How are apps made, daddy?

Oh, well, errr…. Maybe ask your mum.

You’ve had an idea for an app for a while now. But, and be honest, you just don’t know where to start, don’t you? Well, you are definitely not alone.

You might think talking to a developer is something you do once you’ve got everything ironed-out, and you just need the app built. But then, if that’s true, who can you sit down with to discuss the idea before you bring it to a developer?

Where and how do you even find a developer, anyway? It’s not like this is something you do often in your line of work, you have no clue where to look.

The “where do I start?” question is, understandably, a very frequent one. So let me tell you about the birds and the bees of app making…

You will need…

There are roughly 3 specialities you will need for most app projects – not akin to building your own house, actually:

  • Architect: the person who will draw-up plans, make sure everything works well together. The person who will figure out all the pieces you will need for the project to be successful.
  • Developer: the person who will erect the walls, do the plumbing, etc. The person who will build the app.
  • Designer: the person who will make it pertty. The person responsible for the “face” of your application.

Sometimes you can find one person that masters two specialties – the most common duo is architect + developer. Sometimes, but very rarely, will you find one person that is a master at all three.

Your expectations on all three aspects are also going to matter. If you are designing a tool to be used in house, for instance, maybe you can skip the designer by using some pre-fab interface. Your app might look a bit generic, or similar to other apps, but that might not matter.

Similarly, you might want to build a clone of an existing app, or a relatively simple app. You might be able to build it yourself using some online tools, and only hiring a designer to give it a bit of umpf.

Start here

Before you go looking for an expert, however, you probably want to have a rough idea of what type of app you want. This will not only help in picking an expert, but it will also help said expert advise you better.

So let’s assume that most of you will need both an architect/developer and a designer. That is usually the most common scenario.

The first point I want to make is that you don’t have to wait any longer to talk to someone. Whatever stage you are at with your idea, it’s totally fine to go and talk to a specialist. Don’t be intimidated, or afraid it’ll cost you a lot. Many experts, myself included, have some kind of free consultation deal for just that purpose. So take us up on it!

But then, who do you contact first? You can start with either one, in my opinion.

If you are more of a visual person, you could start by talking to a designer, and draft your application visually. Using mockups, or wireframes, you can visualize how your app will look and feel. Then you bring them to a developer, and she plans how she can makes this vision come to life.

Alternatively, you can start with the developer. Together, you can plan more what the app will do, how it will function. Note that you will likely have some very rough mockups here too, but they won’t tell you much in terms of app personality. It will mainly be a way to make sure nothing’s forgotten. But then you can go to a designer, and get her to pretty it up, give it a nice, clean and professional face.

You can also try and sit down everyone at the table at the same time. But in my experience, that is a bit more difficult, logistically, and maybe not as productive for all concerned. (while you talk interface, the developer might not have much to contribute, and vice-versa)

In my experience, as long as the first expert hands-off a clear plan to the other one (mockups, technical specifications, …) then it works very well to start with one expert, then as she starts implementing what you have agreed on, you hire the second expert and she starts on her part of the project. Both can usually work in parallel.

The Fishing Pond

Where do you find experts? There are a few different places, depending on what you are looking for.

You can go to websites like LocalSolo, and

You can meet them in person at hubs like Impact HUB Ottawa, CollabSpace, MyBywardOffice – or similar co-working spaces in your neck of the woods. They often have events opened to the public. (workshops, meetups, networking events, etc)

And now to you…

If you have an idea in your mind that you keep pushing back, ask yourself why that is. Could it be that you are intimidated? Could it be that this whole app thing brings you way out of your comfort zone?

Believe me, I totally understand about the comfort zone: I’m on a long journey to push my own, rather tight, comfort bubble boundaries.

I figure the best way to push ourselves is by stepping slightly out of our comfort zones often.

Talking about your idea with a specialist could be taking that slight step. Not as big a deal as trying to hire someone to build something, with chunks of money involved and all that. Just a friendly discussion, to see if there’s something there. To see if that idea is as good as you feel, deep down, it might be. Or even better than you think.

You owe it to yourself, and to your idea, to explore it. And wherever you find your experts, make sure you are a good match for one another.

Photo background credit: