How to create an app in 8 steps (2024)

Are you eager to bring your app idea to life, but feel overwhelmed by the complexities of app development? You're not alone—many aspiring app creators face the challenge of navigating the technical aspects and intricacies of the development process.

Making an app isn’t impossible, but requires careful planning. You’ll need a solid understanding of how apps work, which best fits your needs, and how to manage the development process.

In this step-by-step guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about the app-making process, from idea to execution.

How to make your own app

Creating your own app requires a well-organized approach, where every stage plays a vital role. Follow these eight essential steps to develop a sleek, well-crafted app that stands head and shoulders above competitors in the app store.

Step 1. Conceptualizing your app

Once you decide to create an app, the first challenge is coming up with the main concept. To do this, clearly define your app’s idea and conduct extensive market research.

Here’s how.

Define your app idea

Coming up with a unique app idea is tough, especially with nearly seven million apps on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Yet, to stand out and earn downloads, you must appeal to a core group of users and offer something your competitors don’t.

Finding your "big idea" can take time. However, if you're feeling a bit stuck or lost, here are strategies to inspire you.

Browse the app store

Look at what's already working well, and what could be improved. By checking out the top-featured apps, you'll have good examples of what's already successful, which may spark an idea of your own.

If you wanted to create a photo editing app, look at what users are saying about other popular apps. For example, one user notes that creating watermarks with CameraBag Photo Classic is difficult. Note this and ensure your app has this functionality.

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App store reviews for the photo editing app CameraBag Photo Classic. Source

Research other problem solvers

You can also look for inspiration by studying ideas from Kickstarter, Quora, or Reddit. Browsing how other people are solving problems can help get you into the mindset of solving one with your app.

The Reddit community, r/startups, has a quarterly thread where users can share their startup ideas. Visit this community for inspiration.

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R/startups has a quarterly thread for users to share ideas. Source

Identify your target audience

Identify who your app is for and gather insights about their:

  • Demographics. Pay attention to age, gender, religion, and education level to ensure your app content is suitable. If your target demographic includes children, you wouldn’t want your app to be explicit.

  • Preferences. Pay attention to favorite hobbies or activities to gain more insight into how to structure your app. If your target demographic is mothers and their preferences include parenting information, you wouldn’t want your app to focus on something outside that realm.

  • Behaviors. Pay attention to purchasing habits and responses to discounts or sales. If your target demographic enjoys a monthly subscription model, then include that in your app.

This information will help you tailor your app to resonate with their specific needs and preferences. You can even speak to potential users.

“Even simple informal user interviews are better than guessing at what the app needs,” says Zack Naylor, co-founder at Aurelius, a user research and insights platform for design and product teams. “Also, doing this research will give you critical details on which features/functionality your app needs, their relative priority, and even guidance on the design and execution. Not doing this introduces significant risk in the development process where you potentially build features for weeks or months that aren't going to serve your audience’s needs.”

Some platforms, like Twitter and LinkedIn, also have a poll feature, making it easier to gauge feedback with little effort from the users. You can ask people to rate their interest level in the app, how much they would pay for it, and if they would recommend it to their friends and family. When performing polls, it's helpful to include negative and positive response options to correctly gauge the feedback.

Research your competitors

Conduct competitor research before building your new app to ensure it doesn’t already exist. Don’t panic if you see an existing app with a similar idea—it means there’s a need for your idea. You just need to determine how to improve upon what’s already out there.

To properly analyze your competitors, note their:

  • Strengths. What are your competitors doing well? If consumers like a particular feature, implement something similar in your app.

  • Weaknesses. What are consumers complaining about? If you notice the competition doing something wrong—like overpricing an app feature—provide a better solution.

  • Marketing strategies. What channels are your competitors targeting? You should do the same if they’re having success marketing on platforms like Instagram or TikTok.

  • Features. What does your competition have, or what do they lack? Don’t copy all their successful features; analyze them to find a way to stand out.

This analysis will identify areas to differentiate your app and offer a unique value proposition (UVP). Your UVP could be a unique feature, a better user experience, or a specific target audience you cater to.

