How to invent an app?

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How do you make an app? From idea to application in 8 steps!

Are you curious about how an app is designed and developed? Are you just interested or perhaps you’d like to make an app yourself? In this article we share a handy step-by-step plan to get from app idea to end product.

How does it work?

There is a lot of time, effort and specialist knowledge involved in designing and developing an app. So it is handy to handle it structurally. To increase the chance that your idea will become a successful iOS or Android app, you can follow the step-by-step plan below.

  • Research your app idea.
  • Work out idea to plan.
  • Functional design of the app.
  • Format graphic design.
  • Development of the app.
  • Test the app.
  • Create final version.
  • Placement in online app stores.

We will now explain step by step on how to do this.

Step 1: Research your app idea.

Before you start designing your own app, it is smart to take a critical look at your idea. How good is the idea you have in mind?

To ensure that the development of your app does not get stuck in the middle of the process or your app turns out to be not as unique as you thought beforehand, it is good to be able to answer a number of important questions in advance. So, here are nine questions to ask yourself before you think about app design or development.

1. What is the purpose of the app?

2. How unique is the app?

3. What is the target group?

4. Do you want an app or a mobile website?

5. What is the business model?

6. What functionalities should the app have?

7. What quality should the app be?

8. How are you going to promote the app?

9. Do you have enough time and budget?

A more detailed look at above 9 questions produces the following.

1. What is the purpose of the app?

  • Why does this app have to be made?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What is the added value for users?
  • What story do you want to tell?

For example, a goal could be to facilitate communication between users, warn users when bad weather is coming, or simply to entertain users.

2. How unique is the app?

  • What gap in the market does this app fill?
  • Which comparable apps or other (digital) solutions already exist?
  • What is the quality of similar apps? Are they free or paid?
  • Is your app idea a better or cheaper solution than the current offers? Does it have unique elements or functionalities?
  • Is there a need for a new variant?

Your idea doesn’t necessarily have to be revolutionary, but it should have unique properties. For example, the Telegram app is not much different from WhatsApp in terms of functions. But when WhatsApp was taken over by Facebook in 2014, many users were concerned about the privacy aspect. Telegram decided to position itself as a safe alternative. A unique element that ensured that many users switched to them.

3. What is the target group?

  • Who is this app for?
  • Can the target group be reached (online)?
  • Is the target audience waiting for this app?

If you use mobile apps a lot, it is of course not easy to imagine, but fact is that not everyone is waiting for an app. Not every target group has a smartphone or tablet and knows how to handle it. It is therefore always good to map and investigate your desired target group.

4. Do you want an app or a mobile website?

  • Do you actually want an app or is a mobile website sufficient?
  • Are you going for a native, web, hybrid or other kind of app?
  • Should the app work on Android, iOS or both?

The development costs of a mobile website are generally lower, the organic findability is greater and no download from an App Store is required. On the other hand, the advantages of an app include that you can use the unique functionalities of the device, that you can send push notifications and that the user experience is focused on the device on which it is used. Also, the graphics of apps are generally better than mobile websites, an app is faster and you do not (always) need the internet to use the app.

Are the above advantages of an app not important to your idea and do you not use the unique functionalities of the device? Then ask yourself whether you should choose a mobile website or app.

5. What is the business model?

  • How will this app pay for itself?
  • How are you going to make money with the app?
  • Is the target audience willing to pay money for this app?
  • Is the target group large enough to make the app profitable?
  • How do you keep users returning to the app?

Of course, not every app is developed with the goal of making a profit. The app can also serve as branding of your brand or support for a specific target group.

If you would like to recoup your investment, there are different revenue models possible. For example, by asking for an amount per app download from the App Store or Google Play Store or by making the app free and offering in-app purchases. An advantage of offering for free is that more people will install the app and try it out.

Make sure to calculate which business model is most profitable for your app. Both Google and Apple take a (considerable) percentage of the turnover with both revenue models.

6. What functionalities should the app have?

  • What should the app be able to do?
  • Do you want to use the device’s camera, GPS or other native functions?
  • What are the minimum and what are the desired functionalities?
  • Which data, payment or social media connections should be made?
  • Should data be able to be changed and managed (remotely)?

By mapping out in advance which functionalities your app should have, you save a lot of time with research and development phase. A developer can also make a realistic estimate of the costs.

7. What quality should the app be?

  • What kind of visual design do you have in mind for this app?
  • Should the app be primarily functional and professional?
  • Do you want a practical flat design or a true digital artwork?
  • Which screens do you want to show and in which order?

The cost of design can add up enormously. Simple screens with text and buttons in the corporate style of your company, for example, are a lot less time-consuming than photo-realistic, custom artwork with award-winning animations. The number of screens that make up the app also plays a major role.

8. How are you going to promote the app?

  • How do you ensure that your target audience knows about the existence of your app?
  • Which channels and marketing will you use?
  • Are you going to invest in App Store Optimization (ASO) and/or marketing?
  • Are there any ambassadors and testers for this app?

Eleven years ago, the App Store started with 500 apps and in 2020 there were already more than 2.5 million. On average, 275 are added per day! There are now so many apps that it is almost no longer possible to be ‘discovered’ from scratch. You will therefore have to think carefully about how you will bring your app to the people.

What is your marketing plan and do you need a large sponsor or promoter? It is a good idea to have any collaborations arranged before the start of production.

