Though I typically work with clients at a more strategic level, from time to time, I like to "get my hands dirty" so I can can gain a deeper understanding of the fast-changing digital space. For instance, when I launched my first blog in 2003, I Iearned to hack a bit of HTML to get the blog to appear the way I wanted it. Now, the customizations I had to work so hard for are readily available as drag and drop options in most blogging platforms (kids today have it so easy!).
My latest endeavor was to launch an iPhone app so I would more fully understand the process. I know the limitations of my coding skills [read: severely limited], so I was seduced by a company called Appmakr which very prominently promises that no coding skills are required to build a mobile app.
Though that claim may be true, even with Appmakr, there are certain technical skills required. Their tagline stating apps are made "by people like me" might not be as accurate. Because people like me don't necessarily know how to deal with error messages from Apple about Bundle IDs. And people like me don't necessarily run OS X Mountain Lion (I use a Samsung, but borrowed a Mac for the app submission).
Nevertheless, it was a good learning experience, so I thought I'd share a few very basic tips that may help if you are about to launch your first iPhone app. Please add a comment if you have any other helpful tips for newbies!
- You need an Apple Developer's License to submit an app to Apple (for $99). Getting an individual license is a snap. Getting a business license takes longer; you have to submit Dun & Bradstreet information, etc. Don't wait until you are ready to submit your app to start this process.
- You need design skills or a designer to create your app icon splash screen (the screen that appears when the app is launched). If Apple adds a new screen size, e.g. iPhone 5, you'll want to update your app with additional image sizes.
- Choose your developer name carefully as it shows up underneath your app name in the App Store. It will also help you get found in the App Store's search results.
- Getting an app approved by Apple isn't just about making sure that the app works and doesn't have inappropriate content. They want to make sure that the app is different than the user experience on the website and includes native functionality. That is, the app should include something that you can do on the app that you can't do on the website. Creating a unique app that adds value to the user should be part of your strategy at the beginning of the process.
- Currently app approval takes 8-9 days. This website gives the latest wait times, so take a look at it and set your/your client's expectations accordingly: http://reviewtimes.shinydevelopment.com/
- You have to have a Mac to submit an app. And on that Mac, you must be running Mountain Lion. Great little way for them to ensure more people upgrade.
- Like any tech project, there will be error messages. There will be unexpected issues. Patience is required. But more importantly, your project schedule should anticipate this.
I also learned many things that are Appmakr specific; feel free to post questions about that. I would suggested if you want to use Appmakr or any similar service, read the help forums before signing up. That will give you a sense of what issues you may run into.
H(app)ily, the app I built is now available in the App store. I built it on behalf of a client (who was fully aware of my aforementioned technical limitations!). Unfortunately, I have an agreement with them which prohibits me from linking to it. That's another learning.