Today is a milestone for me, my first iPad app was approved by Apple and it is now available in the App Store! So, I’m officially an app developer – woot!
Check out my app over at www.BetterGoals.com. Below is a promo video I made showing how the app works:
So is a brief story of how a non-programmer like me got to build an app and the story behind the app.
Why Build an App?
Its been a long time goal of mine ever since I saw the first Steve Jobs keynote address about the iPhone and the App Store. I loved the idea of creating a solution that millions of iOS users can potentially get access to with a click of a button! Of course, amazing success stories like Angry Birds and Doodle Jump was very motivating!
In fact, being an app developer/ publisher totally fits my business checklist for businesses that are worth pursuing. If you’ve not downloaded this checklist, get it here.
But, as a non-programmer, the fear of the unknown kept me from getting started for quite a few years.
How to Build an App as a Non-Programmer?
It took me a while to overcome this limiting belief. A friend of mine had started making apps for kids a year ago and was doing exceedingly well. After a year, he was consistently earning over $300 in profit daily and had more than 20 apps in the store AND he was not a programmer. He got his apps made by a Russian development firm.
So, after realizing that my procrastination was due to an invalid fear – I started working on my own app ideas. I would find a freelance coder to build it after I came up with an app that would be useful to iPhone or iPad users.
Why BetterGoals HD?
Should I make a game? After all, I was told that is the most profitable category in the App Store.
No, I decided from the start that the process of creating my first app was to be a learning experience and so I decided to focus on making an app that I would use myself and something that would provide a ton of value to users of the app.
I decided to make an app for creating, managing and achieving life goals!
A few things appealed to me about this idea. First of all – I love working on my goals and vision boards. I attribute a big part of my life success to having a clear vision of what I want to achieve in life. But I realized – most of my goals were written on journals, bit of paper and I have vision boards that are so old that they are falling apart now.
I envisaged an app that would fix all that and allow people to curl on a couch somewhere and spend hours creating the goals, adding details and action items to their goals and best of all…see all their goals as pictures on their iPads!
Also – I liked the idea because it was evergreen. I would want my app to be as relevant to people today or 10 years from now. Further, I could not find any app in the store that was dedicated to helping users create and manage their life goals.
And so I started creating a prototype so that I could engage a coder to build it.
Designing the App
I wanted to be as detailed as possible so that when I engaged a coder, there would be very little room for miscomunication of misunderstanding. Believe it or not, I built an entire working model of the app using Apple Keynote. For non-Apple users – that the Mac version of MS Powerpoint.
It actually made a lot of sense. Keynote allows you to create hyperlinks and when the document is exported as a PDF and viewed on an iPad – it actually works almost exactly like a real app!
Here’s a link to my original prototype:
App Development – Enter Elance
Now that I got a prototype – I posted a job on eLance to find freelance coders. Within a few days, I had over 20 bidders. The cheaper bids are from countries like India and Pakistan and the most expensive bids are obviously from the US. I’ve had a lot of problems with freelancers from countries like India and Pakistan and I decided to go with a firm from California and pay 3 times more than the lowest bid.
I’d love to tell you that it was that easy. It was not. There coders I hired spent way too long to come up with wireframes which they told me were absolutely necessary to their “process”. I learned later that a lot of the focus on the wireframes/ planning phase was because their lead programmer left them for personal reasons and they could not get started.
When coding began, the app was really buggy because their secondary coder was really not up to scratch. They ended up getting a third party coder to completely re-write the app from scratch months later. Despite my frustrations – this was all a good learning experience for me.
I learned that its not the most expensive bids that are the best. In future, I will only hire coders and not project managers.
I am grateful that although they delayed the project a great deal, they did stick the project till the end and offered a small discount as compensation.
What I Learned
After just over 6 months, and many many versions and refinement, I finally have the first version of my app which I am very pleased with. This entire process taught me a great deal:
- I learned how to sign up for Apple’s developer program and make use of their resources there.
- I am now better able to screen bids on freelance websites to find good coders
- I learned how to design apps that coders can make easily and at lower cost
- I learned how to use compile source code using xCode
- I learned how to activate app certificates and submit them to the App Store
How is the App Doing?
Its too soon to tell cos its only been a day since the app has been in the app store. At the moment, I’m quite pleased with the progress. It already sold 20 units in 7 countries before I found out it was approved by Apple. I’m hopeful that news about the app would spread or even get featured (fingers crossed).
My learning journey is not complete yet. I’m still learning about how to promote and app and also working on future versions. But I am enjoying the process a great deal.
I’m hooked, I want to keep making more apps.
I plan to create an iPhone and desktop version of the app. This will complete the process and allow users sync their goals across devices and alway have their important life goals at their finger tips. I really think this will help a lot of people towards achieving the life of their dreams.
Anyway, that’s all I have for you for now. I’ll post more updates in future. Stay tuned! :)