For example, Lyft’s UVP highlights how easy and reliable it is to use their app directly on their homepage.

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Lyft’s UVP from their homepage. Source

Step 2. Planning your app

Building apps requires a strategic planning process. Be sure to set clear (and realistic) goals you can measure.

Define clear objectives

It’s easy to veer off track when building an app without a clear plan. Setting your goals at the outset will prevent this. Then, you can continuously check-in to ensure your actions are working towards your goals.

Ask yourself the following questions to envision your short-term and long-term goals:

  • What exactly do you hope to achieve with your app? If you hope to see a certain amount of downloads in a specified time frame, specify that.

  • What's your app’s core purpose? If you’re creating an app for new mothers, your app’s core purpose might be to help educate new parents.

  • What does success look like? It could be a certain number of downloads, conversions, or even positive user feedback.

Set specific KPIs

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs), which are measurable numbers that show how well your app is performing, to ensure you're meeting those goals.

Some example KPIs include:

  • User retention rate. This is the percentage of users who continue to use your app. It reflects how engaged users are with your app in the long run.

  • Average session duration. This is the average amount of times users engage with your app in a single session. It tells you how engaging your app is.

  • Conversion rate. This is the percentage of users who complete a specified action—like subscribing to your payment model—out of the total number of users who visit your app. It tells you how successful your marketing efforts are and how effective your app is.

  • Revenue generated. This is the total income generated by all your app’s monetization efforts—like in-app purchases or advertisem*nts. It reflects how profitable your app is.

Step 3. Designing your app

A design concept or mockup sets the foundation for your app's visual and interactive elements. This stage involves developing your app's core features and functionalities and defining the user experience and user interface.

Create a wireframe

It's time to create the app's wireframe—the plan for your app or a rough draft. Map out the structure and flow of the pages. Show what a user will see when they open the app. What options will they have? What comes next, and next? You don't have to worry about aesthetics here—it's about the core functionality.

Core functionalities will differ from app to app, but the main ones include:

  • Search and navigation

  • Communication

  • User authentication

  • Data storage

A wireframe helps stakeholders gain a strong understanding of the app and enables them to provide input on how it should work. Plus, it creates a blueprint for development. You can create wireframes in various ways: sketch them out, use software, or create them on your computer.

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Example of a wireframe created by Fiverr freelancer Rasa. Source

There are various tools and resources available to assist you in sketching app designs. Traditional pen and paper can be a great starting point for quick ideation. Digital sketching tools like Sketch, Adobe XD, or Figma offer more flexibility and allow for easy collaboration. You can also check out UI stencil kits and wireframetemplates to streamline the sketching process.

Focus on UI and UX design

Think of your app’s UI and UX like a house. UX design is the foundation, layout, and flow of the house—basically, everything that ensures it's structurally sound and functional. UI design is the interior design, furniture arrangement, and color scheme that makes the house visually appealing.

Both UI and UX design are equally important during the app development process. To create an effective UI/UX design and a user-friendly app, consider the following principles:

  • Keep it simple and intuitive. Strive for a clean and uncluttered design that allows users to navigate and interact with ease.

  • Ensure consistency. Maintain a consistent design language (like fonts and colors) throughout the app to provide a cohesive user experience.

  • Prioritize user needs. Understand your target audience and design with their preferences and behaviors in mind—if you’re creating a food delivery app and your target persona is vegans, be sure to include plenty of vegan options.

  • Use a visual hierarchy. Use visual cues like color, typography, and spacing to guide users' attention and highlight important elements.

  • Make sure it’s responsive. Your app design should be responsive and adapt well to different screen sizes and devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and desktops.

  • Focus on accessibility. Include features, such as screen reader compatibility, closed captioning for videos, and alternative text for images for the hearing and visually impaired.

For example, Slack has a fantastic UI/UX design makes engaging with the app easy and visually appealing.

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Example of an app, Slack, with great UI/UX design. Source

Step 4. Deciding between native, hybrid, or web apps

There are three main approaches to app development: native app development, hybrid or cross-platform app development, and web app development. Each has advantages and considerations, and the choice depends on factors, such as your budget, target audience, and desired features.

