20 min read

How to Make an iPhone App: Planning to Publishing in 6 Steps


The iPhone mobile app development market is stronger than ever — and it’s the perfect opportunity for YOU to bring in some revenue. Whether you’re considering building apps for others as a service, or building your own iPhone app for your business, it’ll only work in your benefit to learn how to create and publish iPhone apps to the Apple App Store.

And good news: the comprehensive step-by-step below will walk you through the entire process. Whether you’re an experienced programmer or a beginner, the following details outline the steps to successfully launching your own iPhone app. Let’s go!

Validate Your App Idea 

Before you do anything, the first step in creating an app is to make sure your app idea will work. Whether this is your first app or your 100th, the app validation process will help verify assumptions associated with the necessity and demand for your app. After validating your app idea, you can move forward with greater confidence and clarity about why the market needs your app.  

There are two main steps in app idea validation: First, confirm demand; then validate your app concept.

Confirm App Demand

Just as you would perform market research before starting a business, you should confirm your app demand with market research. While there are many ways to confirm app demand, the most effective include: 

  • Checking out industry forums
  • Use online journals for your industry
  • Meeting with target customers one-on-one
  • Conduct keyword research
  • Perform your surveys and polls to gauge initial interest
  • Speak to industry experts

Validate Your App Concept

Validating your app concept is as important as confirming app demand. Excellent survey tools you can use to validate your app concept include:

  • Typeform
  • Qualaroo
  • SurveySparrow
  • Qualtrics
  • Google Forms 

While the survey tool you use is important, it’s more critical to ask the right questions. Strive to understand the problems users face and determine whether your app can be a potential solution. Examples of app validation survey questions include:

  1. What problems do you face in your day-to-day?
  2. What steps do you currently take to complete your task?
  3. What do you like or dislike about your current process? 
  4. What tools do you use to help complete tasks?
  5. Would you be open to a mobile application that solves this problem? 

Decide on a Development Plan 

After you have validated your app idea and have tangible evidence your solution would solve a problem and add value, it’s time to decide how your app will be built. There are three main options:

  • Hire an in-house team of designers and programmers to develop their ideas into a mobile app, or 
  • Outsource the development to a third-party agency or freelancer. 
  • Use a no-code app building platform to create a tried-and-true app quickly and easily.

It’s worth noting that those first two options do tend to be time-consuming and can become quite expensive. No-code mobile app builders, on the other hand, have streamlined and revolutionized the mobile app development process. These tools are definitely worth looking into.

Conduct Market Research

After you’ve validated your mobile app idea and confirmed its feasibility, the next step is to assess the competitive landscape with market research. Fortunately, many solutions and best practices are available to help you gauge the competitive landscape. 

Research Competing iPhone Apps

The starting point for your competitive market research is the iPhone App Store. Create a comprehensive list of phrases and keywords that describe your mobile app idea. Utilize search engines to gauge the popularity of the apps that pop up. At the same time, take notes on which phrases and keywords get you the app results you’re looking for—you’ll use this information later when planning out your app’s SEO strategy.

Once you’ve found similar apps for what you’re trying to build, pay particular attention to user comments, app ratings, and update histories. Take notes and save links as you go, so you can easily reference it later as you create your new app. 

Test the Top Apps in Your App’s Category

Download some of the top apps on your list from the app store to identify what these apps do well and opportunities for improvement. Examine the technological foundations and structural aspects of these competitor apps. Your goal is to improve upon their technologies to outperform them.

If you find apps that are similar to your idea, but don’t appear to be highly successful, it’s still worth taking a look through their capabilities. This would be a good lesson on what not to do, or where you can improve on those features.

Use Market Insights and Industry Data

Stay vigilant regarding market-specific technology trends. Different industries may demand distinct technology sets; thus, it’s crucial to delve into your business niche and stay updated on the latest developments. You can also leverage powerful app market tools such as AppAnnie and TopAppCharts.com for research. Utilize these insights to formulate an effective app marketing strategy.

Determine the Most Successful Features 

Finally, spend some time analyzing the key features that have made each app successful. Whether you do so through your research or by reading reviews, it’s critical to identify the must-have features across several competitor apps. This step leads you into the next phase, which involves defining and establishing your app’s core features. 

Establish Your App’s Core Features 

Depending on your industry and the purpose of the mobile app, your app’s core features can vary. Review all of the features you’ve found across similar apps during your competitive research, then separate them into two groups: Must-Haves, and Nice-to-Haves.

Prioritize Must-Have Functionalities 

The must-have features are mission-critical. Without these features, your app would be meaningless. For example, if What’s App didn’t allow messaging or YouTube didn’t allow streaming, these apps would be useless. Think of your must-have features as those that solve the user’s main problem. By prioritizing your must-have functionalities, you’ll go to market faster, streamline your mobile app development roadmap, and achieve parity with the competition.

