“What’s a wireframe? I’ll just Google that”

“How easy is it to learn Swift? What is Swift?”

“Do I need a native app? I honestly don’t know!”

You knew building your own app wasn’t going to be easy, but the amount of technical jargon coming out of your screen is enough to make Elon Musk’s head hurt.

How can you even begin to envision your final app when you don’t know what half the building blocks do? (Or what their names are)

And if you’re planning to outsource your app’s development to a software team, how can you communicate your vision to them when they speak ‘tech’ a mile a minute?

It's true, app development isn’t easy and the research you need to do is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. But building your own app isn’t off-limits, and if someone tells you differently they’re after your money!

Modern technology has put the tools of app creation at everyone’s fingertips. Having your own branded mobile app is no longer reserved for super-rich companies, lots of smaller businesses are getting in on the action and seeing amazing business results.  

App-building platforms are springing up left, right, and center. They provide an accessible and affordable way for small business owners to own their own apps.

If you’d like to skip straight to how Passion.io can help you build your own coaching app with no developers and no coding, click here.

So how do people usually make apps? No ‘how to build an app’ article would be complete without a rundown of the traditional app-building life cycle.  

The traditional app-building life cycle

Before we dive into the powerful Passion.io platform you can use to create a coaching app with no coding skills, here is the traditional way to develop an app, broken down into 5 steps.

Step 1 - Decide what your app is for 

You may think this step is a given, but it always helps to start with the very basics. Why do you want to create an app? What’s its purpose? Who will it serve?

If you’re not crystal clear on these points before you start building your app you’ll find that your design is patchy and inconsistent.

Remember, you are designing an app to solve a customer’s problem. The solution they’re seeking needs to be at the heart of your app, otherwise, they’ll take one look at it and leave.  

Step 2 - Ask your clients and customers what they want

You might have decided what your app is for, but you could find out that your customers want something completely different.

At Passion.io we are huge advocates of iterative development. That’s the building of a product based on user feedback. 

Instead of creating something and putting it out into the world when it’s done, you build your product bit by bit and get feedback throughout the creation process. This feedback constantly informs the final design of your product so you produce something that you know will sell.

We believe the best way to build a product is to ask your dream customer what they want and then build that! It saves years working on something only to find out no one wants it.

Once you’ve decided what your app is for, make sure it aligns with your dream customer’s problems and desires. You might be surprised to find that your initial idea might need some tweaking after doing this market research.  

Step 3 - Draw a mock-up of your app

Now we get to the good bits. You need to start designing your app. But before you dive into a code editor and start reeling off lines of code, it's best to put pen to paper and draw out the features and design of your app.

This stage is vital even if you’re not planning on building the app yourself. You’ll need to take your designs and wireframes to a development agency so they can build what you want. (Or you can use our platform and skip this step altogether. Just saying.)

Creating a mock-up of your app requires 3 steps:

  1. Mapping out the features
  2. Creating a wireframe
  3. Adding the graphic design elements

1. Mapping out the features

What are the key features of your app? What functionality do you want it to have?

Does the app need to integrate with any other software? Will it need to sort user data? Do you want it to be able to access a device’s camera and microphone?

Think about these questions and then write down a list of all the functionalities your app will need. Be as exhaustive as possible, even if you think a feature is really small it is still worth writing down and planning for.  

Once you’ve done this step you can start adding your features to a wireframe design document.  

2. Creating a wireframe of your mobile design

A wireframe is a rough sketch of each page of your app. It should include vital information such as; where each feature goes on a page, where are the buttons on a page, where they’ll lead, and where videos and text will live.

A wireframe is a rough layout of your app. Something you could show to a developer or a designer and they will make the vision a reality.

A wireframe isn’t a detailed graphic depiction of your app. It shouldn’t include images, text, and colors. If your wireframe is a lovely picture of what you want your app to look like you’ve done it wrong.

The wireframe is halfway between your idea and the final design. Be prepared to tweak and change it if you need to. It isn’t set in stone. Think of it as a first draft, something you can work with to get to your end goal.  

Once you have a rough sketch of your app, you can start thinking about the aesthetic design elements.

3. Adding the graphic elements 

You can now decide on the aesthetic element of your app. Will the home screen have a background video? What is your color scheme? What color will the buttons be? How big will they be?

If you’re pretty savvy at design you could do this yourself. There are also app design templates you can use if you need a helping hand.

