works then there is another app ideal that I have to connect to the first. Reason for the second app. Is well I can’t say just yet I know this can and will work so I don’t want to divulge to much information.

    So who Is a programmer ?
    Or who knows where I can go to get this done and just start making money off of it

    0
  25. 8425

    Hi there. My goal is to find someone with the skill and experience in creating game apps I have ideas and stories, even games I’ve been working on paper for months now. I wish to begin the creation of an old school style random dice rpg.

    If there are any designers out there I wish to share these idieas with you

    0
  26. 8776

    Thanks so much. You made something so daunting seem very manageable now.

    0
  27. 9127

    Hey guys, I’m a young business marketing student and I’ve platformed what I believe is a great idea for another social networking application. I believe it will interest all crowds just like it’s neighbour apps; Facebook,Instagram,snapchat, and twitter. I’m uneducated in going about creating this app..I’ve spoke with many other university and college students and they believe my idea would be of great sufficiency, let me know if you have any ideas on how to get this rolling.
    Cheers

    0
  28. 9478

    I want to Create a game because it will be fun for others to have fun

    0
  29. 9829

    This will be for me and my friends to challenge and compete against each other

    0
  30. 10180

    Revolting Pensioner

    February 12, 2014 1:14 pm

    How do you PROTECT your Intellectual Copyright ? Once you “Discus” any Idea, then you have let it out into the Big Wide World, so PROTECTING your idea is essential. HOW is that achieved ?

    0
  31. 10531

    damn, so what if you actually want to do an app out of the love for the subject/purpose of the app — up sh!ts creek. lol.

    0
  32. 10882

    Developing first application can be a bit of daunting task, but following these steps can really make the whole process extremely interesting and fascinating. However, you can also visit http://www.mobiers.com for any kind of relevant suggestions and advices as you can find it more amazing to develop your first iPhone app with their best advices.

    1
  33. 11233

    Hi I’m looking for someone that can help me create a good idea into an app. I have an idea that could make money and fast with no cost exept for the cost of an app and maybe a website. It has a lot of potential and I do belive it’s a market for everyone. I live In the United Kingdom and need to talk to someone about it. If that’s possible I’m happy to do a deal with the person that can help me with this process.

    0
  34. 11584

    Very nice article!
    I think such kind of articles should be constantly moderated and updated with some new links and insights about iPhone app development process because the industry constantly evolves.

    I’d like to mention one very important thing while choosing app designer from Dribbble. This website usually doesn’t allow potential clients to find the right UX skills, Dribbble is all about beautiful pixels only. For this reason I’d offer to find designers on Behance too. They have much more useful long feed format for projects.

    Also if you are serious about your app and you have a funding, I’d recommend to hire an agency that can be found on google search by ‘iPhone app design company’ or Dribbble Teams and also if you don’t mind I’d recommend an award-winning iPhone app design and development company http:// ramotion. com

    0
  35. 11935

    As some others have noted, Xcode 5 appears to be much different. We don’t have the three checkbox options (use storyboards, use automatic reference counting, include unit tests).

    1
  36. 12286

    I am confused how and where to make an app.

    1
  37. 12637

    I found lots of interesting information here. The post was professionally written and I feel like the author has extensive knowledge in this subject. Thanks for sharing such a amazing guide on iPhone app development

    1

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