How to Make an App(iOS, Android OS, Windows and macOS)


Knowing how to make an app has never been more vital. We’ve covered the best iPhone apps and iPad apps for designers elsewhere on the site — but here we’re looking at how to make them. Why? Because apps are everything.

Without an app, a PC is a typewriter, and a smartphone or tablet is a slab of glass and metal. If you’ve been bitten by the app bug and hanker to make your own, getting started can be intimidating. This feature points you at tutorials, explainers, resources, and videos that can help you learn how to make an app.

We’re not forcing you towards Apple’s maw either. Although we do cover how to create apps for iOS and macOS, there are also tutorials for Android and Windows here, along with a cross-platform list covering concepts and ideas every app can benefit from, and technologies that can be deployed across a range of platforms.

In some cases you’ll gain knowledge, but some tutorials even leave you with a complete (if simple) app to mess around with. You can skip to the section you want using the dropdown menu above.

The only restrictions on your part are the kit required to work on the tutorials (which may be as little as a device like an iPad Pro to watch videos, and a whirring brain to take everything in) and time. Money isn’t generally an issue, because all of these tutorials are freely available — or at least freely accessible using trials.

How to make iOS apps for iPad and iPhone

Apple’s iOS platform remains the best bet on mobile for innovative and production-oriented apps. If you want to learn how to make an app for iPhone or iPad, check out the links below.

01. Watch Apple developer insights

Get some background to app-making with Apple developer insights

Rather than immediately delving into making an app or game, it pays to find out what makes them successful. Apple’s developer insights videos have creators of hit apps share how they built sustainable businesses, cultivated communities, and kept their products fresh through regular updates and feature innovations.

02. Create a Messages stickers extension

If you’re desperate to get cracking and make something, this YouTube video by The Code Lady is a good place to start. In just a few minutes, it leads you through the process of using Xcode to fashion a simple Messages extension. It’s not a ‘proper’ app, sure, but it’s a toe in the water.

03. Start developing iOS apps

This course breaks down the elements of building an app

This course by Apple is broken down into sections that give you a grounding in building interface elements and working with table views. The end result is a simple meal-tracking app, with which a user can add, remove or edit a meal, along with specifying a name, rating and image.

04. Make iPhone apps (even if you have no experience)

These tutorials are a great way to start making an app

Chris Ching’s guide for his own Code with Chris site is a series of videos to take you through the process of creating an app. Unlike many guides, it starts with no assumptions. But in carefully working through the friendly tutorials, you’ll learn Xcode, Swift, interface design, user interaction, and computer logic.

05. Develop iOS 10 apps with Swift

You’ll need a bit of coding knowledge for this course

Available through iTunes, Stanford’s course on developing for iOS has been updated for iOS 10 and Swift. The course comprises a series of lengthy video-based lectures with supporting material. Note that you will need some knowledge of C and object-oriented programming to be comfortable with the course.

06. Create your first iOS game

In this series of seven videos from Awesome Tuts, you go through the process of creating a simple endless runner gravity flipper game. What you end up with is basic, but gives you insight into working with backgrounds, players, character movement and collectables. Keener on apps? Check out Awesome Tuts’ Uber clone.

07. Design for all Apple screen sizes

This will help you get a handle on Apple’s screen real estate

Although penned during the iOS 8 days, this article full of developer insight remains relevant to those targeting multiple Apple screen sizes. And you should — the best modern apps work on anything from the smallest iPhone to the largest iPad. Savvy developers also think beyond, to the world of the Apple TV and even Apple Watch.

08. Understand iOS accessibility

Accessibility is all-important when making apps

Accessibility is a fundamental component of all Apple’s output, and iOS devices are no exception. The best apps are aware of — and utilise — key accessibility technologies. This video series runs through many of them and also how to audit apps to ensure their functions are discoverable to and useable by all. (You’ll need a free trial to view this Lynda tutorial — or sign up and subscribe.)

How to make an Android app

Android is the Windows of the mobile world, enjoying a colossal user base and huge market share. To get in on the Android app action, check out the links below to learn how to build an app.

01. Watch Android developer insights

Gen up on Android with the developer insights

The Android Developers YouTube channel is a great starting point for immersing yourself in everything about Android development. It houses videos from live events, along with a bunch of demos and tutorials, covering everything from improving accessibility for all users through to dealing with the ins and outs of Android Wear.

02. Build your first Android app

Get stick right in to Android app-building here

This rather comprehensive official Android website offers a slew of training guides. Work through the documentation and you’ll learn how to create an Android app, support various device types, deal with interface elements, and more. Also related and noteworthy: the Material design site, outlining the platform’s modern vision for aesthetics.

03. Follow the 10-day Android app program

10 days to learn how to build an app? Sign us up!

Looking at swathes of documentation? Not sure where to start? Adam Sinicki’s post for Android Authority breaks down the process of Android app development into 10 simple steps. Well, mostly simple — one is ‘learning the basics of Java’. But although 10 days is perhaps pushing it, a few weeks isn’t, if you’re dedicated.

04. Create a voice-controlled Android app

This course will teach you how to build a voice-controlled app in 12 minutes

One of the futures of apps involves bellowing at devices rather than stroking them with a digit. This course runs through how to create a voice-controlled Android app in just 12 minutes. The course costs $3, but you can watch for nothing if you sign up for a free trial.

05. Understand responsive Android app interfaces

Get responsive with this app-building tutorial

A weakness in many Android apps is their inability to scale well. And yet Material Design lends itself neatly to responsive designs that should work on any device, from tiny smartphones to huge tablets. This tutorial gets you started on creating apps that more fully adapt themselves to varied screen dimensions and orientations.