If design isn’t your thing you can always look to marketplaces like Fiverr or Upwork to hire a designer to help you flesh out your vision.

You can map out the graphic elements of your app on tools like Canva or Photoshop. However you visualize the visual elements of your app, just make sure you have the images and wireframe with you when you start building your app!

Step 4 - Build your app

After all that work, it’s finally time to build your app. How you go about building it is up to you. 

There are three main approaches to app development:

  1. Learn to code and build it yourself
  2. Use a mobile app-building platform, like Passion.io, to create the app yourself
  3. Outsource the app creation to a development team  

Each approach has its advantages, drawbacks, and price tags.

Option 1: Building the app yourself

If you want to get hands-on with app development then this approach is for you. Swift is the main language you’ll need to create native mobile apps for the Apple App Store.

This is a relatively cheap solution for building an app. Your main monetary cost will be paying for coding lessons or a boot camp to get yourself upskilled in the relevant coding languages and frameworks you need to make an app.    

Whilst the costs could vary from $0-$6000 the real drain here is on your time. If your app has a lot of features and you’re an inexperienced developer working solo, it could take up to 2-years before your app is ready to launch.

Option 2: Using a mobile app builder platform

There are plenty of platforms on the web that make building a mobile app affordable and easy. No matter what your business needs are, you'll find a platform that can work for you. If, for example, you need to build a coaching app, look no further than Passion.io. We’re a no-code, drag-and-drop app creation platform for coaches who want an e-learning app.

Mobile app builder platforms vary from no-code to low-code, which means some of them will require basic coding knowledge.

Unlike building an app yourself, these platforms may have limitations so you’ll need to pick the one you want to use carefully as you won’t be able to swap once you commit. But with enough research, you can find one that suits your needs perfectly.

Prices vary per platform but will usually cost no more than the ongoing cost of hiring developers to maintain an app you’ve outsourced. You get the bonus of controlling your app content and design.

Option 3: Outsourcing to a development team

The last option is the most expensive ($50,000+ in most cases) but it is largely worth it if you have the resources. App agencies are experts at taking your vision and turning it into a reality. They can custom-build an app for you, from scratch. Depending on your business model this could be invaluable.  

Working with an external agency does have its drawbacks, however. Having someone create an app for you means it can be difficult to upload content to your app and enact changes quickly on your own.

Also, app agencies may try to influence your company vision and create an app you might not want. In many cases, app agencies become your business partners and not part of your team.

If you’re looking for an app expert to help guide your business and partner with you long-term, then finding an app development team could be for you.

No matter which development strategy you choose, just be prepared for some things to go wrong, deadlines to change, and plans revised. This is the stage where the leg-work happens and there are usually some tears before the app is finished.

Step 5 - Launch your app in the app stores

Last but not least, it's time to launch your app. The steps below are a brief overview of how you get your app on the app stores:

  1. Register for an app store developer account
  2. Review your app and make sure it follows ASO best practices and the app store guidelines
  3. Upload your app to the app stores
  4. The app stores will review your app, once it’s approved it will go live to the world. People can now download it. Congratulations

How to create an app from scratch using Passion.io

Create a credible global brand for your coaching business with your own white-label mobile app. 

Attract new leads to your business using our easy drag-and-drop app creator tools. Improve your marketing funnels and find new customers with a platform you control.

Our apps give you the power to enhance the lives of your clients & customers. They make it easy for you to share your skills with the world and improve the lives of the people around you.

You don’t need to worry about dealing with developers. Passion.io is simple. We have a world-class support team who can lend a hand at a moment’s notice.  

Get access to proven templates and step-by-step systems to understand your current customers better and acquire new ones. Analyze your user base with PassionMetrics to find out where your customers are coming from and who they are.

How much does it cost to make an app? 5 options for any budget  

Asking how much it costs to develop an app is like asking “How long is a piece of string?”

There isn’t one defined answer. The price will vary depending on what you want the app to do and who is making it for you.

So the cost can vary, it can be as cheap as a couple of $100 a month up to a stone-cold $1 million for a top-of-the-line app.

Never fear, we’ve summed up the main price ranges for app development below and added a list of app-builder options for different price ranges.

How much does it cost to build an app the traditional way?

You might think that a simple app wouldn’t cost too much to build. But even basic apps with limited functionality can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Especially if you’re partnering with an app agency and building your idea from scratch. Simple app ideas can become extremely complex ‘under the hood’, so don’t bank on your idea being cheap because you can explain it in a sentence.