Native apps

Think of a continuum. On one end, you have web apps. These apps work on any kind of mobile device, but can't perform sophisticated functions. They're versatile, but not powerful.

Native apps can be equipped with sophisticated features but must be programmed for one operating system only. They're powerful but lack the versatility of a web app to work across many platforms.

Native app development involves creating separate apps for each operating system, such as iOS and Android. This approach allows for the best possible performance, user experience, and access to device-specific features (geolocation, camera/mic access, push notifications). However, each platform requires separate development teams and codebases, resulting in higher development costs and longer development time.


Because a native app is built to work perfectly on one kind of phone—like an iPhone or Android—it’ll typically be faster and more reliable than other kinds of apps. Native apps can also use device-specific hardware to deliver more features.

These apps usually “feel” like they belong on the device. Native apps have a natural flow because the software development kit (SDK) ensures they use logic users are familiar with.


Developing native apps requires separate codebases for each platform, which can increase development time and cost. And, as operating systems evolve, the codebase of native apps will need to be updated to function properly. They’re usually higher maintenance and more costly than other kinds of apps.


Here are examples of native apps.

Pokemon Go

With its deep reliance on GPS, camera, and accelerometer, this game could only be developed as a native app. It may be a fun way to make a neighborhood walk into an adventure, but it’s also a sophisticated piece of software.

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Pokemon Go’s interface requires the mobile device’s GPS, camera, and accelerometer. Source

Waze is an interesting native app because while its codebase exists entirely on the portable device hosting it, it still downloads map data via a cellular data connection. Waze shows how native apps can perform complicated and challenging tasks by combining multiple sensors and data sources.

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Waze requires the mobile device’s GPS to provide real-time traffic updates and suggestions. Source

Hybrid apps

Hybrid mobile app development combines web and native app design. These apps are built with a single codebase that the app accesses via a remote server. However, they can also directly access a portable device's operating system, potentially incorporating a wider array of sophisticated functions than a simple web app. Hybrid apps are like progressive apps, but like a native app, they’re distributed through a mobile platform's built-in app store.


Hybrid apps are built using web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) and wrapped in a native container. They can be deployed across multiple platforms, saving development time and effort. Hybrid apps also have access to device features through plugins. Developers with a limited budget frequently choose to create a hybrid app because it offers excellent value for investment.


Hybrid apps may not offer the same level of performance as native apps, especially for complex or resource-intensive applications such as video editing software that require the processing of large amounts of data. They may also have limitations in accessing some device-specific features like facial or fingerprint recognition.


Here are a few examples of hybrid apps:


This fitness app allows users to set goals and participate in various exercises. The interface is slick, resembling a cross between a fitness wearable dashboard and a streaming fitness service. Sworkit's marketing strategy directs prospects to the Apple or Android app stores to purchase the product.

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Sworkit offers custom home workouts on Android and Apple devices. Source


This app gives investors a steady stream of market news and analysis. While the app's main goal is to give users a carefully curated library of investment articles, Marketwatch also incorporates a limited collection of more tool-like functions, including a stock watchlist and real-time data streams. It's available within the Android and Apple app stores, making it easy to find and install.

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Marketwatch’s interface lets you browse the latest market data. Source

Web apps

A web-based app is a computer program that uses web technology to deliver content and perform tasks. The "brain" behind the app lives on a remote server, so the app only needs some code on the smartphone it’s installed on.

These apps work similarly to a standard website. When a user launches the app on their phone, it uses the internet to deliver content. One difference between a web app and a website is their respective functions. If the online code provides some tool or service, it's ‌called a web app. If the code is purely informational, it's a website. Both operate through an internet browser.


Web apps need fewer resources to run and are “platform-independent,” meaning they run on any smartphone. Their versatile nature means you can configure them to run on various devices with minimal additional coding. Also, web apps are easy to update and maintain.


When you open a web app, it downloads data from the Internet. This kind of app won’t work without an Internet connection, and it won't use a smartphone’s more advanced hardware features, like GPS.


Here are a few examples in action.


