Learn a New Skill: How to Build Mobile Applications

mobile phone

At the close of 2013, the number of mobile phones surpassed the population of the entire world. Additionally, more than 50% of global web users now use mobile devices as their primary means of going online. If there was any doubt that mobile is is the future of technology, this past year’s growth has wiped it out.

While the dominance of mobile may not come as a surprise, the rate of its growth has left many companies scrambling to catch up. Demand for mobile applications has skyrocketed, along with the cost to develop those apps. Fortunately, this same growth has also lowered the barriers to entry for developing mobile apps, allowing individuals to build applications on their own with minimal ramp-up time.

If you’re planning to build a mobile application this year, but don’t have programming skills, we’ve laid out the pros and cons of the options available to get you started.

1. Use a Template

It used to be you had to build websites by hand. As they became more crucial for marketing, template tools like WordPress and Joomla were developed to make it easier for non-developers to build their sites. Similarly, mobile template tools have come onto the market to allow those of us without programming skills to build mobile applications.


  • No coding required; simple drag-and-drop interfaces are commonly used.
  • Multiple people can work on a single project. 
  • Less expensive and can be paid on either subscription or project basis


  • Have to build a new application or hire a developer to handle mobile software updates.
  • Restricted to simple apps; can’t build more complicated programs such as games.

Examples of Template Tools: AppArchitect, AppPress, AppBaker

2. Teach Yourself

For those that live by the adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself!”, there are many options available to teach yourself to program.

The important first step here is determine which operating system you want to develop for—iOS or Android. iOS applications are primarily based on Objective C programming, whereas Android apps use Java. Fortunately, knowing one can make learning the other a bit easier, so you could transition between the two later on.


  • Cost-effective, since knowledge gained can be applied to multiple projects.
  • Can respond more quickly to app updates or bugs.
  • Possess an in-demand skill that can produce extra income.


  • Time-intensive.
  • Longer timeframe for project completion.

Courses for teaching yourself to code:

3. Hire Someone

The lower barrier to entry for the mobile development market can be both a blessing and a curse. While it means there are more app developers available, it can also make finding a quality contractor difficult. It’s important to interview a mobile developer in the same way you would interview a potential employee. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Ask to see their work. Check out their website, previous projects or GitHub repository to get an idea of the quality of their code.
  • How do you use your phone? Mobile development is very different from web development and you want a developer who understand how people interact with a phone, as well as has an intimate knowledge of the phone they’re developing for.
  • What is your development process?
  • Describe your typical testing plan.
  • Do you have experience with web-based APIs?
  • If the design of your app is important, ask about their experience working with designers or, if possible, have the designer in the room.
  • What happens when the project is complete? (i.e. who owns the code)

Where to find contract developers: AppFuturaFreelancer.com, Craigslist

There are many options for joining the mobile movement without having a programming background, each with its own costs and benefits. Determining how many applications you intend to make, what operating software will be your focus, as well as your timeframe and budget, can help you determine which option will work best for you.


This post is the sixth in our "Learn a New Skill in 2014" series. Stay tuned to our blog or sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the posts. Digest emails will be sent out each Friday. 

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Image Credit: Johan Larsson via Flickr