How to Build an App Without Knowing How to Code

About the author: Richard Carthon is the founder of FollowMyCal, a social and shareable calendar that is simple, seamless, and customizable.

Do you want to learn how to build an app without knowing how to code? Perfect! I am here to give you a step-by-step guide on how you can begin today! I have successfully brought multiple app ideas, like FollowMyCal, to market without knowing how to code at all. Follow these steps and see how quickly you can build an app and bring your million dollar idea to the market!

Step 1: Start by drawing your idea on paper. 

How to build an app without knowing how to code

So you have your concept of your product and you know it is going to be amazing! One initial problem you may be facing when you explain your idea to others is that they cannot visualize what you are talking about. Change that today! Go find a notebook and start drawing your concept on paper.

While you are going through this process you will realize how challenging it is to put your idea within a framework. You will notice your idea evolve as you work through the different screens and the different functionalities you want to have on each screen. You will also notice how many screens go into making an app because each icon on app screen leads to a brand new page with more app icons. Words to the wise, keep it as simple as possible and try to keep everything within 3 clicks from the main screen. You will build an app only with patience and persistence.

Step 2: Convert to digital wireframes.

Now that you have drawn out your idea on paper it is time to convert it to digital wireframes. Wireframes are digital sketches of what your app will look like, literally what you just did on paper.  Personally, I started off by using to use a drag and drop feature that let me recreate the wireframes I made on paper. There are multiple other websites that would allow you to do this as well. Whichever platform you decide to use, make sure you are doing it for FREE. You should not be spending any money at this point.

Step 3: Convert the wireframes into an MVP and conduct user testing.

Now that you have your wireframes, time to convert them into a minimal viable product (MVP). A minimal viable product is a first version of your app that you can use to show others how it would look, work, and function. I recommend using Marvel to create this. It allows you to upload all of your wireframes and then make a clickable MVP by connecting different screens to different button functionalities on specific screens on your app. After you have successfully linked all of your screens together you will have your first MVP you can share with the world!

Step 4: Make adjustments and do user testing, again!

Now that you have your MVP, share it with as many friends and family you can and ask for honest feedback. A great way to first start is by sitting down with them, handing them your phone, and letting them play with it. Do not guide them, just let them click away. You will notice that they will not use it as you initially intended. This is fine! Take notes on how they interact and how their experience is and make adjustments.

You should repeat this process as many times as it takes before you hand your MVP to someone and they can use it and everything flows smoothly. You will probably observe as you test that some screens or functionalities that you made simply do not make sense and need to be redone. Making an app is a grind! Make your adjustments and push forward.

Step 5: Hire a designer to make wireframes prettier.

Finally feeling good about your MVP but you know the user interface could use some improvement? Now, is the time to spend your first dollars by hiring a freelancer to make improvements to your designs. To build an app interface correctly the first time, I recommend going on Fiverr or Upwork to hire a freelancer to recreate your MVP.

Step 6: Last round of user testing.

Now that you have 1.0 of your wireframes, it is time to go back to the original testers of your app and ask them to use it again. Collect your last nuggets of feedback, make your adjustments, and get ready to start searching for a development company to build your app!

Step 7: Research development companies and get quotes.

It’s time to build your app but you have a few things to figure out. Should you make an iOS or Android app? What language should the app be written in? How should the database be setup? How much is it going to cost to build? I had no idea to how to answer any of these questions until I reached out to 10+ development companies and compared notes on what each of them told me.

If I were you, I would speak to at least 3 different development companies and get quotes before you begin the coding process. There are several components to keep in mind. Just because one company will build it cheaply does not mean the quality will be high. Same holds true for companies that charge a significant amount of money. My golden rule of choosing a development company is to ask them to send you a portfolio of previous projects that have worked on. Then download the apps in the portfolio and check out the quality.

Step 8: Raise money.

Raise Money

Now that you have some quotes from 3 or more companies, it is time to raise the money to pay the company you have selected to build your app. Self funding is the ideal route; however, I would pursue going after friends and family first. Next, I would approach local angel investors that invest in early stage companies. Lastly, I would definitely go on AngelList and create a profile and start searching for investors that have previously invested in companies in the same space as my app idea.

This is by far the hardest step I personally had to encounter. I got 56 nos before I got my first yes. Stay resilient, stay tenacious, and take constructive criticism from those you talk to and grow stronger with your pitch. Get the mindset that regardless of what someone says that you will find a way, and you will.

Step 9: Hire development team and begin product development.

After you get the money to build your app, you have all the pieces necessary to build your app! It’s time to hire your development team and begin the development process.

I have a few things to you to remember during this process:

  1. However long they said it would take to deliver your app, add 1-3 months. Trust me, it just works out that way.
  2. You are going to make several changes to the app as it is being developed. Make sure you have both the money and timeline to support these changes.
  3. There will be many highs and lows during this process. Stay patient and make sure your app is made to the specifications you had in mind.

Step 10: Launch your app!

Multiple companies have fallen into the vicious cycle of never launching their product. They push their launch dates back spending all of their money trying to make the “perfect” app. Do not fall into this trap! When you have a version you are proud of, put it out for the world to use. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, said it best, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Let me be the first one to tell you that if you have made it this far, congrats! You’ve put in the time, effort, money, and probably tears to see this idea become something others can use. Take a moment to be proud of this accomplishment, but realize this is where the real challenges for your business begin!

Start building your app today!

Why wait? Follow these steps and you will be able quickly build an app MVP that will bring you one step closer to your live app. If you any questions or need further assistance, feel free to contact me here.