Mailchimp helps people manage their email lists and campaigns. Marketers and communicators use this app to check campaign performance, manage and segment their email audience, and even craft marketing emails from their portable devices.

From a coding perspective, the app sends data between the user and a central server. It's considered an app rather than a website because it’s an interactive tool, not a static source of information.

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Mailchimp is only available on the app store for iPhones and iPads, or the Google Play store for Android devices. Source


The film streaming giant distributes its video content via a web app. It’s perfect because the large amounts of data needed to watch a movie aren't stored on your device. If it were, you'd run out of space in no time. However, the Netflix app won't work offline.

One interesting feature of the Netflix web app is that it's designed to work well across devices, from smartphones to desktop computers to smart TVs. Web apps’ versatility makes it possible to offer cross-device functionality.

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Netflix’s web app is only available on the Google Play Store. Source

Step 5. Development and testing

In the development phase, you'll bring your app's design to life by writing code and building the app's functionality. Numerous methods are available for creating an app, ranging from traditional app development to using a no-code app builder with drag-and-drop capabilities.

The initial milestone in app development is creating an MVP—a minimum viable product. An MVP is the most basic version of your app that demonstrates its most essential features. The bells and whistles can come later. Initially, you only need the bare-bones pieces your app needs to function.

For example

Code your app

Coding is writing instructions that tell your app how to function. It involves translating your app's design and functionality into a language that computers can understand. Many people use Node.js frameworks or React.js libraries to develop their apps because they’re scalable solutions for both server-side and client-side apps.

Server-side servers handle the backend operations of a website or application, such as processing data, executing business logic, and interacting with databases. They’re used for tasks that require security, scalability, and access to sensitive information.

Client-side servers, on the other hand, run in the user's browser and handle interactions with the user interface, dynamic content updates, and client-side data processing. They’re used to create interactive and responsive user experiences without constantly communicating with the server.

Once you know which direction you’ll go, you can select a coding language. Some popular coding and programming languages include:

  • Swift for iOS and macOS app development

  • Objective-C for iOS app development

  • Java for Android app development

  • Kotlin for Android development

  • JavaScript for web and mobile app development

Follow general coding practices to enhance the quality and maintainability of your app's codebase.

Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Plan and organize your code by breaking it down into modular components so that each can easily be tested

  • Use version control systems like Git to prevent any loss of work or code conflicts

  • Test your code regularly to catch bugs or issues early on

  • Document your code to improve its readability and ensure other developers can understand it

Many small business owners have a diverse set of skills, but coding skills aren’t always one of them. Work with a development company, or freelance mobile app developer, or take online coding lessons if you’re a beginner.

Test your app

Before launching an app, test it using quality assurance (QA) to find and remove all bugs. The QA specialist you hire will test your app on multiple mobile platforms (when applicable), devices, and software versions to resolve all issues before going to market.

Testing identifies and fixes bugs to ensure the app's stability and reliability and validate that it meets your users' requirements and expectations. Thorough testing improves the quality of your app, enhances user satisfaction, and reduces the risk of negative reviews or customer churn.

Here are tests to perform before launching your app:

  • Unit tests. Unit tests focus on individual components or units of your app's code. They verify each unit functions correctly in isolation.

  • Integration tests. Integration tests evaluate how different components of your app work together. They ensure the integration points between various modules, services, or APIsfunction as expected.

  • User acceptance tests. User acceptance tests involve testing your app from the perspective of end-users. These tests validate your app meets the desired user experience, functionality, and usability requirements.

“Keep in mind that it's impossible to act on every piece of feedback, and it's not a good idea either,” says David Stellini, co-founder of All Front, a design and dev agency that helps startups and enterprise clients design, build, and launch web and mobile applications. “Not all feedback will be actionable or relevant. You need to look for common themes and prioritize insights based on their impact and the effort required to implement.”

Step 6. Launching your app

After removing all the bugs, you’re ready to launch your app. The deployment process varies depending on the development method you choose. However, most mobile apps require a server back-end to function. Then, you'll need to submit your app for review by the various app stores.

