The tools you need to develop an app are free and available; you have a great idea for a really cool tool; so what is it going to take? Everyone can make an app as long as they have access to the required technical skills. Whether you learn these skills yourself or pay someone to do it for you, there is a way to make your idea a reality.
Where Are We Going?
First examine your motivation for creating an app. Would anyone but you potentially find your app useful? If you believe others could benefit from your work, consider whether you might be able to use your app as part of a larger marketing strategy, or whether you could sell your app online. It will affect the amount of time, money, energy, and learning you are willing to do.
If you are going to write the app yourself, take a good hard look at your programming skills. Competence in one programming language, especially if it is object-oriented, gives you a big head start on learning how to create apps in another. In other words, your learning curve will be steep, but you'll start about halfway up.
Plump for a Platform
Your shiny new app can eventually go platform independent, but when you are just starting out, choose one; Apple, Android, Windows Mobile, or whatever platform you yourself are using. Despite the widespread availability of emulators, the ability to test your app in real time is valuable. The consensus is that you need a Mac with an Intel processor to develop for Apple products.
Lock and Load
Simply look online for the free development resources you need, and download away. As the process is very similar no matter what platform you choose, we will look at Apple as an example. Apple provides a Standard Developer Kit (SDK) for developers which you can download for free. The kit uses the Objective-C programming language, plus the Cocoa API, which you will need to learn in order to make it work.
Telling the World
To distribute your beautiful new apps through the monopoly Apple App store you need to be registered as an Approved Developer. Register at Apple, download the SDK, learn the language, and work on your app; when you are ready to run it, you need to pay $99 to “sign” your app, then you can use this signature multiple times. Other platforms will let you distribute your apps for free once you are registered.
Taking the Plunge
There are good books and lots of good Web sites and forums available to help you. The bottom line is that unless you already have some pretty good programming skills, and you are willing to climb the steep learning curve on the software, it will be easy to get discouraged. But don't despair! There are an increasing number of companies who are happy to provide quotes for building your vision. You can leave it to the people who love this stuff!