Essential Guide to Developing iOS Apps for Beginners
The future is mobile. In particular, mobile apps. We’re spending more time than ever in apps - an astonishing three trillion hours a year.
If you want to take your piece of the mobile app market, this article is for you. We’ll walk you through three ways to create your own iPhone app - whether you want to launch an app for your business, start a new side hustle, or simply learn something new.
We’re also going to give our choice for the best way to create iOS apps, using what we’ve learned about app development from building over 2000 apps. We know how the process works, the biggest trappings, and how to develop an iOS app without going deep into debt.
Without anything further, here are three ways to build iOS apps.
Summary: the best way to develop iOS apps is to build it for the web first and then convert your web platform into a hybrid app with a tech-enabled service like MobiLoud. This is more efficient and cost-effective than coding apps yourself or hiring developers, and still allows you to deliver the full native app experience to iPhone users.
Develop an iOS App Yourself
Option one: develop an iPhone app by yourself.
This is the best option if creating an app is more of a hobby or personal achievement or if you want to get into app development as a freelancer/professional developer.
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of building iOS apps yourself.
- You don’t need to pay developers or purchase a tool or service to create your iPhone app.
- You have complete control (within the limits of your ability) of your app.
- There’s a sense of accomplishment from building and launching your own app.
- This is the best way to learn iOS development as a skill.
- Developing apps is hard and takes a long time to learn and get good at.
- Even for experienced developers, it takes at least a few months (more likely, 6-9 months) to develop a native app.
- Your abilities will limit the functionality and quality of your app. It may be a struggle to create the app you want.
- Though you’re not technically paying anything to create your app, consider the cost of your time. If you’re building an iOS app for a business or practical use, you’ll usually find it’s more cost-effective to spend money on the app and utilize your time for something more productive.
Here’s a quick walkthrough of how to write iOS apps yourself.
Before you start, you’ll want to spend time validating your app idea, finding and learning about your target market, and researching similar iOS apps. That’s a bit more high-level than what this post is about, but if you want to read more about this part of creating mobile apps, check out this post.
So, to practical steps. Here’s the bird’s eye view:
- Download and install Xcode.
- Write your app in Swift.
- Run your app in Xcode’s iOS simulator.
- Connect an iPhone to your computer to test it on an actual mobile device.
- Fix any issues or bugs, deploy, and publish to Apple's app store.
You’ll need a few things to start with:
- A computer with Mac OS (e.g., a Macbook)
- The Xcode application
- Knowledge of the Swift programming language
The majority of Apple apps are developed using Swift. If you have zero experience with this before - honestly, it’s best to go with another option. But if you’re dead-set on coding an iOS mobile app yourself, find some online tutorials and start learning the ins and outs of Swift before you start on your app for real.
To turn your code into an app, you’ll use Xcode. Xcode is Apple’s integrated development environment (IDE) for compiling and editing code, testing, debugging, and deploying iOS apps.
You can download Xcode from the Mac app store. Once you’ve done this, launch Xcode, and you’ll be able to create a new project.
The next step is the most difficult - coding in Swift. As mentioned earlier, you’ll want to learn the basics before starting your project.
You’ll compile your iOS app in the Xcode IDE. Once it’s complete, Xcode features an iOS simulator that will let you run and test your app on different iOS devices.
You can also test the app on an actual device by connecting the device to your Mac to find any bugs or anything you're not happy with.
Make any last changes to your app and publish it. If you want your app to be available for others to download, publish it to the Apple App Store (but be warned: the Apple App Store submission process can be tricky, especially for first-time app developers).
Start Building Your First iOS App
Go here to view and access Apple's iOS development resources, including documentation, tutorials, the latest iOS SDK (software development kit), and a link to download Xcode. For more, check out the Apple Developer Program here.
Pay an iOS Developer
The second option is to hire a professional (or a team of professionals) to build your iOS app.
This is much easier than the first option, as you don’t need to learn a new coding language. But it’s also expensive, time-consuming, and comes with its share of complications.
It’s only really something you want to consider if you have a large company with a lot of capital and your company is mobile-first (think TikTok, Tinder, Uber).
Even then, most companies would be better served with the next option. But before we get to that, here are the pros and cons of hiring developers for iOS development:
- Professional developers have the experience and skill to build high-quality, feature-rich iOS apps.
- You don’t need to write any code or learn to code.
- You can create a fully native app utilizing native iPhone device features.
- Expert iOS developers are expensive - hiring developers to create your app will cost, on average, anywhere from $20,000 to $300,000.
- You’ll still need to plan what you want from your app, deliver instructions to the developers, and manage the project - or hire another person to serve as the project manager.