Prepare for launch

Before launching your app, ensure all aspects are in order.

Here are a few key considerations:

  • Optimize your app's metadata for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes

    —including the app title, description, keywords, and screenshots, to improve its visibility in app store search results

  • Test your app on various devices, operating systems, and screen sizes to ensure compatibility and optimal performance across different platforms

  • Familiarize yourself with the guidelines and policies of the app stores where you plan to distribute your app and ensure your app complies

  • If you plan to target international markets, ensure your app is properly localized and matches the language and regional preferences of those markets

Once you’re confident that the app is functional, prepare a marketing strategy. The avenues you target will depend on your target audience and where they like to hang out online.

Consider these forms of marketing to spread the word about your app:

  • Social media marketing. Leverage social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook to create buzz around your app.

  • Influencer marketing. Collaborate with relevant influencers or industry experts who can promote your app to their followers.

  • Email marketing. Build a mailing list and create various campaigns to target different user personas.

Publish your app

The two most popular app stores are the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Both require similar steps to launch an app.

  • Create a developer account. Both stores require you to register as a developer before proceeding.

  • Provide the necessary information. Create your app listing with the title, description, screenshots, and promotional images.

  • Submit your app. Use Xcode to package your app and submit it to the store of your choosing.

Step 7. Market your app

While it would be great if launching an app was enough to drive downloads, the truth is, you need to do some work to get the word out. People need to know about your app and see the value it can provide to them. Here are a few ideas to market your app:

  • Reach your target audience by building a digital presence across the social media platforms where your audience spends time. This can include Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and YouTube. Post regularly and build your following to generate interest. Think of creative ways to show how your app works, who needs it, and how it solves problems.

  • Optimize your app for the app stores. By understanding how the various app stores work, you can optimize your app so it has the greatest chance of being found organically.

  • Run paid ads on search engines and social platforms to reach a large targeted audience fast and direct them to download the app.

  • Create a press release to announce the app and publish it across multiple relevant outlets to your target audience.

All of these marketing steps can help to generate interest and drive traffic to your app, which is key to its success.

Step 8. Conducting post-launch activities

The hard part is over, but the work never ends. If you want to ensure the proper optimization of your app, there are a few key things to pay attention to and strategies to implement continuously.

Gather and listen to feedback

One of the most important post-launch activities is monitoring user feedback and reviews. This can be done through various channels, such as app stores, social media, and customer support channels. Listen to what users say about your app to identify areas for improvement and make changes to enhance the user journey.

“At CubiCasa, we have a specific Slack channel for sharing all feedback (good and bad), this way everyone in the company has a pulse check on the customer's perception of your business,” says Aarne Huttunen, chief product officer and co-founder of CubiCasa, an app for 2D and 3D floor plans for real estate and appraisals.

“When your app is small, try to create a small group with power users who match your ideal customer profile and get direct feedback. Once you’ve grown to a point where you get customer feedback and insights from every channel (chats, calls, email), make sure you have a system to track and categorize the feedback to make data-driven decisions for your feature development.”

Update your app regularly

As you track your KPIs and gather feedback, continuously improve the app to better meet the market's needs. This is why most apps release updates every couple of weeks. It's a competitive, fast-moving world, and your app needs to keep up.

Make updates surrounding new features or bug fixes—not just updates that consider user feedback. Maybe you want to introduce monetization through in-app purchases, and adjust the pricing model. Or, maybe you forgot to enable push notifications or pop-ups and need to add that functionality post-launch.

Always make sure that you thoroughly test the app before releasing a new updated version. If you don't, you risk losing the hard-earned users you’ve gained so far.

You don’t need to be a programmer to build an app, but you can always hire one

You need a firm understanding of your business case for making a successful app, and how to measure your success, but you don’t have to write a line of code. All you need is a solid idea to sell to the market, backed by research and testing. From there, you can find professional app developers to do the heavy lifting.

Need to find specialists in everything from app design to mobile app maintenance to mobile app marketing? Join Fiverr to access a growing global marketplace of freelancers to assist you at any stage of your app development journey.

Hire a professional app developer on Fiverr
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