Where to start with basic app building for web and mobile devices

Posted on 2014-10-20
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2014-11-12
Ok, first question so be gentle.

I have been doing break/fix for about 10 years but know I want to build an app.  I've looked and searched the internet for "where to start" or "what to use", but there seems to be too much info out there.

I want to build an app that will work on a desktop/laptop and mobile devices (windows phone, iPhone, iPads,etc).  The problem I keep running into is basically "what is step 1". What tools do I need? Do I build it like a webpage using html5, css3, and javascript?

Do I use one of many tools that say "no programming experience needed".  I don't mind learning what i need to do but I need to know what to learn.  The app needs to sync across the above platforms.  The app can be simple for now just so I get the workflow down, then I can move into more specific questions when I'm ready to move forward.

I do know from reading several articles that I just don't want a mobile version of a web page.  It will probably need a database and calender option to make to do lists and keep track of things.  But that may be to ambitious for now.

Thank You
Mark V
Question by:Mark Velasco
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LVL 58

Expert Comment

ID: 40393599
Without any knowledge of your experience, what type of app you are wanting to build it's near impossible to give you any advice - this question is too vague

As a start up then you may want to look at http://phonegap.com/

No framework is going to be completely 'no experience required' as everything needs some knowledge of what you are doing, especially when you are dealing with live data (databases)

This is definitely not a one question one answer scenario and it maybe easier if you are from a web background to port a webpage to an app

Author Comment

by:Mark Velasco
ID: 40393618
Thanks Gary,

Yes it is a broad question, I have no programming, app building experience.  So I figure I have to start somewhere and that's where I get stuck.

J've heard that using Visual Basic, or learning C, C++, C# or many other languages is the way to go.  I guess a better way to look at it is what is the normal path that gets those millions of apps made? I know how to fix a desktop.laptop and tablet,I know how to build a basic webpage, and good at troubleshooting, but crossing over is like when i first started learning about pc repair, except so much has changed in the past 14 years.

I know where you're coming from with the vague nature of the question, but I don't know the right questions to ask yet.  So let's say I want to build an app that can be downloaded from my webpage onto my windows desktop or onto my son's iPhone, where do I start.

Thanks for your patience while I get the terminology worked out.

Mark V
LVL 61

Accepted Solution

Julian Hansen earned 1500 total points
ID: 40393825
Your question is sort of like - I want to start building cars but I want the quick start guide without having to learn about what a transmission, diff, carburetor etc is.

Building an application can be but is typically not a case of reading a book and building the application. Here are just some of the hurdles you need to jump

1. Basic understanding of logic and how a programming language works
2. Knowledge of at least one (note at least) one programming language
3. (2) is not enough on its own - in addition to knowing the language you will need to have in depth knowledge not only of the system on which the app will run but the different systems and interfaces it will connect to. Sometimes knowledge of the language is totally useless if the environment is not understood
4. Experience to know what technology / solution etc to apply to what situation.

The list goes on. What you need to do is instead understand that development is a journey - on which you have to gain experience and knowledge of a diverse set of systems - sure there are systems out there that claim a no-knowledge-required feature - however we have had these before an ultimately they lead to badly engineered applications (not always but generally - depends on what you are trying to do).

As far as C,C++, C# being the way to go - not the best of advice C# maybe but I wouldn't start with C/C++ unless you ultimately plan on writing low-level utilities and systems - which does not fall into the app space.

What language you learn depends on the environment you are targeting. C# will cover the Microsoft Platform but if you want to hit Apple and Android devices you are going to have to expand your skill set somewhat.

Cross platform you can go HTML5 / Javascript - but if you want a try for an installed app that has standalone capabilities then you are going to have to learn Objectiv C (Apple) and Java (Android) to be able build apps that run on multiple devices. There are other options with Android like Corna and Phonegap etc but only if you want to do high level stuff. Javascript (and derivatives) is becoming very important as well as it is being used more and more in various applications.

As Gary said - it comes down to what you want and what your experience is - but as for the quick start up and running after reading a book - you might want to take a longer term view of the process.
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Author Comment

by:Mark Velasco
ID: 40394196
Thanks Julian, That's what I was trying to understand.  On the general search online, there are millions of option and opinions.  I'm not looking for a quick read and let's build an app, because usually the fast food method doesn't provide the in depth knowledge needed when problems occur.

So i don't mind taking the journey, I just wanted to make sure I was at least on the right "bus" to my destination and I wasn't sure if I needed to ride the "bus" or take a train.

But as is said many times, "we all have to start somewhere",  There was a time you didn't know any of this either and had to find out where to start, so i think you get where I am at right now.

I had read that Objective C was being replaced with I think Xcode, is that something I should focus on as well if it's even true?

Thanks to both of you for giving me more direction in one evening/morning than all that junk on the web.

Have a good one!

Author Closing Comment

by:Mark Velasco
ID: 40394207
I appreciate the info but a little bit more specific steps would have been nice.  I was told my question was too broad, but so was the answer.  I made it very clear about no programming or app building experience. I was also clear that i didn't mind learning, I just needed to know what to learn.
The answer seemed to indicate I was looking for a quick fix, but I said I'm not even sure what step 1 should be.  Those that know need to realize that those that want to grow and learn sometimes don't know where to turn to first and the questions may seem puzzling.  But we are on this site to learn and share knowledge and that requires patience.

I deal with alot of retired military and need to be very patient with them since what comes easy to me is completely foreign to them.  But I do appreciate the help.
LVL 61

Expert Comment

by:Julian Hansen
ID: 40394222
Thanks for the points but there were two experts that provided relevant answers to this post - I would have expected a point split between Gary and myself.

Regarding your closing quote

I just needed to know what to learn.
That is in itself too broad - you were given advice about C#, Objective C, Java, HTML and JAvascript - to be more precise would require significantly more information than you provided.
If you wanted a more concise answer you would have had to be a bit more specific about your requirements

Even if you were specific and said you wanted to target Microsoft devices there still would have been scope for multiple suggestions because MS has a different development environment for Windows 8 apps from normal app development (desktops / laptops). There is proclamation from MS that they want to go flat development space - one app hits all - but we are not there yet.

So, if you were looking for a roadmap - you got pretty much the only one available without more information.

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