In this episode of the PE Geek Podcast, we switch focus and talk about the world of app development. In particular, I share how & why I chose to start building applications without having any prior experience & what I’ve learnt along the way. We also touch on the different ways that emerging technologies have made it possible for literally anyone to build their own app using nothing but click and drag functions in the cloud.

If you’ve ever had an idea for an app or are simply interested in how we wound up building over 100+ apps in the last few years, this episode is for you.

Resources mentioned include

  1. AppSheet & App Guyver
  2. UpWork & Fiverr
  3. The App Match

Press play to listen to the episode below or listen here. Alternatively, download a full episode transcript here

Read Full Transcript

[00:00:29] Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to episode number 76 of the PE Geek Podcast and as always it is an absolute pleasure to have your attention. Now I’m really excited to dive into day’s episode because to be honest it’s a little bit of a different focus than the normal episodes that are very phys ed centric and tech centric.

However, I tend to get asked this sort of question a lot, quite surprisingly by a lot of phys ed teachers and people in general education spaces, friends, family etc. and I

[00:01:00]

wanted to sort of touch on how you can go about bringing your own app to life. Now I couldn’t tell you the amount of times that I literally have been asked this by people and it’s been quite good to see many people actually going down the path of building an app based on some of the recommendations that I’ve made. However, I will preface it and say that there are a couple of different ways that you can approach this, some of the ways that I personally use to build apps

[00:01:30]

I’ll talk about and then there also a couple of ways that you can build apps in simple web based tools that cost you nothing and can be almost used as almost classroom activities or extended type projects. So we’re going to cover all those opportunities.

Now I guess the starting point for this episode is probably my experience in the past. Now back in 2011 or 2010

[00:02:00]

I got my first iPhone and I remember just being completely blown away by these little squares that you could see on your home screen and that led me down the path of eventually writing about it, I used to write about a lot of this stuff that you see on the site and continue to see on the site now and a lot of the stuff was app based and continuous to be. I was just sort of so enticed by the fact that you could

[00:02:30]

have these neat little software packages that ran and people could download them and they gave function and functionalities to your device and extended it that I couldn’t help but start to think about what else could be built.

The very first app that I ever thought was something that needed to be built was the 12 Minute Fitness Test app that I released as the very first app ever and it’s still in the store, it hasn’t been updated for a while but it still works, it still does what it set out to do. Basic premise was that it conducted the

[00:03:00]

Cooper’s fitness test, you put your phone in your pocket, you ran for twelve minutes and at the end of it it tells how far you ran and therefore how aerobically fit that you are.

Now that was the very first case that I have had of building an application and the process for that was going onto a website like Upwork or in the day it was called Elance and putting up a proposal for someone to build this app and then people from all over the planet putting up their

[00:03:30]

hand to build it, and they say how much they’d build it for and how long it would take and then you review them like you would eBay with ratings and you pick someone and then you start the process of working with that person. In this particular instance I put up $500 of my own money to build this very first app not knowing that it would useful or beneficial or even if it would end up being something that existed.

[00:04:00]

But in the end it did, I learned a lot of lessons from that process of going back and forth and trying to help them understand what was in my head because when I first got the app back it was nothing like what I envisioned but eventually got to the stage where it was released on the store, I ended up charging 99 cents for it because in the end it cost about $600 or $700 to build it and it was great to see,

[00:04:30]

people were downloading it and then they were actually using it to conduct what we set out to do.

So that was a really empowering experience and it led me down this path of eventually I got back the funds for building the first app and then I just directly transitioned those to building a second and then a third and a forth and as time went on they got more complex and they become more expensive to build and we got to the stage now where they’re down the track where

[00:05:00]

we’ve built over 100 for IOS and for Android and for web presence and lots of other different variations in between. All the while the focus has been on solving an audience’s need around a specific pain point. Now and you trace that back to that very first app that was about the Cooper’s test. But even more recently when we released Monsuta Fitness it was about trying to engage people in a specific situation.

Now the lesson from all of this is that over

[00:05:30]

the years since the first iPhones and so on have come out, the ability to build apps has become so much more achievable to the average person. Now I consider myself to be very much in that average person space when it comes to building applications, I’ve got no idea and if you told me to sit down and said literally Jarrod you’ve got a month to build this I wouldn’t be able to do it because you’re talking about extended programing languages and things just go far beyond me. So in that

[00:06:00]

equation all I did to build the 100 plus apps that we’ve done is find people who are more talented than me. That’s something that everyone is able to do, they’re able to think of an idea, they’re able to communicate that idea to someone and bring it to life.

It’s sort of the approach that I recommend is best because even if you sat down and said I’m going to teach myself to program the reality is you’re probably not going to get the result that the person on the right who’s been learning it for ten years

[00:06:30]

would. Now the other thing that I’ve noticed is that in the years since I first released the app it’s been really quite powerful to see how technology has changed. Now obviously we talk about this a lot on the website but the reality is that it’s had so obviously in app development terms as well.

So back in the day the only way you would be able to bring an app to life is if you programmed it from scratch and as I’ve just mentioned it’s something that takes a lot of experience

[00:07:00]

and practice and skill and technique and so forth. But these days you can to a website and you can use a service such as Appgyver and you create an account, you sign up and then if you can point and click your mouse then you can quite literally build an application just by dragging in blocks almost like a PowerPoint presentation and sort or rewording it and changing the labels and it’s all done visually and in the back end some magic wizardry

[00:07:30]

happens and it builds you an application.

