You have an idea for an app that’s so revolutionary, you can’t stop thinking about it. You’ve talked to your friends and family, and they all agree that it’s a great idea. Every time you check your smartphone, you can’t help but feel a sense of longing for the app that could be.

There’s only one small problem: you have no clue where to start.

If this sounds familiar, don’t give up on your awesome idea. Keep reading to find out exactly how to bring your app to life.

Make an On-Paper Prototype

The fabled construction saying “measure twice, cut once” also applies to the building of apps. Save yourself time and frustration down the road by thoroughly planning out your app on paper before you write a single line of code.

This plan—called a wireframe, screen blueprint, or page schematic—is your chance to work out kinks in the app’s overall design and user experience. If you decide later on that you’d prefer to outsource the actual creation of your app, this plan will make sure that you and the developer are on the same page from day one.

Choose a Platform

Once you’ve planned out your app idea, it’s time to decide what platform to publish it on. Web-based, iOS (Apple), and Android apps are the most popular. Each one has an official programming language and IDE (integrated development environment) that you will need to learn in order to build the app yourself.

Cross-platform apps are possible to build, but they often feel clunky on non-native platforms. It’s best to start by developing your app for one platform and then re-designing it for another if it becomes popular.

Decide on Development: In-House or Outsourced?

There are pros and cons to both outsourcing your app’s development and doing it yourself. Which one is best for you depends on your available finances and technical skills.

DIY Development

If you have the necessary skill set and software (or a good friend who does), in-house development may be the more cost-effective route to take. To get started, you’ll need to download the appropriate IDE (such as Xcode or Android Studio) and start learning the native programming language.

Take a good look through the sample code provided with your SDK of choice if you aren’t already well-versed in programming. Many of your app’s features, like taking a photo or connecting to a GPS location, might have pre-written examples you can base your code on.

If you aren’t a skilled programmer but would still like to keep your app development mostly in-house, consider using an app maker. These software programs provide you with a starting framework to build from and often offer developer support if you get stuck along the way.

Outsourcing Your Project

Outsourcing may be the right choice if you lack the technical skills needed to bring an app from the idea stages to reality. If you decide to outsource your project, make sure that you choose an experienced developer who fits your style and budget.

Publish and Market Your App

Publishing your app on a leading app store will require you to create a developer’s account and pay a small startup fee. Apple charges $99/year for membership and store hosting, while Google charges a one-time $25 fee.

As of late 2018, both the Apple and Google app stores had at least two million apps available. With so many options to choose from, marketing your new app is essential if you want anyone to find it. Spread the news via word of mouth, social media, and on your website to be sure that it gets noticed.

Follow These Steps If You Have an Idea for an App

Coming up with an app idea is the easy part—it’s bringing it to life that’s difficult. The next time you have an idea for an app, follow the above steps for a great shot at success.

When you’re ready to start building, click here to learn about three of the best platforms for custom mobile app development.