How to Build Your First iOS App in 30 Days

I’ve written about iOS development as a side hustle before, but I thought I’d give more of a blueprint to you guys in this post. In my Side Hustle Spotlight on iOS development, I got a little technical, and although some readers liked it, I realize some probably wanted a more generic guide of where to start – and thus this post was born.

I love coding for one major reason: even if what you’re building fails, doesn’t sell, or you don’t finish it – you can still apply those skills to your next app, which will be even better than the last. To add to that, if you decide to write in a different language, many of the concepts are the same – you’re just learning syntax and very minor details that change between languages. In my case, I went from Python scripting to Swift (a compiled language created by Apple to replace Objective-C). It was a surprisingly simple transition.

But where do you start if you don’t have ANY previous coding experience? I’m going to tell you how, but first, here’s a few things you need before you get started:

What you’ll need to code iOS apps:

-A Mac. You don’t need a lot of power to code your average app, so an older mac will do in most cases.

-Xcode installed on your Mac (you can find it in the App store)

-An Apple Developer account ($99)*

-Caffeine (seriously)

*Protip: Don’t sign up for an Apple developer account until you’ve gone through some tutorials. You don’t need it right away, and you can use xcode just fine without it. You’ll need it once you want to distribute your app via the App store. It’s an annual subscription, so waiting will ensure you don’t waste money while you’re still learning the ropes.

1. Take a Udemy Course

If you’re brand new to iOS programming, don’t start right away with books. It’ll get confusing really fast. My method, which I’ve successfully applied to earning not one, but two PhD-like credentials in my day job – is to start with video training, then read, then play with the technology – then read and watch videos some more – capping it all off with more hands-on coding. In the spirit of that, I’d absolutely recommend starting with an Udemy course.

There’s a lot of good courses on Udemy, but the course in particular that I’m a big fan of, is Mark Price’s iOS 10 & Swift 3: From Beginner to Paid Professional Course. I love it, because there’s 70+ hours of content, and it’s absolutely enough to get you started on a solid path and fast track through some of the more difficult topics. It’s cheaper than some iOS programming books, and in my opinion, you get way more value. Start here, and take lots of notes. It’s worth noting that you don’t have to completely finish the course before you move to the next step, but you should be through half. A little overlap is OK.

2. Skim over the official Swift documentation

With the video course completed (or at least partially done) – you’ll be ready to look through some basic documentation. The official docs written by Apple are the best, I think, and you can read them here. Don’t worry about reading and understanding every detail – just skim through them for a couple of days and get comfortable with a few of the sections. If you’ve gone through the Udemy course I recommended above, you should be very comfortable with this stuff now.

It’s optional, but I highly recommend checking out The Big Nerd Ranch Guide, which is a book for newbies to iOS programming and Swift 3. I own it, and I constantly refer back to it when I get stuck to ensure I understand the foundational concepts well. It’s probably the best book currently published to learn how to code iOS apps from scratch.

3. Download, Install, and Play with Xcode.

At this point, you’re ready to code. Open up Xcode, and play around with some of your newfound knowledge. If you’re not sure where to start once you open Xcode up, I highly recommend going through the official Swift tutorial. I did exactly this when I started, and I’ll warn you – it took me several days to complete the tutorial, but I was able to use almost all of the concepts on my own app which I ended up finishing (mostly) within 5 weeks.

I can’t emphasize this point enough: you need to play around. When I was building my first app, I was so focused on just building the app, that I didn’t want to waste time with a tutorial. Thankfully, I wasn’t stupid, and I did the tutorial. It was the best decision I made, and it was completely free. That slight delay in starting my app ended up saving me a lot of frustration and headaches.

One note I will put out here, is you might run into some Swift 3 issues when compiling the tutorial. If you do, Google is your friend. Some of the code in the tutorial is for an older version of the Swift programming language, so just keep that in mind. It does work, however, so don’t give up!

4. Be Consistent

I know, I harp on this a lot. But there’s a good reason – it works. If you give an honest attempt at coding for 1 hour a day, for 2 weeks – at the end of the two weeks, you’ll be ready to build a basic iOS app. If you did that for a month, you’d be close to releasing that same app on the iOS store.

Programming isn’t easy, but it’s not totally difficult either. Trust me – if I can do it, you can too.

5. Build a BASIC app!

Don’t start with huge goals for your first app – trust me. Start by defining a simple app that you know you can build once you’ve gone through the course and documentation. Build it, and once you’re done, you’ll be MUCH more likely to succeed with having one app under your belt already.

What’s a simple app? Well, here’s a few examples:

  • Basic “reference” apps
    • Power plug outlet app with outlets for each country (and a picture)
  • Dictionary style apps
  • Flashcard apps
  • Any app with a small amount of views (view = a “screen” in the app)

That’s it! All of these steps are totally doable within 30 days, but you need to be persistent. Don’t give up, and make your goal a high priority. I guarantee that if you can make it through one month of coding, you’ll be very well on your way to app success!


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