How to Make an iPhone App in 10 Easy Steps

There are, like, two kajillion apps in the App Store, so making them must be super duper easy, right? Hang on a second, wiping away my tears of laughter here. Let me walk you through the process, as I experienced it while developing an app for Unfuck Your Habitat. It’s a bit unorthodox to have someone review their own app, but you guys are my people, and you know that this is my baby, so instead, I’ll tell you a little about what it took to make it happen.

  1. Have an idea. This is easy, right? We all have million dollar ideas! Except, generally, 40 other people have already had that idea, made the app, and just gone and STOLEN your millions of dollars. Oh, and in case you had any funny ideas, Apple will not actually accept any more fart apps. Ever. Not that I tried, but I thought I’d save you the trouble.
  2. Have a name. Names? Names are easy! Well, unless they contain profanity. Or pseudo-profanity. Or if they sound sort of like something else that someone already owns. Or if they’re too long. Or too short. Try coming up with six or seven dozen variations on your name. I think #84 is the one that worked.
  3. Find a developer. Not going to lie, this is the hardest part. I can’t pretend that getting hooked up with my genius coder and developer, known only by his code name C Prompt (that’s C: to you), was anything short of serendipity. Like, stars aligning and fate smiling-level shit, here.
  4. Design and code. Again, I’m the luckiest bitch in the world. Did you know that our very own Selena MacIntosh is an artistic genius, as well as working some goddamned magic with Photoshop? Tell Selena how beautiful the app is, everyone. Because I could show you the results of the weekend when I tried to teach myself Photoshop, and they are not pretty. The coding is some sort of sorcery that C: worked, of which I am blissfully ignorant and which I’m sure led to my name being cursed repeatedly as my suggestions got more complicated and I changed my mind for the fiftieth time. I’m a nightmare client, guys. It’s embarrassing.
  5. Get official with Apple. Oh, good job! You established a sole proprietorship. Gave it a name and everything. So go ahead and start the registration process with Apple, only to discover that unless you’re a corporation, they will publish your full name on the app’s page in the app store, on your customer’s receipts, everywhere! Have a weekend-long nervous breakdown. Steel yourself Monday morning and figure out how to incorporate. Become an LLC. Open up a bank account! Wade through some tax code! Then start the application process again, throw some money at The Big Mean iFruit, then throw some more money at them for some other stuff you may or may not really understand. Get a 400-page contract. Attempt to understand it better than the iTunes User Agreement, then tentatively check “Accept” and wonder when they’re coming for your soul.
  6. Hammer out the bugs. By this point, it’s fine-tuning, testing, making sure all the pictures are where they’re supposed to be. Here’s one thing I learned, though, both from every post in every developers’ forum ever and from my own experience: there will be a bug you missed, and someone will complain about it in an all-caps review in the App Store. But at this stage, you can only do your best to make sure everything is running smoothly.
  7. Celebrate completion. It’s done! It’s uploaded to iTunes! It’s waiting for review! Pop the champagne! Tease that something big is coming! Check your email every hour to see if there’s a status change!
  8. Wait. In our case, wait two weeks. (It seems that the average for review/approval is in the “several days” to “a week at most” range. Come here, let me tell you about my notorious bad luck!) Limit checking your email to once every two hours to try to keep from losing your mind. No status change. No status change. No status change. Long after you’ve given up, get an email at 5 a.m. saying your app is finally in review.
  9. Launch! Apple has you fix a few things, then they approve it. It’s ready to sell! Announce it through whatever channels you can. Send out press kits. Celebrate the proudest moment of your life and your biggest accomplishment, then
  10. Have everyone complain that it’s not available on Android.


So, let’s make this fun. In the comments, tell me what you’d make if you could develop an app, and don’t feel the need to limit yourself to the constraints of existent technology or reality. Dream big. One (randomly selected) commenter on this post will win a free copy of  the UfYH app, to be picked at 10 p.m. EST on Tuesday, July 22nd.

And in case you want to check out what all that blood, sweat, and tears resulted in, here’s the app.

13 replies on “How to Make an iPhone App in 10 Easy Steps”

Yay! My favourite gif!

I may or may not have bought the app as soon as I was aware of its existence. I may or may not have also installed it on MrPear’s iPhone for him (without letting him know, because I’m a Ninja!).

Kudos all around! PoM, Selena, and C:!

I would love to make a nail polish inventory app! I picture it working kinda like Goodreads; you can list what you have, what you want, assign it to categories by color or type (glitter, topcoat, etc), even have a social networking aspect so you can update what you’re wearing and do swaps if you want. You’d be able to look at pictures to make sure you don’t buy dupes, write reviews, upload swatches. I really wish I had the slightest idea how to work with all the nail polish companies to import images; there’s nothing like this available in the app store and I think it would be fun.

Congrats! (I am really excited for this to come out on android, cause that’s what I use. I am not grumpy that you brought it out on iOS first or anything though. Really, go you! I can wait.)

I would make an app that could analyze what I eat and write an algorithm to tell me what I want to eat when I’m hungry but I dunno what I want.

I want an app that scans my food shopping receipt and then notifies me two days before each item is supposed to go off.

(I may or may not have had to throw out steak yesterday because of a lack of this app… what, I’m a bad food planner…)

What makes you think it was MUURRRDERRR

(sorry, had to be done).

@[M]freckle said what I wanted to say! Congratulations on your app! I can’t even imagine how much energy and life was put into developing it!

I had to make a proposal app for a history course and it was life sucking, we were quite proud of it in the end, but SO MUCH ARCHIVAL RESEARCH

It’s not available on Android!

I’m sorry, I’m in a horrible teenage mood tonight. I also think I’m hilarious right now.

I’d make several apps. One that will tell you where that person got those gorgeous shoes and if they’re still for sale. An ATM finder. A cheerleading app for strangers, creating a world-wide communication in which you can send of random HURRAH’s to even more random people, because you feel like it and there is always somewhere out there who can need it. An app that can locate your adapters and app that will wonder if you locked all doors as soon as you step outside your house.

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