How to Make an iPhone App When You Don’t Know How to Program
I’m not a programmer, but I still went from vague idea to my first app store sale in a matter of months. Since then I’ve made thousands of dollars over the past year with my debt snowball iPhone app, Pay Off Debt. Here’s a breakdown of the process.
Find a need in an area you know well
Since I’m a personal finance blogger, when I got my iPhone I began poking around the available Financial apps. I immediately noticed something missing: a debt snowball app. I also observed people trying to use a regular credit card app to track their debt snowball, and complaining that it wasn’t working. That’s actually when I got the idea to create an app, since it seemed there was a need.
Evaluate your skills and available time
It doesn’t matter if you’re non-techy and busy, as long as you are committed to getting the job done and willing to have others do the things you either don’t know how to do or don’t have time to do.
My programming ability was zero. I had also never designed software before or brought a product to market. Skills I did have? Knowledge of how a debt snowball worked, experience designing instructional materials, a little graphic design experience, and a decent amount of testing experience.
Make a plan
I started by determining what I would have other folks do (programming, beta testing) and what I would handle myself (minor graphics, writing the software spec, math, and detailed testing.) I began looking around at programmer rates on sites, and asked others for recommendations.
And then plan some more
(But do it quickly.) Once I had who would handle what planned out, I began laying out exactly what the app would do and how the user would interact with the app. I wrote the spec and began working on the graphics.
I hired a programmer on Elance (now known as Upwork) to build the app as work for hire, and got the math and graphics done. If I had needed more complicated graphics. I probably would have held a contest for them using 99designs. I also signed up for Apple’s Developer program, which has a $99 annual fee.
Once I received the first build, it was test, test, test, and then test some more. I had a couple of beta testers look at the app and provide feedback as well. We went through quite a few builds. While my goal was to submit the app without any bugs, I didn’t worry about it being completely perfect in other respects. I know perfection is an impossibility anyway; so my goal was just to get it out there as quickly as possible with what I thought were good features, and then adjust or add additional features based on user feedback.
Prepare to submit the app
While the programmers did the actual app submission for me, I still needed to prepare. I made a list of review sites to notify, and other places who might be interested in the app. I created a press release as well. Once Apple approved my app, I began notifying the review sites and sending out promo codes.
I suspect that most apps are not a home run. Mine has had decent sales, with a few peaks (for a time it was in the top 25 Financial apps) and valleys (usually right after another similar app comes out). In general though it’s been steady. The great thing is that once the app is out and generating income, it’s passive income — except for work on updates.