How to make an app and get a lot of downloads

Published on April 13, 2018
Last modified on May 16, 2022

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Are you thinking of having an app but don’t have any experience in doing an app project? This blog is for you. I will describe the process of creating an app, give tips on several options you have, and what to look for when developing an app.

App development technologies

Apple and Google built their own development framework, which they have made available to app developers. These platforms were created by developers for developers, requiring great technical understanding in order to develop an app.

In addition to these tools, there are programs called cross-platform applications that make it possible to develop apps for two platforms simultaneously, i.e., iOS and Android, thus cutting down tremendous time.

Below is a list of different app development frameworks.

Native development platforms

Cross-platform development frameworks

There are also tools in the market that make developing apps easy where programming skills are not needed, such as:

Tools like these are extremely user-friendly that even non-IT individuals with very little technical knowledge can make a simple app. These systems are easy to utilize through a wizard to build the app with predefined building blocks, just like Lego.

As long as you stay within what the tool supports, you can actually make a neat little app. The problem, however, is that if you want to do something beyond what the tool can do, you run into limitations that require you to hire an app developer.

It is, therefore, important to familiarize yourself with the functionalities that your development tool supports before you start using it to build your app.

Where to find an app developer?

There are many places and web portals to find an app developer. Google can pull up a long list for your search.

Here’s what to look out for: in your selection process, do make sure that the developer you choose will be the same developer you’ll prefer to work with three years down the road.

This is because your collaboration with your developer will be long-lasting: a finished app is not the end of your project together. The finished app will have to be maintained, constantly upgraded to the version of the phone’s operating system, and updated according to your business or marketing goals.

You have the following options when finding an app developer:

  1. A freelancer in your country
  2. A software development company in your country
  3. An offshore/outsourced freelancer
  4. An offshore/outsourced software development company

Pros and cons of working with freelancers

  • Freelancers ask for smaller fees than software development companies.
  • Freelancers are often very agile.
  • Freelancers are often very skilled in a defined concept area.
  • Freelancers are usually incapable of carrying out large tasks including backend programming (e.g., if the app is to store data in a database) without assistance from sub-contractors.
  • Freelancers often have a number of clients for whom they are working simultaneously. You may have to wait for quite some time to get even small tasks solved, especially when Apple or Google updates their operating systems.
  • Freelancers tend to take in more tasks than they can handle, and you run the risk that your project will stand still for a long time.
  • There is a risk of low accountability with freelancers. If a freelancer gets seriously ill, meets an accident, decides to get away from it all for any personal reason, or had a grave argument or disagreement with you—and as such decides to cut the line of communication with you—all that you have invested in your app development project will be wasted. You’ll be back to zero, both in time and money, without accountability.

Pros and cons of working with software development companies in your country

  • The software development company's physical office is accessible.
  • A local company will have a better understanding of the culture you’re accustomed with than a foreign company.
  • Accountability is high, as you will always be subject to local regulations.
  • The cost can be very high, and it can hinder development opportunities because you simply cannot afford the services that you want.
  • In some countries, development tasks are not done directly in their offices. The tasks are forwarded to sub-contractors in Asia or Eastern Europe. Clients are usually not aware of this practice, and they pay high prices.
  • In some countries, development time is longer because the working time is shorter.

Pros and cons of outsourcing to Asia or Eastern Europe

  • It is often cheaper and faster. Prices are lower, and the working time is longer.
  • You get to experience a different service level, and many developers are often willing to render overtime hours when needed.
  • The time difference is a big advantage because you can send the tasks in the evening before you go home. When you get back to the office in the morning, the tasks you sent are often done.
  • Cultural differences can affect understanding and can pose challenges. People of a certain nation can think differently from that of another and may have different approaches to solving different kinds of problems, may have different attitudes towards time, and the like.
  • Though English is a universal language that has effectively paved the way for cross-cultural communication, it is still a foreign language for many countries. The inability to sufficiently explain oneself in English can lead to misunderstandings that can affect the timeline and smooth completion of a project.

