Have a Great Idea? Build Your Own App

by Tom Kloiber on September 21, 2012

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Have a Great Idea? Build Your Own App

Have you ever thought of an idea for a great learning tool or a fun game for your therapy patients, but have no idea where to start? You do not have to be a programmer to build an app. There are programs designed to help you. Here’s what you need to create your own educational program.

There are dozens of app creator programs on the Web, and some can be quite pricey. Others, like the MIT App Inventor, are free. This one works only with Android devices.

The MIT site is designed for educators and offers a wealth of information, tutorials, workshops, and teacher’s guides, along with curriculum suggestions, a discussion forum, and success stories. The app builder itself can be intimidating, so don’t go straight there first. Instead, follow the step-by-step tutorials for building a couple of apps to get the hang of it.

Storyline

Before you can build an app, you’ll need to consider the various components. The storyline is what the app is about and how users will advance from screen to screen. This happens, and then what? For example, if you’re writing a word adventure app based on Kokomo, a monkey at the San Diego Zoo, the first couple of screens might introduce the setting and the characters. Next, the activities will start. Make a list of questions that you need to answer:

  • What happens when the user taps part of the screen?
  • What are the choices?
  • How many choices are there?
  • How do the actions fit the story?

Graphics

Most apps require graphics. There are plenty of free sources on the Web – just make sure you know the copyrights and follow the rules. If you’re building an app to take to market, consider hiring a graphic artist. This could be quite expensive, but bear in mind that age and education are not always the best indicators of talent. You make be able to find a talented artist at your local middle or high school who would be thrilled to participate for a small fee. Be fair, and offer profit sharing. If your app accidentally makes you rich, give credit where credit is due. Angry Birds would be nowhere without brilliant artwork.

Marketing your app

Once your app is created and tested…and then tested again and again, go to http://market.android.com/publish and register as a developer with your Google Account. This costs $25 (one-time fee) and allows you to publish your app for sale on the Android Market.

The next step is to publicize your app. If you don’t have a website, a Facebook or Pinterest page makes a great social marketing machine. If you have a wide network and your app is engaging, unique, well-thought out, useful, and inexpensive, it has a good chance of catching on.

Success…or not

There are a million apps and a crowded marketplace. Don’t be discouraged if an app you thought was brilliant bombs. Chances are it got lost in a sea of similar apps. Keep working to improve it, or distribute it for free, then tackle a new project. There are thousands of game developers scratching their heads out there. Why Angry Birds and not my fantastic game? We will probably never know the answer to why one thing in a sea of similar things goes viral. Fame is like a lightning strike…and just as likely. If your goal is to reach and engage your students and you achieve that, you are a successful app designer even if you never make a dime.

What do you think? Do you have a great idea for an app you want to share with the world? In a future post, we’ll explore Apple and other platform apps.

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