How to Build Your First Mobile App

Mar 21, 2022
Mandy Arola

Being able to showcase your work is an important part of any developer's job search. For those looking to become a mobile developer, it’s essential to not just have a mobile app running locally on your phone, but to have it available for download in one of the app stores.

Christopher Cotton recently met with our web development students to share his advice on how to approach building your first mobile app and learn the skills to become a mobile app developer. This week we’re focusing on building your first mobile app.

Know what you want to build

Before you dive into a bunch of tutorials to learn languages and frameworks, decide what you want to build. Create an app that you would use and choose an area of focus you love so you’re invested in what you’re building. Knowing what you want to build will help you choose tutorials for learning to build your app.

But before you start building your app, you need to know what your application will look like. Christopher recommends starting with an app that only has a couple of screens. Keep it simple. “After you launch the initial version, you can pick a new technology and integrate it, such as augmented reality or sharing between friends.”

Limit the scope. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Publish to the app store and update it based on feedback/reviews.

Your designs can be hand sketches or you can use a tool like Figma. You should also draw the app flow so that you know where the user will go when they push each button. Your app flow and design gives you another element that you can showcase during an interview.

Android or Apple? Christopher encouraged beginners to start learning by building an app for your phone. This will allow you to easily test the application.

Ready. Set. Build!

Tutorials will show you bits and pieces, but building an app gives you experience with the whole process. Having it in the app store shows employers that you can deliver. It becomes your portfolio.

Christopher recommends starting with Swift and SwiftUI for Apple and Kotlin and Jetpack Compose for Android. You usually only see ObjC (Apple) when working with legacy code. Secondary languages and frameworks you can learn include Java and widgets (Android) and UIKit (Apple).

Raywenderlich.com is a great resource for tutorials and books.

Ship it

There’s a difference between ‘I have this project I’ve been working on’ versus ‘it’s out there’.

Why? So you can show it off! 

Having a working mobile app in one of the app stores shows that you are able to build it and ship it. Mobile app delivery is a much different process than a website. 

Have you built and shipped a mobile app? Share the link in the comments.

Check back next week for our blog post on how to become a mobile app developer.

Topics: Learning, UI/UX, Web Development