Plan Future “Nice-to-Have” Features

Next, you can explore and backlog all the nice-to-have features. Backlogging these features will allow you to expedite the initial release and focus on your app’s core functionality. Because these features are important, you can plan their rollout in future releases. This approach will also give you time to validate the importance of these features through user feedback. 

Outline the User Flow Throughout Your App

The user flow is a foundational outline imperative to every successful app. The user flow shows the path users will take through your app to achieve a specific goal. It offers guidance into what your user interface (UI) will look like at various release stages (i.e., how they’ll use the app with the bare minimum functionalities, and how they’ll use and navigate once your nice-to-haves are added in). It’ll also showcase how different features will interact in the holistic experience. Even though you are still in the planning phase, this will provide a solid layout for how your app will function.

Optional: Create User Interface and Design Mockups

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design mockups are non-negotiable in mobile app development. These mockups allow designers to test their ideas and gather user feedback.

While this process can take a little while to complete in traditional app building, it’s cut significantly shorter when using a no-code app building tool. For instance, with Shoutem, you can skip this step entirely. By using Shoutem’s pre-built app templates, your wireframing, UX/UI considerations, and user flow testing is already done for you.

Of course, if you’re going the traditional route and manually building your app, UI/UX design mockups are critical. Here’s the process you’ll want to follow:

Sketch Out Initial Wireframes

Wireframes and storyboards are excellent tools for communicating the functionality and design of your mobile app to developers and stakeholders. The wireframe is a visual representation of the structure, layout, and functionality, making it easier for everyone to understand and offer feedback. With a wireframe, you can visualize your finalized app before dedicating the resources and time to coding or hiring outsourced labor.

Keep Mobile Accessibility in Mind

In total, people with disabilities account for a staggering 73% of consumers who use mobile apps. Simply put, failing to consider accessibility needs when building iOS devices can spell doom for your app before it even launches. 

Mobile app accessibility describes the importance of designing your iPhone mobile app to be friendly to those with visual, hearing, or other disabilities. Here are a few ways you can bake accessibility considerations into your iPhone app development:

  • Use labels for buttons, inputs, and other elements to make it easier for screen readers to convey visual information into sound.
  • Keep your app screens consistent in layout or design as much as possible. 
  • Make sure to optimize your iOS app’s color contrasts.
  • Optimize video content by providing captions or transcriptions.
  • Test accessibility with real users on iOS devices.
  • Offer custom view controls users can employ to optimize their experience.
  • Include zoom functionality in your user interface as often as possible to accommodate those with visual impairments.

Build & Test Your iOS App 

Until now, you have been doing the groundwork and laying the framework to build your mobile app. Happily, once you’ve reached this stage in your app-building journey, it’s time to start creating. As we’ve mentioned, there are two main approaches to build iOS apps. You (or a third party) can build your mobile app from scratch; or you can take a faster, more innovative route and use a no-code app builder

Use a No-Code App Builder

A no-code app builder is a platform that empowers individuals, business owners and entrepreneurs with no prior development experienced to design mobile or web applications with speed and ease. From start to finish, you can build your iOS mobile app without writing or editing a single line of code — thus the name “no-code mobile app builder.” 

Such platforms simplify the development process by offering an easy-to-use drag-and-drop visual interface. To get started, you select your pre-built template—already loaded with the key features and functionalities specific to your industry— and customize it to your liking. For example, with Shoutem, you can:

  • Modify color schemes,
  • Include messaging features,
  • Add social media integrations,
  • Activate push notification capabilities,
  • Utilize registration and user profiles,
  • Integrate loyalty card programs,
  • Activate age restrictions,
  • Offer in-app purchases,
  • Leverage third-party integrations,
  • And more. 

Whether you want to turn your Shopify store into a mobile app or bring one of your social media app ideas to reality, Shoutem is a state-of-the-art no-code builder that allows you to quickly build, test, and launch a high-quality mobile app with speed.

Build an App from Scratch

If you’re a software developer with the skills, time, and tools to build a mobile app from scratch, this option offers you unrivaled customizations and flexibility. Of course, if you’re a business owner having an app custom built from scratch, remember that taking this route can lead to reliance upon your dev company for any and all future updates, or potential rework with a new partner — and all of the costs that come with it.

