Building Your First Android App

Did you just wake up with an app idea that would revolutionize the world? But upon waking up, you also remembered you don’t know a thing about designing apps?

If you ever wanted to develop and design your own Android app, but aren’t sure where to begin, here’s the place to start.

This guide is an overview of the different tools and resources you’ll need to design your first Android app, full of links and guides to that take you from theory to actual development.

The First Tool: Research

Building an Android app isn’t easy and chances are there are many versions of the app you want to build already in existence.

Melanie Haselmayr, the CEO of Mevvy, says “there are more than 1 million apps for Android and iOS, so building something that hasn’t been done before is nearly impossible. Nonetheless you must not get discouraged by those who may playing in the same arena”.

So before you start building your app, always do your research and find out if there are any apps similar to the one you want to make. If there are, don’t get discouraged. Learn from their mistakes and make the app better for the targeted audience.

The Android Software Development KIT (SDK)

The Android Software Development Kit is a collection of helpful tools that will get you started making Android apps. To start, you need a main program where you can write code and build your app. These programs are called integrated development environments (IDE). For Android, there are two primary programs: Eclipse and Android Studio.

Eclipse is the default IDE and allows you to modify Java and XML files. If you download the latest version from Google, you’ll get a package manager that updates to the latest version as soon as Google releases it.

The main alternative is Android Studio. At the moment it’s part of a prolonged Beta made by Google. Eventually, it will replace Eclipse as the primary Android app development IDE. This option doesn’t replace Eclipse entirely, but it’s a good option for developers who want to be ahead of the game, and don’t mind a few bugs.

Both work a bit like photoshop and there are a lot of great tools. Below are two guides to get on the basics.

  • Udacity – Developing Android Apps: This is an 8-week online class with a lot of free stuff. Also, it’s directly taught by Google engineers.  It will help you learn some of the fundamental concepts and features you’ll need.
  • Android Developer Training: This is a great place for training tutorials on how to use Android tools. The guides begin with the basic features of IDE, and are a great starting point for those who aren’t a master developer and want to get their feet wet.

Android Debug Bridge (ADB)

Android Debug Bridge is a multi-faceted command line tool that aids in your android app development. It lets you communicate with an emulator or Android-power device, and allows you to load software and/or make changes to your device.

Here are some of the basic tools basic tools you can use with ADP, but for developers that know enough, check these out instead:

Developing Guides

Whether you’re new or not, Google has a vast collection of resources and tutorials for how to program your apps. For both savvy developers and the utterly confused, it’s always a good idea to check out the Android Developer Guidelines. Both are laid out to facilitate learning, and each guide builds off the one before it.

Here are a few to help get you started:

  • Google Services: Here Google generously offers a variety of features for free that you would otherwise have to design yourself. They include sign-in services, map and location features, and many more.
  • API Guides: These guides range from creating basic code and animations, to reading sensors and connecting to the internet.
  • Sample Code: This will show you how somebody tackled the code for a variety of functions. You can get an idea of how things work, or just use it directly in your app.

Design Guides

This complements the developer guidelines. You can get a lot of useful info at Android Design Guidelines, but Google also covers the basics including buttons, multi-layered interfaces, and simple animations.

It’s recommended you start at some of the areas listed below:

  • Devices: Android apps work on many platforms, not just phones. Here you will learn how to design an interface and adapt it to phones, tablets, TVs, and even watches.
  • Patterns: This section teaches you how to design your framework which will set the foundation for your Android app.

A Final Note

“Failure leads to knowledge, and knowledge in turn leads to smart mobile applications” – Ben Kerschberg

Developing apps for Android is certainly a time-consuming and challenge orientated, especially if you’ve never written code. However, you’re not the first person to ever design or want to design an Android app, so there’s plenty of help and guides out there to get on the right road.

Also, don’t give up if you fail your first time. Ben Kerschberg of Forbes magazine says “failure leads to knowledge, and knowledge in turn leads to smart mobile applications”.

It’s important not to quit early because you don’t see the results you expect immediately. Remember failure is essential to the process. Who knows, maybe your idea will be bigger than Instagram.

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