How to build and publish an App on the Play Store in 14 days
A guide for non-techies.
Several years ago, I’ve had a urge to build some software. Back in about 2006 I had some ideas but never acted on them, and since then a number of businesses have used those ideas successfully. This time it’s going to be different!
The coronavirus situation opened up certain opportunities to me, one of which was having a lot more time on my hands. I took the opportunity to develop some business ideas, and take some courses. I enrolled with Google to learn Android Basics free with Udacity, and completed the first two courses including building user interfaces, creating several basic apps and object-oriented programming. Actually, using Android studio and XML code is pretty simple, but moving on to understand Java (which is essential) is much tougher. After struggling through the various challenges I completed two courses and felt great, it really was a lot of fun. As an added bonus, I had a cool app that would help keep score in a Basketball game. Being British and 5ft 7, this was nice but limiting. I knew that if I wanted to create a business with a beautiful, sophisticated app that was a dream to use … it would take me years.
Next came a another great course called Become a Product Manager with Udemy. This course sounded so good that I paid money for it, and it was £49.99 well spent. Understanding the dynamics of why I was building something, how to find out what problems needed solving with my app and how to get it built (by others) was enlightening. I flew through this course as it dovetailed nicely with other reading I had already done, especially the The Lean Startup and building MVP’s.
I was now ready, or so I thought. But fortuitously I found another learning opportunity called the SeedReady Pre-Accelerator Programme which looked too good to be true. Over the following 6 weeks I got into far great detail on Customers & Markets, MVP’s and Strategy then I could even have done on my own. Now I really was ready for the next step.
Building the app
Following some advice, I decided to hire a freelancer through Upwork to build my app. The most appealing aspect was being able to set a budget, so that I could be in control of the cost. But developing an app is not as simple as hiring a freelancer and waiting for the app to be available in the Play Store. Here’s a quick guide to how it can be done in 14 days:
- Wireframes. This was a very quick way to visualise how the app worked. I drew simple mock-ups of the screens I wanted, then took a photo and loaded into the Marvel app which then allowed me to add links onto the uploaded pages creating the complete app flow.
- User Stories. Now I had clarity on what I wanted built, but describing that with precision required an exercise straight out of the Become a Product Manager course. I created several user stories in the following format: As a USER, I want to …………., so that I can ………………..
- Reaching out to Freelancers. I used these User Stories along with a brief project description as the main Job Description on the Upwork site. I set the budget and rather waiting for bids, I reached out directly to freelancers. The benefit being that I could target those with relevant skills, good reviews and had worked on relevant projects. I could also view how many hours a week they could commit to my project. This saved a lot of time and I hired one Developer within a few hours.
- Completing the team. It was apparent that I needed more then one developer. One for the mobile/Android development and one for a smaller role of setting up a backend. I had already created an Airtable database myself, based on a template but it needed an expert to build some more complex features like password protection for users to access their data. Finding an Android Developer with Airtable experience wasn’t possible in the short term, so I hired an Airtable specialist for a short project to complete the database setup and advise the Developer on how to integrate the data into the app. This also allowed me to concentrate on other things, whilst they worked it out between themselves. Overall the development was completed in about 5 days.
- First mistake! Having completed the first two Android training courses, I viewed myself as moderately skilled in using Android Studio. The idea was for the Android Developer to provide apk’s for each stage (user story) and I would run on my phone through Android Studio. But, for reasons still unknown to me Android Studio stopped recognising my phone, and the apk would not run directly from within a message on my Samsung A20e. I had to use an online emulator, which was not ideal but got the job done. There is a better way, but neither I nor my Developer were aware …
- The Google Play Console. You can’t just upload an app file to the Play Store, I quickly realised. You need to purchase a license for the Google Play Console ($25) which is a portal for managing any number of apps, their store listings, which countries will be released in, permissions needed and most interestingly how to test before releasing. By using an ‘Internal Testing’ track I would have able to test the app at any stage of readiness by uploading the apk the Console and then downloading the app to my phone and anyone else that I want to help test the app, without the need for a lengthy review process. More on this to come.
- A Designer. Having the services of a professional designer was paramount. Provide them with your wireframes, discuss colours and brand then let them create the look. Getting Designer and Developer to talk directly was another time saving as there were a huge amount of assets needed to go into the app, store listing and accompanying website. Without specialist tools, creating hi-res images, screenshots and logos just isn’t possible. You can’t just copy and paste from the web.
- Second mistake! Being in control of the Google Play Console rather then handing over to the Developer was not the mistake, I still think this was important. App Store Optimisation (ASO) is an important aspect of releasing an app, with up to 4000 words available to build out an interesting description and convince users to download. As I write this, my app listing conversion rate is 1.01% (thats 37% lower then the median in my category). Pretty poor, but its a starting point. The big mistake came from not reading all of the guidance on what can and can’t be included in the description. After 4 days of waiting for Google to review the app, I received a message saying the app was suspended due to inappropriate use of the word COVID19 in the description. I had left one line about the app being useful during COVID19, which is prohibited so as not to be using the pandemic for promotion. It’s not what I was trying to do, and a simple rewrite would suffice but the process would have take at least another 4 days, possible more as it involved a human being at Google rather then an automated process. Instead I created a new store listing, uploaded the new apk and released the second app to Google for review. This time instead of releasing the finished app, I released it for ‘Open Testing’. This felt better as I knew it wasn’t really how I wanted it, but I wanted to get some users andfeedback quickly. The review took an agonsing 3 days, but was then released without issue.
So all in all:
Created wireframes, user stories and two job listings on Upwork: 1 day
Hired two Developers and a Designer, completed basic app design and development: 5 days
Back and forth with Designer to complete Google Play Store listing requirements: 1 day
Waiting for App review: 7 days in total
I’m not saying it’s a great app, in fact the opposite. But it’s available and working (mostly) and has been downloaded and used in 11 countries. Most importantly though, I know how to do it (badly) and how to improve for the next release. All in all a very quick and cost effective process.
If you want to check out the App feel free to download from the Google Play Store here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tonypromotion.tech
I’m Tony Payne, I’m the founder of the Promotion App, platform that helps jobseekers to find and secure better jobs by giving them the complete picture of their available job options and helping them navigate through them with professional advice for every stage of their applications. We are the first app fighting on the side of the job seeker.