In early 2012, I developed a productivity iPhone app that allows users to track the time they spend working on projects. It is called Sessions [App Store Link]. So far, about 3 months after launch, this app has 35,000+ downloads and great reviews from users. It even reached the #1 most downloaded app in all of Brazil for a few days. I want to share with you a simple overview of getting a great app developed and launched.
Step 1: Create the Specs
I spent considerable time outlining exactly how I wanted my app to perform. I wrote out 4 full pages of specs, listing every button and feature, accounting for every possibility, providing screenshots and wireframes, and making the job as clear as possible. This was hugely important, as we'll see below.
Step 2: Get the App's Interface Designed
When you find a developer, many of them have in-house designers who can design the app and then pass it off to the coders to make it "work." I don't particularly like that approach. Rather, I prefer working with my own interface designers to create the look and feel before ever handing it off to the developers. This helps visualize the app and work out any problems before you get started.
For my app, I did the interface design myself, as I have a little photoshop skills, but it took me months. I would have been better finding a killer designer on Elance instead.
Step 3: Get the App Coded
With all the prep work completed, the most difficult and important phase – actually building the app – goes much more smoothly. You're giving the developers complete specs and a completed design, reducing the chance for miscommunication and greatly speeding up the process.
I posted my project on Elance and got over 30 offers. Most of them were auto-generated replies from companies in India who never even looked at my project. But but digging into the details, I sent replies to a handful of companies with great reviews and ultimately selected a fantastic developer from Europe.
The people at this company were super professional and completed the entire app in under 2 weeks. This is partly due to their great work ethic, and partly due to my specs and design being clear enough that we had no issues. The app turned out fantastic and I was ready to submit it to Apple...
Step 4: Submit to Apple and Launch
Finally, you need a developer account with Apple to submit the apps, which costs $99/year. Your developer can help with the complex tasks of packaging and uploading to Apple. Then, it's under review for about 4-6 business days while Apple makes sure it complies with their standards.
Also during this time, you must write a description that will show in the App Store and keywords that are used to find your app through the search feature. Spend considerable time making these *incredible* as it can often be the difference between hundreds of downloads and zero.
P.S. I did virtually no marketing for this app. Since 95% of your customers will find you from within the App Store itself, there isn't much else you can do. That's why it is imperative to choose the right keywords (so users will find you through search terms) and a strong description to sell your app.