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How to make an app for iOS, Android or desktop

How to make an app
(Image credit: Daniel Korpai on Unsplash)

Knowing how to make an app has never been more vital. Why? Because apps are everything. Without an app, a PC is a typewriter, and a smartphone or tablet is a slab of glass and metal. Take a look at our roundups of the best iPhone apps and iPad apps for designers to see just what we can do using apps nowadays. 

If you’ve been bitten by the app bug and fancy putting together your own, we're here to help. In this article, you'll find tutorials, explainers, resources, and videos that will help you learn how to make an app for a range of different platforms.

We've covered a range of bases here (it's not all about Apple, after all!). There are sections on how to make macOS and iOS apps, but also tutorials for Android and Windows here. Finally, there's a cross-platform list covering concepts and ideas every app can benefit from, and technologies that can be deployed across a range of platforms. Just the jump links opposite to hop straight to the section that interests you.

In many cases you’ll gain knowledge, but some tutorials will leave you with a complete (if simple) app to mess around with. Money won't be an issue, because all of these tutorials are freely available – or at least freely accessible using trials.

Looking for the top devices to test your apps on? Check out our guide to the best Android tablets in 2019, or keep an eye on our roundup of the best Black Friday iPad deals for a chance to bag a bargain Apple device.

How to make 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 tutorials below. Alternatively, check out our beginner's guide to mobile app design for a general overview.

01. How to make your first app

This hugely popular video tutorial was created by CodeWithChris in 2019. It walks though how to build an app for iOS, including getting set up, a guide to the different tools you'll need to use, and how to write and read Swift code. Naturally, it's a long tutorial, but by the end of it you'll have built a fully functional iOS app.

02. Apple developer insights

How to make an app: 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, used subscriptions, cultivated communities, and kept their products fresh through regular updates and feature innovations.

03. Create a Messages stickers extension

If you’re desperate to get cracking and make something quickly, 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.

04. Start developing iOS apps

How to make an app: 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.

05. How to make an iPhone app

This video tutorial from Devslopes shows you how to make an iPhone app, using Xcode 9 and Swift 4. It's aimed at beginners with no coding experience, so is a great introduction to follow if you've never created an app before. You'll end up with a working iPhone app, including animations and sound effects. 

06. Develop iOS 10 apps with Swift

How to make an app: Develop iOS 10 apps with Swift

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

Available for free through iTunes, Stanford’s course on developing for iOS comprises a series of lengthy video-based lectures with supporting material. This course aims to arm you with the tools and APIs you need to build iPhone and iPad apps using the iOS SDK. Note that you will need some knowledge of C and object-oriented programming to be comfortable with the course. It has been updated for iOS 10 and Swift.

07. Design for all Apple screen sizes

How to make an app: 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 multiple screen sizes are key these days – 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

How to make an app: 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 from Lynda.com 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