Should you be learning to build apps?

Smartphones just keep getting smarter. From the features to the actual phone designs, smartphones have essentially become our first line of contact.

Think about it like this: if you have your smartphone in your pocket and you need to search the web for something, chances are you’ll just whip out your phone and type away. Not too many people would choose to walk over to a computer, boot it up, load a browser and find a response. Smartphones are just convenient and the market for them continues to increase.

One great thing about newer smartphones is their ability to have some great apps available. Let me tell you, for about 2 or 3 months, I had to use an older smartphone that couldn’t get lots of the apps I use today. I was miserable. Searching the web was tough, finding locations was a paint and overall, just being connected was a task. Getting the right app can make life easier, and being connected to that one source you need is absolutely essential.

Now, as a designers and developers we have to always think about what’s next. We’re really big on responsive design and creating mobile friendly sites because it just makes sense. Or does it? Looking at some of the statistics for mobile apps, I think we may start thinking towards a new skillset that makes us even more attractive and contributes to the betterment of different communities.

We should be learning how to create apps. We should be designing, developing and thinking of great apps to be used by over 1.5 billion people worldwide. Here’s why: 

1. Mobile marketing for businesses

It’s a well known fact that the market for smartphones is increasing. In that, people are using their phones more for different things. We browse the Internet from our phones and find the information we need. When we found out how much the numbers were increasing for mobile browsing, we had to quickly do something to make our sites viewable on different devices. Some turned to mobile sites where you created a completely different site specifically for mobile phones. While others turned to, and continue to turn to, responsive design.

At this point, if your site isn’t responsive, then you’re a bit behind. As developrs, we should always at least offer the idea of making websites viewable almost everywhere. But what happens when a site is not enough? What happens when you have something to offer that updates all the time or can be extremely useful when necessary? What’s the next step up?

The next step is to build an app. Why? Because 84% of consumers prefer to use a company’s app for routine inquiries. Also, the usage of apps is steadily increasing. This is what consumers want. And business are responding by increasing their mobile marketing efforts and, thusly, their budgets. Being able to offer not just a website, but a constant connection to potential buyers is big for business.

2. Convenience and trust

You could be interested in developing an app to promote yourself, your client or a specific need you think should be addressed. Either way, the greatest thing about creating apps is the convenience it offers. There’s a different experience in waiting for a web page to load as opposed to waiting for an app to load. It never goes away, isn’t subject to browser compatibility, and is often a place where information is remembered.

When an app is downloaded to a phone, there are certain trusts the security features are allowing. In the same vein, when a customer downloads your app, there is a certain level of trust they are showing. It’s up to you to figure out how you handle that trust, but there’s no denying the fact that you are always connected to the customer.

They can get updates and alerts sent directly to their phone. They may be able to make purchases directly from their phone. The connection has the opportunity to create a deeper relationship, one that makes the consumer a believer in your brand. Always be aware of how you handle this, because no one wants to constantly be updated with marketing ploys. But they will be interested in things genuinely useful.

3. Money

I’m not saying creating apps is a cash cow. I’m not telling you this is your path to a six figure income. Not unless you make a game that goes viral, that is. What I am telling you, is the money made by selling apps is real. To put it in perspective, iTunes has given out over $5 billion to developers. And Google Play has over 400,000 registered user accounts that are hooked up to credit cards. I’m sure if you have a niche app, there’s some money to be made for you.

As freelancers and entrepreneurs, we’re probably always looking for a way to get another stream of income. If you have enough front money, a great idea and can round up a great team, the development of a decent app won’t take long. With some solid promotion and backers, you can easily make a nice amount of (passive) money if successful.

It’s easy to sign up as a developer. To become an Apple developer, you can choose between iOS or the Mac Developer programs, both of which are $99/year. To become an Android developer, you’ll need a Google account and the fee is $25/year.

4. Prime time to learn a new technique

It’s just an all around great time to learn a new technique. Things are changing and web design is no longer the end all, be all. Companies want more. Clients want more. And you should want more for yourself.

There are so many ways and places you can learn how to program and code these apps. Android has a training section that takes you through the development of a small app. And there are tons of sites online that will do the same, whether for Android or for Apple.


The biggest thing you want to make sure you do is to create an app with purpose. You don’t want to create an app just to do it and you don’t want to create an annoying one that is obviously around for one reason: to make money. As developers, we can offer up plenty ways to make apps — we see several problems a day, so create an app that finds a solution. Don’t just build an app that showcases you and your work, unless you  know that’s exactly what people want. Think about how you can begin taking advantage in the exponential growth being showcased in the mobile market. Where will you start?

Have you built an app? Do you have an app you’d like to build but don’t know where to start? Let us know in the comments.

Kendra Gaines is a freelance designer from Virginia, USA. Connect with her. More articles by Kendra Gaines
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