Should your app have a backend?

If you want to save data that can be accessed from different phones or websites, the data must be stored on a cloud server. Let’s take as example an insurance company for which an app that compensates damage was created.

For this specific app, it's necessary to save data to a server so that these data can be accessed from other systems. On the other hand, In cases you wish to manipulate images, it's probably not necessary to save data to a server.

There’s nothing complicated about saving data on a server; but be aware that not all app developers have the skill to set up a server and make the necessary programming that will enable you to save data on the server.

This kind of programming is not normally done by mobile app developers, but by backend developers. So, when you choose a developer or software development company, be sure to ask if they can provide backend programming, especially if this is fundamental to your app.

App market optimization

Once your app has been created and uploaded to the app market (e.g., App Store or Google Play), you’re ready to sell it. Most people think that once they have their mobile app’s website to market it and they hire an SEO expert to optimize the site, customers will come in straight away. Unfortunately, this is not true unless you have a completely unique product.

Of course you need a website. It can be made in WordPress wherein there are a number of website themes available to use. WordPress is relatively easy to optimize, and you can get the services of an SEO specialist to help you with it.

What app owners should make sure is that they should also optimize in the app market to get top search rankings when people are looking for an app.

Try this experiment: search for a photo app in an app market. The app that is shown first in your search is not a coincidence, nor a random result. Do the same search after one to three weeks—you’ll see that the results may have changed.

This is largely due to app optimization that were done, which is an unseen strategy that dynamically affects search results. App store optimization is an ongoing process, very much like SEO and Google Adwords optimization.

How do you do app store optimization?

You can learn how to do it yourself. There are available resources online. Another option is for you to find a company that renders this particular service.

Remember to calculate the cost of updating and maintaining the app.

Last but not least, don’t forget that your users expect new features in the app from time to time. If no new features are implemented in the app for quite some time, people tend to try another app or a much newer one.

App market account

You must create Google and Apple accounts so you can upload your finished app in Google Play or in the App Store. When you create an account, enter a legitimate company name, address, the app's name, and other information that add credibility to the app.

Always make sure that you register these accounts in your name so that nobody can question your ownership of the app.

We had this experience when we worked for a company that didn’t know this. When we took over the project, we found out that our client did not own the Apple and Google Play accounts for which their mobile apps were registered.

Their apps were registered under the account names of their developers who were not the app owners, but under whose name the apps were marketed. So, when we took over the development of two of their apps, we had to start over and create new app market accounts.

If you yourself created the account, you can give your developer the right to upload and publish the app without changing the ownership of the account.

Get the source code

The source code is what developers encode in their development systems, and this shapes your app. Without the source code you cannot change the vendor or sell your app if you wish (the one who will purchase your app will need the source code to further develop it).

Unfortunately, some software development companies and freelancers do not give the source code to their clients even when the project is completed.

From the very start of your agreement with your developer, make sure that you have the full rights to everything that’s being developed—including source code, graphic materials, files, database.

These are inherently part of what you are paying for, and full ownership of these will make it easier for you to change developers or establish your own in-house development team if you want to.

Imagine having a severe disagreement with your developer. If they do not give you the source code of your project, you cannot just switch to the services of a new software development company.

Well, technically you can, but for a very expensive price. You will start from scratch and pay your new supplier for a do over, and in the process waste all the money and time you spent with your previous supplier.

No matter what your developer tells you, they must sign an agreement that you can get the source code whenever you wish. If they do not want to sign such agreement, find another developer.

I hope this post has contributed to your understanding of the crucial things involved in developing mobile apps. You’re very much welcome to contact me directly if you have questions.


Peter Skouhus

Peter Skouhus

A Danish entrepreneur who owns 1902 Software Development, an IT company in the Philippines where he has lived since 1998. Peter has extensive experience in the business side of IT development, strategic IT management, and sales.