Set Up the Development Environment 

The first step in developing your mobile app is to establish the Integrated Development Environment (IDE). The IDE is a centralized environment that combines several tools into an easier-to-use platform. Most IDEs will include the following (and more):

  • Debugger
  • Code editor
  • Build automation tools
  • Compiler
  • Version control integration
  • Code template and snippets
  • Integrated documentation
  • Plug-in support 

Because you’re building an iPhone app, your IDE must be optimized for iOS development. 

Code Front End User Interface

The front end of your mobile app represents what the user sees and experiences. But before you start coding the front-end user interface screens and elements, you must select a programming language, which can impact how long it takes to develop the app. Most iOS app developers use the following development languages for iOS devices:

  1. The Swift programming language is developed by Apple to work with all Apple operating systems, including, iPadOS, iOS, tvOS, macOS, and watchOS. Experienced app developers choose Swift when they want to quickly build and deploy iOS apps with the flexibility to scale up in the future. As a tool developed by Apple for Apple, Swift ensures the highest performance possible.  
  2. Objective C is an extended version of the C programming language with object-oriented programming functionalities. However, it’s a relatively outdated programming language. Developers typically only use Objective C to create apps for older devices that don’t accommodate Swift.
  3. Xcode is a fast and reliable iOS programming language. It’s Apple’s integrated development environment for MAC and iOS apps. When you download Xcode, it can be used as a powerful graphical tool to create apps for the iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and Mac. However, Xcode can be overwhelming for new developers due to its expansive array of tools and features. 

While you may only be interested in developing apps for iOS devices today, it’s critical to consider whether you’ll want to build Android apps now or in the future. If so, consider using Java or Kotlin.

Program Back End Logic and APIs

The back end of your mobile app communicates with the front end to provide answers to user requests. Together, the front end is the body of the app, and the back end is the soul, performing functions like: 

  • Managing and storing data
  • User authentication and authorization
  • Analyzing and processing data
  • Analytics and monitoring
  • Managing server-side tasks

Most backends provide an application layer interface (API) that the front end uses to store and fetch data. The backend also provides libraries, tools, and other components that function as the vital under-the-hood operation center and framework. The most critical part of the backend is the database, which can be split into three categories:

  • SQL databases
  • NoSQL databases
  • Multi-paradigm databases.

Each one has its pros and cons. You should thoroughly consider all parameters when starting the project.

Debug and Initiate Testing

After you have developed the front and back end, it’s time to debug and test it. Testing and debugging involve the rigorous process of identifying and fixing bugs and errors in the source code. Anytime your mobile app doesn’t perform as intended, it’s critical to study the code to determine where and why errors occurred. Fortunately, there are many mobile app testing and debugging tools you can use to simplify and expedite the process, such as Xcode, Instabug, Embrace, and Chrome mobile dev tools.

Still, even the best and most robust tools don’t replace the value of hiring a dedicated team for Quality Assurance. 

Optional: Consider Outsourcing Your Mobile App Development

If you don’t feel confident in building your own app, or if you don’t have the funds to outsource your mobile app development to a freelancer or software development firm, you may want to consider brining in the seasoned experts at Shoutem Pro.

What they offer: Expert app development using tested-and-user-approved templates. The Shoutem Pro team will work with you to include all of your most important features and create the app you’re dreaming of.

What it costs: Shoutem Pro custom app creation starts at just $1,499! Compare this to standard app development costs, which can range from $40,000 to $500,000 or even more based on your app.

How do they do it so cheap? Since Shoutem Pro services utilize pre-built templates (just like the ones you can use in our app-building platform!), you don’t have to pay for a team to build anything brand new from scratch. Our team can simply customize our pre-built elements, arrange them in an order that matches your and your users’ needs, and publish. It’s all very seamless and very fast.

Submit Your App to the App Store

Now that you have successfully planned, built, tested, and debugged your app, the final step is to release it into the Apple App Store. While this step is less technical than previous ones, submitting to the App Store can be complicated, especially if you’re doing it alone. If you’d like, take a look at these tips on how to launch a mobile app. Otherwise, here are the steps in publishing your mobile app to the Apple App Store. 

Enroll in the Apple Developer Program

The first step in releasing your app to the public through the Apple App Store is to enroll in the Apple Developer Program. The Apple Developer Program is a subscription-based program that gives you the tools, access, and resources needed to develop, test, and distribute apps via Apple’s many platforms. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Create an Apple ID and signing to the Apple Developer Program
  2. Establish Two-Factor Authentication
  3. Complete your profile by providing details
  4. Verify all account information is accurate
  5. Sign in with your Apple ID
  6. Enter billing information
  7. Move forward with listing your mobile app

The Apple Developer Program does have an annual fee of $99.00. You should choose this program if you want anyone to download and use the app. On the other hand, the Apple Developer Enterprise Program allows enterprises to create and distribute proprietary iOS apps throughout the organization outside the App Store. The annual fee for the Apple Developer Enterprise Program is $299.00. 

