July 12, 2016

How is Building an App Like Building a House?

Building an app is a lot like building a house - from planning to wiring, to final construction and design.
Grant Glas
grant@app-press.com

As co-founder and CEO of App Press, Grant created his first app in App Press, and has since built 10 more with over 100K downloads.

When building a house, there are different stages of construction, and each stage is vital to the success of the next stage. Every house requires an architect provide a detailed blueprint. The foundation of the house must be carefully poured -- if not, the entire house could collapse. The frame of the house must follow the blueprint, or else there could be structural issues. The wiring and plumbing is critical so the family living in the house can access the right utility when they need it. Once construction is finished, you have to hire an interior decorator to design and furnish the house. 

The average time to build a single family home is seven months, and more complex or larger projects can take even longer. This process is probably starting to sound familiar if you've ever built a mobile app. If not, keep reading to learn more about the pieces you'll need to build a successful mobile app.

Every app must have a proper blueprint outlining what's being built, the materials required, and a timeline for development. Would you build your dream home without a blueprint? With a blueprint for an app in place, a development team can get started by pouring the foundation. 

Foundation = Database

Much like a new home, every successful app starts with the right foundation. For most apps, this foundation is a database used to manage user login information.

Just like building a house, a foundation can get very expensive if you're building something highly customized. A foundation that isn't properly created could cost you a lot of money to fix further down the road. Without the database set up properly, your app could collapse - it's absolutely vital to make sure you have the right database for your mobile app.

Once you've got the right foundation, the next step is framing your app by building out the screens and how a user will move through your app. This process is called “wire framing”, and it's a lot like framing a house.

Frame = Wireframe

Your app's wireframe will form the bones of your app, much like a frame forms the bones of a house. Every successful app starts with a great frame work that gives the user exactly what they need when they need it. Starting with a good frame for your dream app ensures the folks coming to visit enjoy their time, once your app is published.

The frame work for your app helps you think through the navigation and what each screen will eventually look like before development work starts.

Once you've got the framework for your app, it's time to start thinking about how to wire it up. This means adding the features and functionality your app will need, and it's a lot like adding plumbing, wiring, and an air conditioning system to a house.

Plumbing & Wiring = 3rd Party APIs

Once a house has been constructed, it's easy to forget about plumbing and wiring. Out of sight, out of mind, right? However, if the folks using the house run into issues with the water or power, they get upset. Really quickly.

Half of apps built require integration with other utilities. Modern apps rely on external services and other utilities to add features, like sharing content on Facebook, adding payment processing to an app, or displaying maps based on a user's current location. If your app doesn’t have the correct plumbing and wiring for the utilities your app depends on to keep your users happy, then you’ve got a big issue.

Interior Design = UI Design

Once a house’s bones, plumbing and wiring are complete, you need to start painting and decorating. This finishing work is important to make a house feel like a home, and it's just as important when it comes to building an app. Making your app look world-class takes a lot of effort and the right team. Every detail must be evaluated. Every color much compliment. Every button must be pixel perfect. If done right, you’ve got a lot of happy folks.

All of these elements are at play when you walk into a $1+ million dollar house. Each phase of the construction process is critical, and if not done properly, the flaws show once people start to come over to visit. 

Much like maintaining a home, you'll have to plan your app's cost over the course of development, and budget for the cost of maintaining your app - to keep your users happy and engaged with your published app.

How much can you expect to spend on your finished app? Check out our app pricing calculator - just answer a few questions about your app idea, and we'll give you an estimated cost to bring it to life.

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