How to Become an App Developer: A Primer to Mobile App Development

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Mobile app development is a lucrative business that has created millions of jobs across the globe. It has gained enormous acclamation in the past few years. The world’s projected revenue for the industry in 2020 is $189 billion compared to $88 billion in 2016.

The field continues to attract people from various backgrounds including those with limited or no programming experience.

It’s easier to transition from web development to mobile app development than starting from scratch. But with passion and dedication, nearly everyone can become an app developer.

By the end of this article, you should have an inkling on how to jump-start your app development career.

Getting Started

People with experience in web development can utilize a platform like Appcelerator Titanium to create mobile apps. You don’t have to learn the API of Appcelerator Titanium. It renders the user interface (UI) using its native controls.

Even without a web development background, some knowledge of object-oriented programming is sufficient for you to become an app developer.

For those with zero computing knowledge, it’s advisable to start with a quick course in introduction to computer science. Free classes are available on MIT Open Courseware among other learning platforms.

Along the course, you will need to do some mini-projects to test your programming skills. You can build your own project as you learn for extra motivation.

Alternatively, you can pursue a computer science degree. It’s not a must, but most companies prefer app developers with at least a bachelor’s in computer science.

Software development is also a suitable degree for people aspiring to develop apps. Nowadays, you can even find colleges that offer specialized degrees in mobile app development.

Mobile Application Platforms

It’s essential to note that various mobile devices run on different operating systems. Android is the most popular followed closely by iOS. Other less popular mobile platforms include Windows, RIM (BlackBerry), and Symbian.

An app developed for a given operating system may not run on a different one. Therefore, you must decide the route to take. Android and iOS are the most marketable platforms.


If you chose to develop for Android, bear in mind that you will be creating apps for uncountable devices. Compatibility can be an issue, but you have the potential to reach billions of users.

Android app development demands knowledge in Java programming language. There are extensive resources to learn from, including the Android Developer Library by Google.


Developers for iOS require skills in Objective-C or Swift or both. Swift came in 2014, and app developers have received it with open arms. However, there are thousands of iOS apps developed on Objective-C, and they require maintenance.

For this reason, a professional iOS app developer should learn both languages. If your objective is to create apps and market them to iOS users, Swift is sufficient for you. Unfortunately, you may not be the best match for employment in a mobile app development company.

Search online for courses (free and paid) to learn the languages. You can also learn from the comprehensive and well-documented Apple’s iOS Developer Library.

Fundamentals of Mobile App Development

With some development skills, you can now develop your first app. Take your project through the following process.

Define Your Inspiration

There must be something motivating you to become an app developer. Is it that you like programming? Could it be the money, or have you just discovered the field?

Knowing your driving force will influence most of the decisions you make in your mobile app development venture.

After defining what you want, find out what your passion is. Know what you care about and what you enjoy doing.

Assess the type of apps you use most, or those you think are essential in solving problems. You will get an app idea that won’t stress you in developing, and the end product won’t fizzle out quickly.

Select an Idea

A great way to start is to create an imitation of an existing app. If a project similar to yours exists, you will have reference points to assess your progress.

Since you are green, begin with a simple app that relates to your interests. For instance, if you like playing cards, try to develop a clone Solitaire.

Define the App Functionalities

Figure out what your app should accomplish. Concentrate on the core functionalities that will have the application up and running.

It’s okay to dream of a mega application with many features and an expansive database. But once you have the bare bones, you can improve the app with time. Even the apps on the market today undergo mobile application testing to detect and fix errors.

Enabling users to create accounts and retrieve lost passwords, for instance, is a priority before allowing them to share items on social media. Ensure that the critical functionalities are available and introduce the rest later.

Sketch the App

With the desired functionalities in mind, you should be able to visualize the user interface (UI). Put it on paper and edit the sketch to your satisfaction. Make notes elaborating how various features should work.

Organize the UI Flow

After illustrating how elements will perform and how the user will interact with the app, create a flow chart for all actions.

If your app requests users to signup, how will they create accounts? How will the app respond to wrong passwords? Demonstrate answers to such questions in the flow chart.

Design the Database

The user interaction as shown in the flow chart should inform you what data you should store. For example, user names, passwords, email addresses, and so forth.

Now you have the framework for your app. From your programming skills, you can now develop your basic app. You can spice it up and fix any bugs as you gain experience.

App Developer – Final Thoughts

You can make a decent living from app development. Glassdoor estimates the salary for an average app developer in the United States to be $92, 721.

For success, you must learn the programming languages relevant to your favorite mobile operating system. Business and marketing classes are advantageous especially to the self-employed.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.