Prepare Your App Store Listing Page

One of the keys to a successful mobile app launch is your app store listing data. Optimizing your app store listing allows you to promote your app and get it in front of the right users. Remember that research you did wayyyy back in Step 2 of this process? It’s time to go back and review your notes on what terms were getting you the results you were looking for when searching for competitor apps.

A few fundamental steps for preparing and optimizing your App Store listing include:

  1. Optimize the title of your app and subtitle
  2. Include researched keywords
  3. Create engaging app descriptions
  4. Provide users with high-quality images and screenshots
  5. Encourage user reviews and ratings
  6. Choose the appropriate app category selections

When you publish your app through Shoutem, our seasoned experts will review your information, ensuring it’s optimized and adheres to Apple’s standards. This quick review process can expedite the process.

Submit Your App to the App Store 

After optimizing your App Store listing, you are ready to submit. Go to the “Build” section of your app’s App Store Connect record. Once you have selected a build, click “Done’ and “Save,” and finally choose “Submit for Review.” As a final step, you must answer the Export Compliance, Content Rights, and Advertising Identifier questions. 

In most instances, the review process can take one to three days for your app to be approved. You can check the current average review times for the Apple App Store. In the meantime, you can check the status of the process, but you will receive emails at each stage. If you are on a tight timeline and need an expedited request, you can request an expedited review. However, Shoutem experts handle the entire process of app submittal for Shoutem users.  

Next Steps: Improve Your App with User Feedback 

The app development process isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it process. Instead, it’s a living, ongoing process that hinges on continual improvement. It’s crucial to rely on feedback and reviews to continually elevate the user experience. 

Monitor User Reviews and Feedback in the App Store 

User reviews and feedback are the pulse of your mobile app. They gauge the health, fitness, and viability of your iOS app. Because of this, it’s critical to take reviews very seriously. In addition to understanding the perception of your app, ratings and reviews can help you identify trends and best understand user sentiment. Insights from reviews and user ratings can play an integral role in your mobile app product strategy and roadmap, if only you use them. Savvy app developers leverage user reviews to prioritize features and capabilities for future updates. 

Release Updates to Fix Bugs and Requested Features 

After you release your app into the Apple App Store, your objective transitions to keeping it updated and bug-free. Unless you’ve found a way to achieve unlimited resources and time, you’ll have to prioritize those updates and bug fixes. No matter what data and analytics you rely on to drive your decision, you should release a new version with every update and bug fix. To build value and keep your users engaged, communicate updates through social media, email, and your website. Make sure to list updates and benefits in your app store listing. 

How to Make iPhone Apps with Shoutem 

With over 10,000 mobile apps designed, Shoutem is the premier no-code iPhone and Android mobile app builder. It boasts a streamlined user experience and an intuitive drag-and-drop interface to create high-end mobile apps. Shoutem allows you to create state-of-the-art mobile apps in about four easy steps:

Step 1: Choose a Pre-Built Template

The first step in building an iPhone app with Shoutem is to choose one of our world-class pre-built templates for areas such as Events, Social Networking, Tourism, School, Church and Worship, Loyalty, News apps, and more.

You can even start from scratch with a blank template. Each template is optimized based on industry-best standards, is fully customizable, and features an easy-to-navigate UI. 

Step 2: Make Your Mobile App Stand Out from the Crowd

Your brand is unique, and your mobile app should reflect its individuality. Shoutem allows you to customize every element, from images to icons to personalized layouts. You can utilize an expansive marketplace of innovative features and integrations to make your iPhone app your own, including:

  • Push notifications
  • In-app purchases 
  • Monetization opportunities
  • Create user profiles
  • Loyalty programs 
  • Social media integrations
  • And more

Step 3: Import Content to Your iPhone App

Shoutem makes it easy to enter, upload, or import data and content to your mobile app. Further, adding and editing content is effortless and can be completed without the cost or frustration of writing or editing a single line of code.

Step 4: Publish Your iPhone App to the Apple App Store 

After you finish customizing your app template, Shoutem makes publishing to the Apple App Store and Android Play Store a breeze. Simply enter your Apple Developer information and your app page meta information, and the Shoutem team will handle the rest of the publishing process for you!

Throughout your entire app-building journey, the Shoutem team is available to assist, offering tutorials, step-by-step video walkthroughs, and even one-on-one support.

Shoutem is the fastest, easiest, and most cost-efficient path toward the mobile app you want and your customers deserve. Best of all, you can try Shoutem for free. Review the details on how to create an app with Shoutem, or better yet, go ahead and start your 14-day trial now!