- Whenever you want to update your app, you’ll need to pay a developer again, which can add tens or hundreds of thousands to the cost over the app's lifetime.
- You’re still left with submitting your app to the iOS store. Tweaking your app to fit the guidelines can cost a lot of money if you have to keep developers on the payroll.
If you want to hire a professional, or a team of professionals, to develop your iOS app, here’s an overview of the process:
- Plan and design your app. Be sure to think it out in-depth before developers start racking up billable hours on your app development project.
- Hire a team. To find iOS developers, look on freelance platforms like Upwork, developer-specific freelancer sites like Crew and Linkedin, or within your own network. The minimum you’ll need to hire is one developer, if it’s a small project. You’ll likely need multiple developers, a project manager, and perhaps UI/UX designers. You could also hire an app development agency instead of managing the process yourself.
- Pass the brief on to your development team, and wait for them to ship the first version of your app. The time frame for this will vary by the complexity of your app, but you can expect it to take anywhere from 3-9 months.
- Test the app, and communicate with the development team for any change requests.
- Get the final version, test it, and publish it to the app store.
Build a Hybrid App With MobiLoud
The third option to create iPhone apps, and our recommendation, is to use MobiLoud to build a hybrid mobile app.
A hybrid mobile app is an app that shares code between web and mobile. Essentially, you’re building a mobile website or web app and then converting it to an iPhone app by writing a small amount of mobile code.
MobiLoud does the coding part for you. All you need to do is build for the web, sit back, and wait.
This is easily the best option if you already have a website or web app built. You need very little to convert it into an app, whereas creating a new iOS app and then connecting it to your website is incredibly complex.
If you don’t have anything to start with, it’s still the best way to develop iOS apps. Web app or website builders are easy to use and flexible, making it easier to build your app and maintain it after launch.
Here’s a little more on the pros and cons:
- Significantly cheaper and faster than coding with Swift.
- By far the easiest method to convert an existing website to mobile.
- Flexible - you can design and manage your app from a web platform (e.g., WordPress, Squarespace, Bubble) without knowing how to code.
- You get all the key features you want in an iPhone app, such as a home screen icon, app store presence, native navigation, push notifications, and app analytics.
- Hands-off - full support during setup, and the MobiLoud team manages maintenance and technical assistance after launch too.
- App store submission is done for you, with approval guaranteed.
- It also gives you web and Android apps for no extra cost or effort, with no additional code bases to manage.
- A little more challenging to utilize native device features (e.g., location services).
- No hands-on experience in developing an app yourself.
How to Create an iOS App with MobiLoud
There are four simple steps to creating iOS apps with MobiLoud.
The process is almost entirely done for you. It takes all the effort off your hands, so you can focus on building and growing your business instead of learning to code or managing developers.
Pre-Development: Build a Mobile-Optimized Site or Web App
If you haven’t already, build your app for the web first. If you’ve already got a website or web app, ensure it looks and works great on mobile.
Your iPhone app will simply be a reflection of your mobile website. So as long as you’ve done this part, most of the work to build your iOS mobile app is done too.
Step One: Talk to a Project Manager
When you’re ready to move forward, schedule a free demo call with one of our project managers to discuss your needs, preview your app, and see precisely how the process works.
Step Two: Hand Off to Our Team
You can make a few minor configurations to your iOS app’s user interface here, such as customizing the color scheme and native mobile navigation. If you’re happy with everything, pass it off to our team, and we will write the code to bring your app to life.
Step Three: Test & Provide Feedback
The app will be ready for you to test and review in around a couple of weeks. Let us know if you need any final changes or tweaks before we ship the final build.
Step Four: Launch
Once your iOS app is ready, we’ll deploy it and submit it to the app store. We’ve launched and published over 2000 apps, so we know how to get around Apple’s notoriously difficult app store guidelines.
It’s up to you whether you want to do anything more to promote your app launch or simply optimize it for app store traffic.
It’s worth also mentioning at this point that MobiLoud handles updates, technical assistance, fixes, and anything else you need to keep your app fast, functional, and bug-free. This is usually a huge recurring expense when you hire someone to develop an iOS app, which most people miss when considering the cost of building an app.
The best way to create an iPhone app today is not with native iOS development. In almost all cases, it will be cheaper, faster, and more flexible to use a tech-enabled service like MobiLoud to turn a web platform into an iPhone app.
The only reason you’d want to do something different is if you want the experience of coding an iPhone app, or you have a business that specializes in iOS app development and you already have the expertise and resources in-house to develop apps.
Go through the options again, weigh the pros and cons, and pick the best way to create an app. If you want the simplicity, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility of MobiLoud, schedule a call now and get the ball rolling.