At some point, you’ve likely toyed with the idea of creating a mobile app. After all, millions of mobile apps have risen to prominence and made their originators a fortune, and you’ve probably had more than one decent app idea, prompted by opportunities to simplify or improve your life. But if you’ve never had the development experience to gauge the complexity of the app, you might have no understanding of how long it might take or how much it might cost to build the app yourself.
For most emerging entrepreneurs, the best path forward is to work with a custom mobile app developer—a dedicated agency that can build virtually any app and help you support it indefinitely. The only problem with this approach is that it often costs tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to pursue. If you’re able to get funding or take out a loan, this is workable, but what if you could learn to develop a mobile app by yourself, from scratch?
The Problem With DIY
There are a few different possible approaches to create an app yourself, and none of them are especially appealing. The straightforward approach is to rely on a mobile app maker tailored to people with little to no development skill. These online makers tend to rely on templates and simple features, which means your idea won’t have much of an opportunity to shine; you’ll be restricted on what features you can include, and your app won’t have a chance of standing out. You’ll have a similar layout and functionality as hundreds of other apps on the marketplace, which means you won’t have any brand differentiation.
The other major route is to develop all the skills necessary to build an app on your own. While this is certainly feasible over years or decades of experience, it’s not a realistic approach for someone trying to complete development on an app in mere months.
For example, you’ll need to hone the following skills:
- Wireframing and concepting. You may be able to wireframe your app currently, even with minimal skill, but without a firm understanding of the backend development process, those wireframes won’t do you much good.
- Backend development. Backend development allows you to create the core functionality of the app you’re developing. You can use one of several programming languages here, though some are better than others. If you’ve never worked with a programming language before, you can expect a serious learning curve here. Apps with complex features will be a nightmare for a novice.
- Frontend development. You’ll also need to develop the designs that your users will see and engage with, and tie them to your backend, core functionality. This is known as frontend development, and it requires its own branch of training.
- OS optimization. Different operating systems have different requirements and factors for optimization to consider, which can be overwhelming if you’re new to the game.
- QA testing. On top of that, you’ll need to know how to test your app—thoroughly—to make sure it’s working as intended. That also means developing the skills necessary to fix bugs when they inevitably arise.
- Distribution and support. You’ll also need to understand how to submit your app to app stores, and support it after the initial launch.
Some professionals only choose to specialize in one or two of these categories, even after years of experience. It’s not realistic to think you could master all of them enough to build your own app.
Freelancers vs. an Agency
For many reasons, it’s better to hire a professional to develop your app than to learn to build one from scratch and follow through with amateur skills. The question then becomes, is it better to hire a professional agency or work with individual freelancers?
Hiring freelancers could give you more flexibility. You’ll be able to “mix and match” a team of specialists who can work on various aspects of your app, and choose exactly the right skill levels and price points you need. However, you’ll be responsible for more high-level strategic planning, and you may have to deal with lower reliability.
Working with an agency will cost a little more, but will usually leave you with a much more professional-looking and functional product. Agencies usually have access to an entire team of various specialists, which you wouldn’t be able to get scouring the freelance market on your own, and they’ll be able to offer much more ongoing support as well.
So is it possible to build an app on your own, with no experience? In rare cases, with an extremely simple application and enough dedication to polish your own skills, yes, it’s possible. But for the vast majority of aspiring entrepreneurs and app developers, it’s better to take your idea to a professional mobile app development agency. Raising the funds necessary for such an endeavor may prove to be problematic, but if your business idea is solid and you’re dedicated to the cause, eventually you’ll find a way.