The influence mobile devices have on our lives is undeniable: smartphones and tablets have become essential tools for work, communication, and entertainment. Each new generation tends to spend more time looking at a screen than the previous one. Businesses and brands can use that to their advantage by creating their own app and gaining unprecedented access to clients with push notifications, special offers, or new products via a phone display.
The two leading operating systems for mobile phones are iOS, made by Apple, and Android, developed by Google. They have their differences in app building time, budget, audience, publication, and maintenance. While you will probably want to cover both grounds eventually, creating an app for two platforms at the same time requires a lot of time and resources. You should, therefore, focus on one market to launch your first app. This guide will walk you through all the necessary steps towards making an Android application.
Why Should You Build Android Mobile Apps?
There are several factors that suggest building an Android app would be a wiser choice strategically. First, publishing and hosting your app in Google Play Store is easier and cheaper compared to App Store. You’ll only have to pay a one-time $25 fee instead of the annual $99 for Apple, and the approval process won’t be as strict. The majority of all submitted apps are accepted within a couple of days. You can also distribute the app via other third-party stores or simply publish it on your website.
Another thing to keep in mind for the Apple vs. Android choice is that Android is an open-source platform. That means more flexibility for available features, hardware, and file systems, which ultimately makes the app customizable. Finally, as of June 2021, Android continues to have the leading position on global the operating system market, having almost three times more users than Apple. You are likely to reach a wider audience solely based on statistics, especially if your targets are international.
Step 1 – Do Your Research
Once you’ve secured an idea for your app and have a broad understanding of what it is going to be: a game, an online shopping platform, an extension of your brand, or maybe even a new social network, you’ll be faced with your first major decision: code or no-code. For the first option, you can either build the Android app yourself, with in-house developers, or hire an outsource agency/freelance team.
Making Android Apps without code
You can make an Android app without writing a single line of code – with the help of app builders. These are services that have drag-and-drop elements, some design modification options, and a standard set of features that you can add in any order or quantity. The resulting code will be automatically generated by the program. Pricing is usually per month, with some websites offering free trials for the first few days or weeks.
App builders are great for creating a simple Android application on a limited budget and timeframe. However, they can’t deliver the same complexity, customization, and feature set as original coding can.
|Android app builders||– No coding knowledge is required
– Moderate monthly fees
– Speed up time-to-market
|– A limited set of available features
– A low level of customization
– No integration capabilities
Making Android apps by outsourcing
Another no-code option is outsourcing your app: either to a professional agency or to a freelance developer. With an agency, you will get the end product turn-key and will be expected to participate in meetings to relay your vision and create an initial brief. This is suitable for higher-budget projects. Freelancers charge less, but usually require more control and guidance during the app-creation process.
Coding Android apps
Android’s official framework is called Android Studio, and it supports two main languages: Java and Kotlin. You can find beginner courses and tutorials for each of them. If you’ve had previous coding experience, you might already be familiar with Java and can rely on that knowledge. For non-developers, Kotlin might be a wiser choice.
Java is a reputable programming language that has been around since 1995 and remains one of the most widely used languages in the world. Java is fully supported by Google for making Android apps. The Android SDK and the majority of released apps include Java to some extent. If you know Java, you can already start creating your first app. For beginners, though, it will take a learning curve.
Kotlin was specifically designed by Google for the development of Android apps, so it is relatively new and simple in use. There aren’t many references or sample code examples for it, though, but its GitHub project is constantly growing with the help of experienced developers, and Google itself strives to make all documentation Kotlin-oriented. Kotlin is interoperable with Java and other programming languages. As it was created precisely for Android, it gives the resulting applications a native feel and requires less code, which makes for fewer bugs.
As a developer, you’ll need to compile your code in order to deploy the app on mobile devices as Android Package (.apk) files. Android’s official Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is called Android Studio. You can download it for free and use the provided tools, guides, and templates to build your first app. A good place to start is their basic guide for beginners.
Step 2 – Secure Your Team
To go forward with your chosen approach, you’ll need to assemble a team of coders: either freelance or in-house, or refer to a development agency. You can, technically, do all the work yourself, but it will likely take a lot more time and effort, so don’t neglect the opportunity for consultations and brainstorm sessions with fellow coders.
If you wish to assemble a new team, look for developers with a strong portfolio, relevant Android app building experience, and proven Java/Kotlin knowledge. They might cost you more, but you’ll be able to build the app faster and save money on further maintenance. Don’t forget to assign management roles and have separate specialists for the front-end and back-end parts of your app.
Step 3 – Develop Your Strategy
Your strategy essentially defines all your further steps and decisions. For the business project to be viable, you’ll need to come up with answers to the following questions:
- How will you market your app? Determine your target audience, raise awareness about your app among them even before the launch, and use their feedback to make out the necessary features and functionalities.
- How will you monetize your app? There are several monetization strategies to return your investments once the app is released: advertising, in-app purchases, subscription fees, and partner promotions.
- Do you want to go with a native app, or develop a progressive web application? Native apps allow for a consistent user experience and can be more feature-reach. PWAs are easier to make and can work well for testing hypotheses.
Step 4 – Do More Research
Once you have a general strategy lined up, you’ll need to make sure it corresponds with the current trends in the app market. For your app not to get lost among other similar-purpose creations, look at what competitors are doing and try to identify the areas where you can have an advantage over them. You should also create an MVP – a minimum viable product – with the core features the app needs before it can be published. You can fine-tune the rest of the functionalities later.
Step 5 – Create Your Sketches
Think of the main interface elements you want your Android app to have: text boxes, widgets, buttons, as well as the specific features required to support your idea: a navigation menu, a shopping cart, a product catalog, etc. Refer to your brand book to choose an appropriate color scheme or consult with a designer to make a new one. Create a rough draft of the user interface to work out the logic and flow of consequent app screens.
Step 6 – Build Out Your Wireframes
The sketches you’ve put together during the previous step are needed to create wireframes, which are like blueprints of a building. Wireframes are a base for the designers and developers on how to position elements and put together the structure of different screens. You don’t have to figure everything out in great detail – the final look will likely be adjusted during prototyping and post-release testing.
Step 7 – Begin Prototyping
Prototyping allows you to create a sample version of your Android app to test and improve it before the actual building can take place. This is a low-cost, low-risk way of making sure the product is ready to be scaled up. During this stage, you can refer to Android emulators that let you run applications on your PC imitating different devices and configurations. During this stage, you’ll need to validate your UX and work out the design you want to go for.
Step 8 – Start Building!
Now’s the time for the main activity needed to bring your app to life, following the development strategy you’ve chosen to build the features determined by the MVP. This stage can take several weeks or months for complex apps, or be complete in a matter of days with a simple extension of your website and a dedicated service that has pre-written code blocks. When your project file receives confirmation from Google Store, you can celebrate the launch.
Aspiring app creators all over the world are faced with a choice: to develop applications for an Android device vs. Apple ones. And while you will likely want to be present on both platforms further down the road, starting with Android has several advantages. For one, developing on Kotlin, the Studio’s native language, is very accessible for coders with no previous experience. And if you decide to go completely no-code or outsource the project, you can expect reasonable pricing and time-to-market for your MVP.
Developing an Android app requires careful preparation: from choosing the right approach for the back-end part of the app and preparing sketches and wireframes for flow and design to coming up with a marketing strategy and testing out the first prototype. With the right team, an understanding of the market, and guidelines and support from Android, you’ll see your app go live in a matter of months or even weeks.