Rule of Thumb 1: Hiring a professional app agency that has a team of designers, project managers, and programmers will cost you no less than $100,000.

Using an offshore app development agency to build your app is another popular option. Many offshore agencies will quote $15 - $40K to launch the first version of your app. This sounds a lot better on the wallet than a traditional app agency but there is a greater risk.

If the price is too good to be true that’s probably because it is. Taking your development offshore can lead to miscommunication and a lack of transparency between an entrepreneur and their offshore development team. 

This can lead to spiraling costs further down the line when you’re trying to fix a poorly designed app instead of paying upfront for a working one in the first place.

Rule of Thumb 2: An offshore development team won’t cost as much as a traditional agency (around 15-40K). But that number comes with an increased risk of the project being mishandled.  

The figures mentioned above need some more explanation, too. Creating your app’s software is just the first step in this project. Building an app isn’t a ‘one-time’ transaction.

You don’t just give a development team your money, they build something for you, then you go your separate ways.

Proper app development relies on several development phases, each phase informs the last until you get the first version of your app. From there you need to keep testing and improving your app until you find a version that gels with your customer.

This is called ‘product-market fit’.

Continued improvements, maintenance, and code reviews mean your app’s development is never truly finished. You should keep 25% of your development budget for this post-launch phase.

You’ll need money in the coffers to continue maintaining and developing your app after launch.

Rule of Thumb 3: Be prepared to pay for constant maintenance. Building an app isn’t a one-time purchase; it requires constant updates and monitoring.

Do these numbers make your eyes water? Are you shaking your head thinking “I can never afford that!”.

Don’t worry, below we’ve listed several app-building options for any budget. So if you don’t fancy hiring a team of developers to build your app there are affordable solutions below to help you out.

5 app development methods for any budget

If hiring an expensive team of software developers isn’t your thing there are plenty of other solutions you can use to make your own app. We’ve listed them below from the cheapest to the most expensive.

1. Learn to code and build an app yourself 

Price range: $0 - $6000

If you love learning new skills and developing your CV this is a great option for you. Learning to code is going to be a vital career skill in the coming decades and knowing your Javascript from your PHP or C# will set you up well for future jobs.

But you’re not looking to improve your CV, you want to build an app. Learning the necessary coding skills is achievable and affordable (Check out FreeCodeCamp.org for free lessons) but you might find yourself sucked into a coding course for years and before you know it… you’ve forgotten what app you were supposed to be developing.

2. Use an app-development platform

Passion.io price range: $79 a month 

Save time and money by using a no-code app creation platform. There are loads of online solutions available for people wanting to build their own mobile apps quickly and cheaply.

Many platforms (Like Passion.io) have a drag-and-drop user interface. Which means you can start building easily and with confidence.

Prices for app development platforms vary. They can start at $30 per month and up to $1000 per month. Ours starts at a reasonable $79 per month. You can see our pricing here.

3. Buy an app template or starter kit and customize it 

Price range: A source code license can set you back around $75 - $300 + app store + development and design costs 

App templates are a great resource to use if your app idea is similar to something already on the market. There are loads of app templates out there and developers sell the source code (this is a fancy way of saying the template), so you’re not doing anything illegal by buying it.

Purchasing a template cuts out a lot of the tricky coding and gives you a defined framework to work with. You’ll still need to fill the template with your artwork though and if you want to make edits to the template you’ll have to hire a developer.

So depending on how tech-savvy you are determines how viable an option this is for you.

Be aware, if you’re hiring a freelancer to help edit your template, a small job can soon snowball into a bigger one and you might find yourself paying a lot more than you expected.

4. Pay an offshore agency or freelancer to create your app for you

Price range: $15,000 - $40,000

We’ve already covered this point above but we’ll mention it here too. Offshore agencies and freelancers can be great if you find the right one. There can be communication issues and a lack of transparency in this process though so make sure you thoroughly vet your freelancer or agency before hiring them.  

5. Pay a software company or mobile app development agency to build your app 

Price range: $100,000 - $1,000,000

If you believe you need a bespoke app with a lot of niche features then going with an app agency is probably the right choice for you. The large price tag comes with the assurance that there’s a dedicated team of people working on your app.

This option isn’t for everyone and if you want to control more of your product’s journey then handing off construction to a development team might be the wrong move.