Should I Learn to Code an App?

Creating a great app requires more than an idea and a copy of "Building Apps for Dummies". Before taking the DIY plunge, know what it takes to build an app.

So you have a money-minting app idea and all you need to do is find a copy of “Learn to Build An App in 21 Days”, crack your knuckles, roll up the ole sleeves,  and hack your way to instant Instagram-success!

If only life were that easy.

I hate to be the wet blanket at an Eskimo slumber party, but thinking you’ll be able to teach yourself enough programming to build an app is like me saying I’m going to forego the furniture store,  learn carpentry and build myself a new set of bar stools. Sure I can buy a belt sander and crazy glue for $100 from Home Depot, but carpentry, like programming, is a finely honed skill that requires patience, time and a burning desire to learn it in order to be considered merely good. I’ll probably end up high off the glue with a pile of wooden sticks to show for my work.

Meet a programmer’s work bench.

She just spent 12 hours trying to get her program to say “Hello World!”

Furniture making, like programming, is a time-intensive and often frustrating skill to learn.

As a programmer, let me tell say that writing code is the most tedious, time-consuming and frustrating exercise I’ve ever come across. I’ve only kept my sanity through the years because I really get a kick out of building things, and I’ve learned enough of it so that it now only takes hours to debug issues which would have taken days before.

The truth is that programming is a labor intensive skill that isn’t for everyone. You  need to be a tinkerer, someone who gets a kick out of building things to make the time and effort worthwhile. Ask yourself, do you like to play with LEGOs or put puzzles together? If you do, then by all means, jump on in and start kicking, because you probably will enjoy it. You probably could hack together an app just like I could probably build a stool with enough wood and laquer, but it will take years for you to hone your craft to produce high-quality work that is essential for creating a successful app. In general, most apps aren’t simple  and require thoughtful design and planning to not only look good, but to scale and be useful to thousands of people.

If you don’t fall into the category of a tinkerer, then be honest with yourself. Your time launching a startup business is best spent on the things you are good at, whether it’s business development, marketing or operations. If you have a friend who is a programmer, hire them to build your app (or better yet, recruit them to join your startup!). If you don’t, then go find a small app development lab and get them to build your app. There are a lot of great programmers for hire out there, so don’t be cheap, get them to build your app!

Launching a startup business is a terrifying and exhilarating experience. If you have a killer idea for an app that will mint money then your goal should be to get that app built and on the market as quickly as possible, not stuck in your room banging your head on a keyboard for months. Focus on what you are good at,  find or hire people to do the things you aren’t. The temptation of a DIY app is alluring, but it’s not entirely realistic. It doesn’t take a lot of money to get an app built (probably a few thousand for a MVP), and if you’ve got a money making idea, then finding someone to fund even a small prototype will go a long way to bringing your idea to life as an app people will actually want to use.

About Bobby Gill

I am the creator of Bahndr, founder of New York based app development lab, Blue Label Labs and editor at Idea to Appster. I like crepes and I am fascinated by big data.

  • Jason

    agreed, but how do you ensure that the person you hire does not take your idea?

  • Nick

    If i really want to learn programming or write a code, can i do?