How to make an app

Knowing how to make an app has never been more vital. Apps are everything. Without them, a PC is a typewriter, and a smartphone or tablet is a slab of glass and metal. If you’ve been bitten by the app bug and hanker to make your own, getting started can be intimidating. This feature points you at tutorials, explainers, resources, and videos that can help you learn how to make an app.

We’re not forcing you towards Apple’s maw either – although we do cover how to create apps for iOS and macOS, there are also lists for Android and Windows, along with a cross-platform list covering concepts and ideas every app can benefit from, and technologies that can be deployed across a range of platforms. In some cases you’ll gain knowledge, but some tutorials even leave you with a complete (if simple) app to mess around with.

The only restrictions on your part are the kit required to work on the tutorials (which may be as little as a device to watch videos, and a whirring brain to take everything in), and time. Money isn’t generally an issue, because all of these tutorials are freely available – or at least freely accessible using trials.

Making iOS apps for iPad and iPhone

Apple’s iOS platform remains the best bet on mobile for innovative and production-oriented apps. If you want to learn how to make an app for iPhone or iPad, check out the links below.

01. Watch Apple developer insights

Get some background to app-making with Apple developer insights

Rather than immediately delving into making an app or game, it pays to find out what makes them successful. Apple’s developer insights videos have creators of hit apps share how they built sustainable businesses, cultivated communities, and kept their products fresh through regular updates and feature innovations.

02. Create a Messages stickers extension

If you’re desperate to get cracking and make something, this YouTube video by The Code Lady is a good place to start. In just a few minutes, it leads you through the process of using Xcode to fashion a simple Messages extension. It’s not a ‘proper’ app, sure, but it’s a toe in the water.

03. Start developing iOS apps

This course breaks down the elements of building an app

This course by Apple is broken down into sections that give you a grounding in building interface elements and working with table views. The end result is a simple meal-tracking app, with which a user can add, remove or edit a meal, along with specifying a name, rating and image.

04. Make iPhone apps (even if you have no experience)

These tutorials are a great way to start making an app

Chris Ching’s guide for his own Code with Chris site is a series of videos to take you through the process of creating an app. Unlike many guides, it starts with no assumptions. But in carefully working through the friendly tutorials, you’ll learn Xcode, Swift, interface design, user interaction, and computer logic.

05. Develop iOS 10 apps with Swift

You'll need a bit of coding knowledge for this course

Available through iTunes, Stanford’s course on developing for iOS has been updated for iOS 10 and Swift. The course comprises a series of lengthy video-based lectures with supporting material. Note that you will need some knowledge of C and object-oriented programming to be comfortable with the course.

06. Create your first iOS game

In this series of seven videos from Awesome Tuts, you go through the process of creating a simple endless runner gravity flipper game. What you end up with is basic, but gives you insight into working with backgrounds, players, character movement and collectables. Keener on apps? Check out Awesome Tuts’ Uber clone.

07. Design for all Apple screen sizes

This will help you get a handle on Apple's screen real estate

Although penned during the iOS 8 days, this article full of developer insight remains relevant to those targeting multiple Apple screen sizes. And you should – the best modern apps work on anything from the smallest iPhone to the largest iPad. Savvy developers also think beyond, to the world of the Apple TV and even Apple Watch.

08. Understand iOS accessibility

Accessibility is all-important when making apps

Accessibility is a fundamental component of all Apple’s output, and iOS devices are no exception. The best apps are aware of – and utilise – key accessibility technologies. This video series runs through many of them and also how to audit apps to ensure their functions are discoverable to and useable by all. (You’ll need a free trial to view this Lynda tutorial – or sign up and subscribe.) 

Next page: How to make an Android app