You do not need to be an expert developer in order to take a mobile app to market, although it could certainly keep costs down. But whether you build and test the app yourself or work with a developer, you need to invest a great deal of time in the development stage. You could mock something workable up in a week or two, but if you are serious about things, two months is really the minimum. Many apps take six months and more to work up to a finished product.
If you are developing the app yourself, you need technology appropriate to the platform on which you’ll be launching too. If you want to launch on iPhone, for instance, this means an Intel-based Apple computer, and devices for beta testing: an iPhone, an iPod Touch, and perhaps an iPad. You’ll need to register as a member of the iPhone Developer Program, which costs; and get your hands on the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK), which is free, and assists in the development of native applications for iOS, using Cocoa, Xcode etc.
You may need to buy a platform specific developer license for certain other platforms too. For Android Market, the system for app development is less proprietary: Android is a Linux-based platform from the Open Handset Alliance whose members include Google, HTC, Motorola, Qualcomm, and T-Mobile. Unlike iPhone, Android apps can be developed and obtained by users from anywhere, even a third party developer’s own website, and sales are not limited to Android Market. All this opens things up for developers. Of course, as the platforms are generally mutually incompatible, the techie detailing and coding changes with each.
If you’re not a technology expert, the thought of coding and intensive testing can sound too much. But you can leave that side to the developers, as David Carter of The App Factory explains: “If you’ve never built an app, you’re better getting a company or an independent developer. The coding itself is very easy for someone who’s in the know. But if you’re new to it, you could take hours trying to work it out!” We can safely say, ‘hours’ is probably an underestimate.
In any case, don’t let coding and such hold you back. Making an app requires the coming together of many disciplines: in the broad sense, developing an app takes so much more than technical knowledge. “Of course you need software engineers,” Tristan of Zolmo explains, “but you also need great product designers, graphic designers, sound designers, content producers, and in the case of 20 Minute Meals, a photographer and entire video production team.” In addition, you need great marketing and PR people. You could say one of the most important skills required for building an app is the ability to build a great team.