Now this is great for people who want to build some simple applications where it’s maybe for their community group or their sporting club and it’s got information about how to get registered, apps of that type of nature where you’re getting directions, where you’re getting, maybe scanning some QR codes or simple things of that sort of caliber. You can definitely build very easily, very quickly with no experience whatsoever

[00:08:00]

inside of Appgyver.

We did this as a student task in a class that I taught at school which was a non-phys ed class, it was technology based unit and part of the process was kids had to design a product and one of the things that they built was an app based product. None of the kids had ever touched or even thought about the fact that they could build apps. We all signed up for Appgyver which used to be called App Architect back then and they literally all built

[00:08:30]

an app for a different business in the town. That business was up to them, they had to go and survey them and ask questions about what they’d have in an app and then the kids built the apps and they could install them on their devices. The only thing that we didn’t do was submit the apps to the store.

So the kids still went through the process of building them and consulting them and using the tech part. The only part that they didn’t’ do was the final hurdle which at the time used to cost to publish them. These days

[00:09:00]

in Appgyver you can see on their site they have a free platform and you can just publish apps with limited features to their market place for free and people could go ahead and download them. So if you’re looking for a really quick way to build something that’s simple and cost effective and maybe solves a need for you or just your family or you just want to learn about it and have some fun then that’s one of the places that you could head to.

Now the other one that I want to mention is sort of similar to this too

[00:09:30]

it’s called AppSheet. Now AppSheet is again a website that you go to build your own application. The good part about it is again as long as you can drag and drop and you can point and click your mouse then you are able to create your own app. It’s literally the app platform for everyone, not developers, you can basically just build it as long as you know the content and reason why you’d want to do it then you can frame up

[00:10:00]

your app, connect it to a spreadsheet and have the data that’s been pushed into the app stored in the spreadsheet and that’s why it’s called AppSheet because it’s a spreadsheet and it’s an app and you could use it for a lot of different situations.

Now the reason I mentioned it as a specific thing as I’ve not personally used it but the concept here in an educational setting, a PE setting is quite cool. You could imagine a situation where for example

[00:10:30]

someone builds and app that’s centered around a curriculum type using AppSheet and simply in the app you can select and produce the different types of reports or capture the certain standards or whatever it was, all that sort of stuff will be possible with a bit of time and effort in a place such as AppSheet.

Now although we could dive into this topic for a, for ages because quite literally it is really extensive

[00:11:00]

I just wanted to give you that background story, I just wanted to point you to a couple of different places where you can go to get some questions or maybe even start building your own app if you so desired. At the end of the day this is not something that you can just pick up and instantly start working on as I think many people may think that they can do.

So however if you are interested in building an application then you can certainly make it a reality and my advice to you even if you don’t want to have any involvement in building it

[00:11:30]

using the couple of website I mentioned before, but the process that I personally take to build some of the more complex apps that have cost anywhere between $30 and $50 and beyond thousand to build is to start by literally putting a piece of paper on the table and getting a pen or a pencil out and drawing what you would imagine it to look like. If you can conceive what the app should do and how it should work and how it should function then that is a really big advantage.

You need to be able

[00:12:00]

to get that down to a piece of a paper, you need to enable to envisage what it would like before you can even start going down the line of bringing to life. So that’s where I always begin and I’m the worst drawer you could possibly imagine. Once I’ve got that down the next step is to maybe get some feedback from people who understand that niche or that audience of that thing that you’re trying to build. Then I would pass it on to a graphic designer and a graphic designer would take that really terrible mock-up

[00:12:30]

that you’ve done and turn it into something that looks a little bit nicer, that the developer who builds your app would be able to use.

Now obviously there are costs attached to that. However, if you use a website such as Fiverr, so F-I-V-E-R-R.com you can get much of that done really quite affordably without needing to break the bank and by affordably I mean from $30 up to $100 depending on what you need done. That will sort of help you be able to pass that on to a developer who

[00:13:00]

you could also potentially higher from Fiverr or Upwork or many of the other different online platforms to bring your app to life.

So if that is of interest to you and you do have this idea and it’s in the back of your head and you wanted to get it done and you’ve just, haven’t been quite sure it is possible, we’ve done it with over 11 apps, I wouldn’t even know where to begin if it was for, wasn’t for being able to find people who are smarter than me.

The last piece of advice I’d leave you with is just because apps are

[00:13:30]

the big rage and obviously people use them and they are available for so many different situations, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your idea cannot be achieved through a different purpose or different platform or a different situation. So if you’re wanting to build an assement app just purely because you want to build an app then have a look at the actual real reason why you’re building it. Think would this be achievable down the path of using something like just Google Sheets from the

[00:14:00]

web or building a form or whatever it may be and maybe you don’t need the full app function and the full app back end to make it happen. Obviously there are some serious pros and cons to going down this path but I wouldn’t be running this podcast, I wouldn’t be running this website, being able to work around the globe with teachers had it not been for me spending that initial $500 which seemed like an enormous amount of money at the time. It really was to bring an

[00:14:30]

app to life the reason why it was so successful is because it solved and helped people do something and since then that’s just been our mission to continue bringing out those to help. So if you’ve got an idea I’d just encourage you to execute on it and get in touch with me if you have any questions.

Hopefully you found this episode interesting, as I said it’s a very different episode to normal. We are back in episode 73 without normal content but until then if you have any questions feel free to the website

[00:15:00]

or contact me via email and I look forward to speaking with you. See you soon.

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