August 2, 2012 2:18 AM   Subscribe

Could I build an app? Is there an app for that?

I want an app and I want to make it myself as much as possible. It is to guide people around a 2000ac property, using their gps to show the walking tracks, points of interest etc as well a guide to the flora and fauna of the area, possibly incorporating a checklist and a photo-file upload link. I'd like to collect data from users (like fauna spotted, photos taken etc) and incorporate that within some existing apps that collect wildlife data.

Could I, a confident user-friendly software user build an app? Is there software, websites etc to assit? Where do I start?
posted by Kerasia to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't want to learn Objective C or Java, and if you can do web programming, then you might look at Appcelerator or PhoneGap.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:50 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could I, a confident user-friendly software user build an app?

I assume you've never done any programming before. The answer is that you right now with your current knowledge can't build it easily, there's no app that makes it very easy to design and implement the kind of novel program you are talking about. You could learn how to program and learn the specifics of developing for a given smartphone platform, but to do that would take a large amount of effort on top of the amount of effort to implement this relatively difficult project itself. If you are interested in programming as a hobby then this is exactly the way to get into it though, when I started programming years before I became a professional developer it was for exactly this kind of thing where I wanted to make an app but didn't have any clue on where to start.

It would be similar to asking if someone who is familiar with sailing could build their own sailboat from raw materials. It would technically be possible, it would just involve learning a ton of skills around fabrication and sailboat design details. The only fundamental difference is that designing and building app software doesn't involve physical things like wood and doesn't require any physical tools other than a computer.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:45 AM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

The short answer: unless you're a programmer, then no, you wouldn't be able to do this.

However, there is a sort of middle step. Tools like Movable Feast or Broadcastr might be able to provide an experience similar to the one you're going for.
posted by Andrhia at 10:54 AM on August 2, 2012

Is there an app for that?

Presumably you mean: "Are there apps that help you build apps?" The answer is yes, though those apps don't run on phones themselves, but are used on a full size computer and are typically not referred to as "apps".

You could do part of what you want using tour-builder software like My Tours.

... I want to make it myself as much as possible

If your goal is to learn how to create the kind of app you described more or less from scratch and with more or less the exact features you want, you're basically asking: How can I learn to program?

As others have said, that's do-able but there is a fair learning curve. If you want to go down that path, building things for a smartphone is probably not the easiest place to start, and you might want to check out existing AskMe's about how best to start learning to program in general. Also you should check out Coursera and Udacity and see if you like what they offer.
posted by philipy at 11:35 AM on August 2, 2012

Yes, if you learn programming for the device you want to build the app for, you could do it.

If your app is for the Android platform, you'll need to learn Java. If it's for the iPhone, you'll need to learn Objective C.

If you have zero programming experience, you can get to the point of creating basic functionality within a few weeks, if you put several hours into it each day.

Beyond that, it takes most people about a year to approach the professional level. While you can absorb a lot within a few weeks, it takes a while for the information to sort of gel into effective understanding.

Much depends on your aptitude, level of interest, and amount of time available.

For iPhone programming Big Nerd Ranch offers books and courses. The books are good. I haven't tried a course.

Have fun and good luck!
posted by eeby at 12:37 PM on August 2, 2012

There is a recent article in the Economist about several do-it-yourself tools to create apps, including phone apps. The article briefly discusses a person who had no programming background, but you used one of these tools to create a game, and his game is now for sale and apparently it is doing well.

The article lists many of the do it yourself tools, but I think it would probably be best if you looked at the names, did a tiny bit of googling to then see if it meets your needs.Even if they don't, perhaps contact one of the developers and suggest/request it? It's only a matter of time until these tools are here.
posted by Wolfster at 1:54 PM on August 2, 2012

I like a challenge. Looks like learning to code is the way to go. Thanks for all your links and advice.

More learning resources welcome!
posted by Kerasia at 4:52 PM on August 2, 2012

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