Building a mobile app can be a complex process, but thanks to Thunkable, complexity doesn’t mean it has to take a long time. Rather, it just means you have to think things through before jumping right in. Here are 4 key tips for speeding up your app building effort.
Define The Minimum Requirements for Your No Code App
It's the first step that is most troublesome. To make it easier to get started, the key is knowing specifically what you want to build. And the best way to do that is to define the essential requirements. Some of you may have a clear vision of the end product, which usually includes many complex features, and thus it is difficult before breaking it down to the minimum requirements.
Great oaks grow from little acornsIf you're looking for some inspiration and real life examples of apps that started small but grew to be mighty, might we share these?
- Instagram: This photo-sharing app started without many popular features that exist nowadays, such as Instagram live, stories, and messaging.
- Yelp: In the beginning, Yelp was records of email responses from users asking their friends for recommendations on specific locations or types of places.
Eventually, however, these powerhouse companies realized their grand ideas in basic forms and gradually added enhancements over time.
So what do minimum requirements look like?
Don't worry! We also have some great examples to share from our Thunkable Creators:
A nutrition app with an OCR scanner — an app uses an OCR scanner to read the image and let the user know if it is healthy or not. (Related: How to create nutrition app with OCR scanner?)
The minimum requirements could be:
- A user can take pictures via mobile camera in the app
- The app can tell what food it is from the picture taken (image recognition)
- The app can match the food with its nutrition facts
- The app can display the nutrition facts to the user
Note: If using a barcode instead (as some of our users suggested), requirements two and three can be combined as, “The app can process the barcode and output the corresponding nutrition facts.”
A stray animal census app — an app sharing photos and location of stray animals from users for the proper authorities to pick them up. (Related: I need help making a census app and pet tracker).
The minimum requirements could be:
- A user can take pictures via mobile camera in the app
- A user can enter the location and other details in the app
- A user can send the report to a default animal care center via SMS in the app
There are also many recommended enhancements that have been suggested by other Community members, such as:
- Find care centers nearby for users to choose
- Classify species from the images
- Detect location when users are taking pictures
These features are definitely going to make the app better, but you could leave them out as they are not the core functionality (for now). You can always add them to the app after the core functionality is completed. Remember: this is about defining minimum requirements and planting the seed. The tree and feature will grow from there.
Focus on the minimum requirements not only shortens the delivery time but also consolidates the central concept. The Uber app may look much different from its very first version, but the basic idea hasn’t changed: push a button, and get a ride.
Choose Your Tools and Materials
After defining the minimum requirements, it becomes clear what you need to build your no code app, and that makes it easier to choose the most suitable tools and materials. Think of it this way: if you know you’re going to make beef stew for dinner, you shouldn't care about seafood or be distracted by chicken when grocery shopping for ingredients.
On Thunkable, these “tools” or “materials” are called “components”. For example, when making a basic photo sharing app, here are your components:
A user can take pictures via mobile camera in the app: When setting your minimum requirements, camera functionality is a core need. The Camera component should be included in your initial build plans.
The app stores pictures: As this is related to storage, the Data Storage section should quickly stand out. With our goal “storing pictures” in mind, Media DB (Database) looks the most promising among all the options, since your users will want to capture and store their photos.
The app displays pictures: While using the Image component repeatedly to show a series of pictures is the most intuitive way, the Data Viewers section is another core requirement so your users can actually view their photos.
As you notice, it makes a difference when you have something specific in mind. If you don’t know what you want, looking through the long documentation could be overwhelming. It would be intimidating to study the whole dictionary, but it’s simple to look up some words in a dictionary. Once you get more familiar with the platform and each component, you will be able to come up with ways to turn ideas into apps faster even without checking documentation as you know your tools/materials well.
Quickly Tryout The Components
Now that we have our cuisine in mind and all the ingredients are prepared, shall we cook? Yes and no.Yes, we should start developing each requirement toward the end product. No, we are not going to make it look like an end product right away.
Instead of starting from your desired style and feel, it is usually more efficient to quickly try out each component and get to know if it fits your needs. If everything goes well, that’s perfect; if not, we get chances to adjust accordingly with low time investment since we haven’t put much time and effort into the entire mobile app experience yet.
Continuing with the basic photo sharing app example, following the video tutorial to try out the camera component is a great way to get familiar with it. The tutorial is also available on the Thunkable platform with demo app and step by step instructions:
If you are already familiar with the Thunkable platform (you know where to find components, what blocks are, how to live test…etc), checking the Thunkable Documentation should be sufficient.
A quick tryout/test is also important when you start building your no code app. The key is to make small changes and test if your app still works as expected as you go. If you make several changes at once, it would become difficult to tell what and where things went wrong. Thunkable live test is the best thing for testing quickly; as you make changes to your apps on Thunkable, you can see the changes being reflected on your mobile phone or directly on the web in your browser right away. It is the best way to test, iterate, and build quickly.
The goal of trying out and testing each component is to confirm the feasibility of your approach. Quickly trying components out gives the opportunity to understand the limitations while exploring more possibilities. If at the beginning of our plan, we wanted to let users choose a photo in their phone instead of taking a picture via camera, we may have decided to use the Photo Library component. Later in our testing session, we found the Photo Library component is not supported on the web and decided to add the Camera component to our app to cover web users. It’s as if before starting your car, you take a look under the hood to check that everything is fine.
Once you have your components locked in, it’s time to get to work on the complete product. A quick prototype may look a little bit rough but will have answered key questions for you while building your expertise with these components. As you gain confidence, you’ll also clearly define what to (and what not to) include in your end product. The prototype will be functional, but not beautiful. To fix that, there is one component that would beautify your app immediately: the Animation component. Take a look at the animations from the Lottie community and picture one of them in your app. There is no reason not to a few minutes to make your app appealing for your users. An animation within your app’s experience will dramatically improve the quality of the user interface.
Animation is also great for polishing your final app. Whether you want click effects to make users feel like they have performed actions, progress animations to keep users entertained while waiting, or guidance to show users the most important part, it improves the usability and experience. In addition to that, animations also make your app more memorable. This is not saying you should spread animations all over the app, but a well-used animation will create a memorable and enjoyable experience. Excessive use of animations could be as bad as their deficiency; only add animations when they are going to improve your app’s experience.
Hopefully these tips help accelerate your app-building experience. Remember: it's good to get something done first and build your familiarity with it. You can always come back later to make it better, faster, and more impressive!