How do I make an app?
March 12, 2011 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Questions about iPad app development.

I have a ton of questions here that come from my basic question of "How do I publish an ipad app in the apple store?"

I have an idea for a VERY simple app. Its useful for a very small group of people, including myself.

How do I develop it, publish it in the app store, and get money for it (if possible)? I don't see more than 500 people using this app, so I'm not doing it for the money. Of those 500 people, it is probably most useful for me. So it is worth it to me to have this app developed, even if I lose money on it.

Its EXTREMELY simple. I have no development background, so I don't know what to call it but basically:
The user would input text: Bananas
The ipad would display text: Bananas in pajamas
The user would input text: Oranges
The ipad would display text: Oranges in pajamas

I'm not giving away details on it here, but its basically the above idea.

It would not need ANY updates for at least 5 years, so releasing a version after the initial isn't necessary at all if it works correctly.

Can I make it myself? Is it that easy to do? Do I need to pay some kind of fees and become a apple developer or what? Or do I need to hire a professional to do this? Could I get someone to develop it, publish it, and fix the bugs without them getting any ownership in it? Could I publish it in a specific country's app store, the US's app store, or worldwide?

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, mefites.
posted by hal_c_on to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It is much much much faster and cheaper to create a web page with the same functionality and with a iPad/iPod/iPhone specific layout, just like 37signals does instead of creating an app.

You can add a web page to the home screen with a custom icon.

For normal apps, see this question on
posted by flif at 4:02 PM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: It is much much much faster and cheaper to create a web page...

I know, but I need it as an app. For various reasons, a web page won't work here.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:38 PM on March 12, 2011

If you join the developer program ($100), you get the right to create applications and install them on your own personal iPhone, iPod, etc. for testing.

So if it is really only you who wants this app, that's the easiest way. You wouldn't have to submit it to the App store. I think you'd have to re-sync it at intervals though.

So, how to create the app? Using PhoneGap, which creates iPhone apps which are essentially websites. Hundreds of people here can help you with creating an HTML/Javascript version of your idea. Then you turn it into the app with PhoneGap.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:48 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe I am misunderstanding the example, but take a look at the TextExpander app.
posted by JakeWalker at 5:03 PM on March 12, 2011

If it's an app that you need to be able to use offline, HTML5 lets you build nice offline apps with decent data storage. You can go here to read about someone who created a Tetris app for the iPhone/iTouch that runs offline.

If you do go this route, however, graphics in HTML5 are lousy in iOS. But it sounds like that wouldn't be an issue here.
posted by hiteleven at 6:02 PM on March 12, 2011

It's pretty easy to do, and this is not that different from a number of examples in the samples Apple provides.

If you want to see if you can make it work, you can buy the Software Development Kit from the Mac App Store and build it there, then see if you want to pay the $99 to be in the developer program to publish it for devices.
posted by Mad_Carew at 6:37 PM on March 12, 2011

Any basic/beginners iPhone app development book will walk you through the process much better than random internet forums people. An hour of googling replaced by 5 minutes of reading. Seriously.

Two particularly good ones are iPhone App Development: The Missing Manual and iPhone and iPad Apps for Absolute Beginners.
posted by lesli212 at 7:00 PM on March 12, 2011

Response by poster: Again, I don't need suggestions about how to make it web-based. I NEED it as an app.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:41 PM on March 12, 2011

hal_c_on, if you're not a developer, then, no, you won't be able to do this on your own, unless you take the time to learn how to code, which will be a lot of time. lesli212 gave you good places to start on that.

If you're looking to pay a programmer out of pocket to code for you and then not take any share of your future profits, well, good thing for you the job market is still so lousy. More seriously, I suppose you might try your luck soliciting help via your nearest college campus, though I wouldn't know how you'd go about doing that.

Also, many folks here (including myself) keep trying to tell you that you can use Web-based development tools to create offline apps easy-peasy. You can use Safari to bring in the code, then create a shortcut with its own icon and everything. To the untrained eye it would look and feel exactly like a regular iPhone app, with no internet connection required. But again, you have to take the time to learn this stuff.
posted by hiteleven at 10:31 PM on March 12, 2011

You will need a computer running the latest version of OS X. You'll also need to sign up for the iOS Developer Program ($99/year) to get the ability to compile apps that run on the non-jailbroken iPhone.

Once you're in, you'll need to download and install the latest version of XCode and the iOS SDK, which will be linked on the home page of the iOS Developer Program page.

As for writing the app itself, I'd start with your basic Hello World. From there you should be able to figure out the rest of the program without difficulty. For a more in-depth primer on iOS development, I wholeheartedly endorse Beginning iPhone Development.

Once you have your app written and running in the iPad simulator in XCode, you have to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops to get it running on an actual device. You'll find instructions here. This is kind of a pain, but most of it you only have to do once, and the rest you only have to do once per app.

Once you've tested it and are ready to release it to the App Store, you'll also have to go through the submission process, but that's fairly well documented in iTunes Connect. It'll be no trouble.
posted by JDHarper at 4:27 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

You can also pay a company to make the app for you - this Mashable article has a fair number of places to start. They can run with your idea, take care of the coding, submit the app for review, yadda yadda yadda.
posted by chrisinseoul at 11:54 AM on March 20, 2011

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