06. Learn about Android’s thumb zone

The most fun you can have with one hand

Once, smartphones were small enough that the average thumb could reach the entire display. Not so much now. iOS suffers from this problem, but Android more so, due to the tendency towards increasingly large devices. This Smashing Magazine feature outlines how best to cater for one-handed smartphone usage.

07. Switch from iOS to Android app development

Perform the old app switcheroo with help from this article

For the most part, iOS is where the money is, but Android’s where most users are. It’s therefore a smart move to at least consider shifting iOS apps across to Android. If you’re wavering, this article outlines the main considerations for making the move, noting that you can in fact utilise a great deal of your existing experience.

08. Discover Android app dev dos and don’ts

This broad advice on how to build an app is priceless

Jessica Thornsby’s piece for Tuts+ is quite general in nature, but it offers vital and sage advice on subjects such as designing for multiple devices, considering languages, accessibility concerns, and thorough testing. You won’t end up with an app after reading it — but any apps you do make will be better.

How to make a Windows app

Although Microsoft’s mobile aspirations were all for nothing (sorry, Windows Phone fans), Microsoft’s still dominant on the desktop. Moreover, its ambitious universal approach to development means apps you create potentially have reach across a wide range of platforms.

01. Get started with Windows apps

Head to Windows Dev centre to kick things off

Microsoft’s Windows Dev Center is the natural starting point for anyone keen to make windows apps — for PCs, tablets, phones, and more. There are explainers about Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app development, insight into Windows conventions, and a bunch of code examples.

02. Understand Windows app development

This great series will help you expand your app-making skills

For those entirely new to Windows development, this set of dozens of videos walks you through the process of creating UWP apps. Neatly, the series is also peppered with challenges to help improve your skills. (Note that it assumes you know the basics of C#.)

03. Create your first Windows app

Learn how to make an app that speaks

If you want to quickly get something working, this tutorial has you create a simple ‘Hello, world’ app for UWP using XAML and C#. Also, rather than just fling up a dialog to say hello, this little app will speak.

04. Make a Windows clock app

Creating this simple app will teach you plenty of skills

Another tutorial for creating an app, but this one for Tuts+ goes a bit further. Vivek Maskara leads you through the process of making a clock, where the background gradually shifts colour by converting the time to a hexadecimal value.

05. Learn the basics of universal Windows app development

Another great app-building course

This course introduces you to the concepts behind UWP development — and it also helps you learn C# along the way. By the time you’re done, you’ll have a fully working app you can install — and ideas for taking your skills further.

06. Create a UWP game with DirectX

Learn how to craft a game with this tutorial

Sadly, this tutorial from Microsoft doesn’t leave you with a playable game at the end. Still, you do at least learn to work on the major components of a game: creating a game loop, rendering, controls, audio, and adding imagery.

07. Make multilingual Windows apps

This 12-minute video rapidly leads you through the process of creating a multi-language Windows app. The example has a text button that can be displayed in more than one language, but the general principles extend to any app.

How to make macOS apps for Macs

Apple is perhaps more known for iOS apps these days, but the Mac’s still going strong — and importantly for app developers, has an audience keen to pay for quality software. So make some!

01. Check out the Mac App Programming Guide

Don’t let the lack of recent updates put you off checking this out

Alarm bells might ring on spotting the lead image here, which sports an old-style OS X Dock. And indeed, Apple’s guide’s not been updated since 2015. However, it still provides a decent overview on the fundamentals of creating Mac apps, so give it a read.

02. Learn about macOS Human Interface Guidelines

The HIG is the bible of MacOS development

A key factor in the Mac’s success has been the intuitive nature of Mac software, driven in part by consistent interface components. Much of the magic is down to the Human Interface Guidelines, which should be considered a bible of sorts for any serious Mac developer.

03. Create apps with Swift 3

Learn the basics of building an app for MacOS here

This series takes you through the basics of building a Mac app. It starts with Xcode, and introduces the important concepts you’ll need to learn in order to create a Mac app. You’ll also learn how to get apps on to the Mac App Store and optimise them for the Mac’s full-screen mode.

04. Create your first macOS apps

This series for beginners is pretty comprehensive

We’re in full-on developer mode in this series for beginners. The first part leads you through a tour of Xcode before building a ‘Hello, world’ app. After that, you’ll create a timer, beefing up your interface and user interaction smarts.

05. Master macOS windows

Windows are key to understanding Mac app building (ironically)

Still on, this feature focusses purely on windows — the containers for Mac apps. It explores apps with single windows, library-style interfaces, and multi-window demands, and how to work with them all. A related (and more recent) tutorial delves into view controllers, which are useful as building blocks for complex user interfaces.

06. Build a show/hide macOS app

If you just want to get on and build a quick project, this six-minute video is ideal. Crack open Xcode, follow along, and you’ll end up with a little app that shows/hides all other apps.

07. Create a word reversing macOS app

Another super-quick project, this video takes under ten minutes to lead you through the entire process of building an app that reverses text strings you input. Hungry for more? Check the author’s feed, because she’s uploaded a bunch of other Swift tutorials for macOS and iOS.

08. Add Touch Bar support to macOS apps

The Touch Bar is Apple’s most recent Mac-oriented input innovation, and we like what developers are doing with it. Want to enhance your own apps with Touch Bar goodness? This quickfire video tutorial from Zappy Code shows you how.

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