Turning your idea into an Android App
In the previous article of this series, we discussed how to come up with a successful app idea. Hopefully we’ve been able to spark your imagination and get you on the road to making your first app.
This next article will cover the simple steps you need to follow in order to turn your idea into a fully working Android app.
If you haven't decided on an idea yet, no need to worry, just give it a little more thought and perhaps an idea will come to you during this article. Try making an app about your favourite animal, sport, or beverage. Simply going through the process will be helpful.
Whether you have an idea or not, this article will provide you with an overview of Andromo's app making process.
If you haven’t already, you’ll first want to explore Andromo’s available Activity types. This will help you better understand the types of media/content you can include in your app. You can keep that information in mind when gathering, or creating content, however don’t let it restrict you. As you gain experience you may find alternate ways to present the content that you weren’t aware of.
Once you’ve decided on an idea for an app, the next step will be to gather the content you want to include, whether it’s publicly available content that you’ll be linking to, or your own creations. Below are some examples of common items that may apply to your idea:
- Photos – your own, public photos in an RSS/Atom media feed, on Flickr, Instagram.
- YouTube Videos – your own, public videos on the topic.
- Website Links – your own, a collection of interesting sites surrounding the topic.
- News feeds (RSS/Atom) – your own, or public feeds with the latest news on the topic.
- Facebook page – your own, or popular pages discussing the topic.
- Twitter – your own, or others of interest.
- Audio – your own audio creations, or audio files you can legally distribute or stream.
- Podcasts – your own, or others that are publicly available.
- Online Radio – your own, or other stations of interest.
- Map Locations – your place of business, or locations related to your topic.
- Custom Text – textual information you have specific knowledge about.
- PDF Documents - your own, or content you can legally distribute.
If you’re using content that is not your own, make sure you don’t violate any copyrights by claiming the work as your own. Online content will usually contain information about its usage, so be respectful. When in doubt, ask the owner of the content, or err on the side of caution. Violating copyrights is a sure way to get your account banned in app stores such as Google Play.
You should also be mindful of the subject matter of your content since some app stores and ad networks prohibit using certain types of content. For your first app, we suggest you play it safe until you’re familiar with all of the regulations on the topic.
When it comes to styling your app, don’t be afraid to express your creative side. The goal is to create an interface that is both visually appealing, and easy to read. Changing your app’s appearance in Andromo is easy to do, but getting it “just right” may take some experimentation, so don’t get hung up on getting things perfect when starting your app.
For your first app, you may want to stick with the default style settings. As you gain experience, you can experiment with different looks to make your app more unique. The following sections discuss some styling decisions you’ll want to make before releasing your app to the public.
Your app’s dashboard is the first thing the user will see after launching your app, so you’ll want to make a good impression by having it look nice. Andromo has a variety of Dashboard types to choose from, with a number of available customizations. If you’re unsure which type you prefer, the “List” type is a safe bet for most apps. Switching the dashboard type is easy, so feel free to experiment in the future. These settings can be found on your project’s Dashboard tab.
When it comes to making your app unique, simple changes such as choosing a color theme can go a long way when designing your app. Some areas to consider customizing are the action bar style/theme/colors, text colors and background colors. If you have a logo, perhaps you could tailor your colors around your brand’s color scheme. This decision may be more apparent after deciding on your other graphics such as your app icon. To start, feel free to just use the defaults. These style settings can be found on your project’s Styles tab.
There are several icons you’ll want to specify before releasing your app, the most important being your App Icon. The app icon will be shown on the device’s Home or All Apps screen after it’s installed, and in the action bar while your app is running. You can set the app icon on your project’s App Info tab.
Your goal should be to choose an icon that is easy to identify and is a representation of your brand or content. Since you’ll need it in the future for store listings such as Google Play, you’ll want to make sure you have an image available that is at least 512x512 in size to work with. (As a general rule, it's better to have an icon that is too large and scale it down, than it is to have an icon that is too small and scale it up.) The possibilities are endless if you have some graphical abilities, but if you don’t, no need to worry. There are many sites available that offer royalty free images that you can use for your icons such as http://openclipart.org or http://www.iconfinder.com.
The other set of icons you’ll want to consider changing before release are the activity icons. These are the icons on your app’s dashboard (the first screen) that represent each of the activities you’ll add. Each activity’s icon can be set on its properties page. Andromo automatically includes default icons for each activity type, so if they fit the style you’re going for, feel free to use them.
Activities are the main component of your app and where you’ll be adding all of the content that you’ve gathered for your idea. Each activity you add will be automatically added as an item on the dashboard. This is how your users will access each area. As described earlier, Andromo has a variety of Activity types to choose from, tailored to different types of content. While Andromo’s activities were created with a particular idea in mind, don’t be afraid to think of creative ways to use them beyond what we’ve suggested.
There’s no right or wrong answer as to how many activities your app should have, but as a guideline, you’ll want to shoot for a minimum of 4, but ideally at least 6. You may also want to stay away from large numbers, since it may become difficult for users to navigate. Quality is often better than quantity. Keep in mind that updating your app is easy, so adding new content in future updates is always a nice surprise for your audience. So don’t feel you need to add all the content you’ve gathered.
You can build your app as many times as you want, so to get your feet wet, just add one or two activities to your project’s Activities tab so you can build your app to see what it looks like. If you don’t have any activity content yet, try adding a “Facebook” activity using ‘andromorocks’ as the Facebook Page.
Your app doesn’t need to be finished in order to build and test. It’s exciting to see what your app looks like, so don’t be afraid to pause and take a look at your work along the way. In general you’ll be building numerous times after adding content, fixing issues, or tweaking the appearance of your app. Building your app is as simple as a button click, initiated from the button on the “Build” tab of your project.
Once the build process is completed on Andromo’s servers, you’ll receive an email containing a download link for your compiled app file. The next step is to install your app to see how it looks, and to make sure it functions the way you want. The easiest way to test your app is on an Android device, so if you have one, follow the instructions in the article How to install your App onto a device. If you don’t have a device, don’t worry, you can still test your app, but it involves some further steps as described in the article Testing your application without a mobile device.
If your app is nearing completion and you think it’s something you’d like to release to the public, you’ll want to start thinking about how you’d like to monetize it. If it’s more of a promotional tool for your business or brand, this form of revenue may not apply to you. The most popular way to monetize free apps is to include ads. Andromo contains a variety of advertising formats and providers, the most popular being banner and interstitial ads from Google’s AdMob. You can find all of Andromo’s monetization options on the Monetization tab of your project. All of these options require a registration step, so you’ll probably want to initiate the process while you finish your app.
The second way to monetize your app is by selling it through an app store such Google Play. If you feel people would pay for the content you have to offer, you may want to consider publishing it that way, instead of distributing a free version with ads. It’s also common to release two versions of an app, a free version with ads containing a limited amount of content/features, and a paid version that contains more content/features, and no advertising. If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to create two separate Andromo projects for the free and paid versions.
The next article of this series will explain how to release your finished app to the public. Read on!