9. Do you have enough time and budget?

  • Is there enough time to work out your idea?
  • Is there enough capital?
  • Are there sponsors or investors willing to finance the development?
  • Is there also a budget for support and maintenance?

Most apps take a few weeks to be realized and delivered. First you have to prepare the functional and graphic design, then the code is written and then you have to test.

After the app has been launched, it must also be maintained. In general, the annual cost of app maintenance is about 10 to 15 percent of your development costs. So include those costs in your calculation.

After answering all these questions in this first step.

Have you researched your idea and have you come to the conclusion that the concept is unique (enough) and that a target group is eager to use your app? Congratulations! Time for real action!

Step 2: Working out the idea in a plan.

If you are sure there is a need for your app and that there is not yet something similar, then you can get started! By further developing your idea into a targeted plan, you define the project and make it feasible.

The plan of action should (in any case) include the following:

  • Is the app for iOS, Android or both?
  • Which (native) functionalities should the app have?
  • What kind of app is best suited? – Native, hybrid, web or cross-platform?
  • Which screens does the app consist of?
  • Which content should be made? – Text, video, images, etc.
  • What is the app’s revenue model? Take into account subscription cost and the percentage that Apple or Google charge.
  • What is the target group? Whether the app is used by children or seniors, for example, makes a big difference!
  • Where will the app be used? At home, in the train, on a bicycle or while driving?
  • Does your app meet the rules of the App Store and Google Play Store?
  • Which app promotion will you use when it’s finished?

Step 3: Functional design.

Now that your app is on paper, you can continue with the functional design. The name says it all: the design of the various functionalities that make up your application.

In the functional design you determine which screens the app exactly consists of and how they are linked together. You also determine the location of text blocks, buttons and images per screen.

Check how the app works. What happens when you press a button? Which action is being performed and/or to which page do you click through?

A paper prototype will help you quickly turn your app into something tangible.

We recommend testing a paper prototype on people who are not involved in the development of the app and who are not yet familiar with the idea of ​​your app. It would be very nice to have a test with someone from the ultimate target group.

Questions to ask while testing your prototype:

  • Is the purpose of the app clear?
  • Do all (transitions between) screens make sense?
  • Is something unexpected happening? Are there things that you did not expect?
  • Do you see this app as an addition? Would you use it?

Step 4: Graphic design.

After the functional design, you know exactly which screens, functionalities and content blocks your app is built from. But what will these screens look like? You do this in this phase: the graphic design.

In this phase you determine the main features of the design. What is the corporate identity? Think not only about what is beautiful, but also what will benefit the user experience.

A tip is not to reinvent the wheel, but to start from UX best practices and to use the latest app trends. Pleasant for your users, because they are already unknowingly familiar with the different patterns.

Another tip is to prepare a style guide. In short, this is a list of design rules that go well together. By always falling back on this, you create a design that fits seamlessly together.

Elements of an app style guide include:

  • Color, style and font (size) for headings.
  • Color, style and font (size) for text.
  • Choice and use of colors.
  • Styling of buttons, images, video and frames.
  • Layout of buttons.
  • Use of white space.
  • Icon list.

Of course you can also choose to outsource your app design to a specialist.

Step 5: App development.

After the functional and graphic design comes the final building of your app. You know exactly what your app will look like and how the different screens communicate with each other. You now only need to develop the app.

By app development we mean writing code and actually building the final app. In fact, you have three choices here:

  • Program the app yourself.
  • Use an app builder.
  • Outsource to app developer.

Do you like the challenge to program the app yourself? Then you will have to study hard. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to learn how to make apps these days.

There are also app generators with which you can build simple web apps yourself. An example is GoodBarber ($ 96 per month), which lets you go a long way with pre-programmed templates to create your own app. Drawbacks of builders are that you always depend on the limits of the generator. Also, app builders often go no further than creating an app version of a website. The use of native functionalities of the smartphone itself seems too big a step.

A final option is to hire an app developer. This is the most expensive option.

Step 6: Testing.

The app is finished! Time to submit it to the App Store and Google Play Store? Wait! First a test round.

Some questions to ask during testing:

  • Does the app work well at any resolution?
  • Which function could be better/faster?
  • Are there any bugs?

A tip is to have the app tested by people who have never heard of your app idea. What do they think could be better? Pay particular attention to the flow of the app and not so much to the goal. You should already have tested it during the paper prototype phase.

Step 7: Final version.

Go back to the development of your app one more time. Process the found bugs and other feedback and make a final version of your app.

Step 8: Placement in app stores.

Congratulations! Your app is finished! All you have to do now is register it at Google and/or Apple.

Take into account the costs of publishing an app: you pay $ 99 per year in the Apple App Store. In the Google Play Store you pay a one-time fee of $ 25 to publish an app.

Don’t forget marketing and maintenance!

After your app is launched, you obviously want it to continue to work. This is because bugs or changes in databases and functionalities can occur. App maintenance after launch is therefore very important! External developments play a role in this. Think of OS updates and new devices. That is why it is important that apps are continuously analyzed and improved by continuing to measure, test and monitor.

The marketing of your app is an important part as well. After all the time, effort and money that you have invested into your app development, it is of course the intention that your app will actually be used by many.


In this article we have answered the question ‘how do I create an application?’. From developing your idea, to designing and developing your app. As you can see, there is a lot of study and research involved and many different skills are needed if you want to make an app all by yourself. Good luck!

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