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Yes, we’re doing it! Since we’ll be writing more about mobile apps, we’ve decided it’s best to actually have one made ourselves. More and more businesses and non-profits are creating mobile apps and making them available for free or a low price. If you’re part of a non-profit or other charitable group you can use your mobile app to keep your supporters informed, or even to raise funds by selling the app. (Are you considering a mobile app for your non-profit?)

So let’s get started: In order to get our mobile app done for free or a low budget, we’ve been looking for do-it-yourself ways on the internet. We’re going for an iPhone app, since they’re currently the most popular.

Creating our first mobile app!

To keep it simple, the plan for our very first mobile app is mainly to deliver our content and to make it easier to access our articles via mobile devices.

If you’re planning on creating a mobile app just to make your website easier to read on mobile devices, you actually don’t have to have an app. You can simply install a mobile plugin if you have a WordPress blog, or you can create a mobile style sheet and add it to your website. The advantage of having a mobile app is that you can offer it through Apple’s iTunes store which means your content is being presented to a much wider audience compared to simply offering it in another format on the web.

As we’re trying to do this on a small budget, we’ve decided to give the online app maker service Appmakr a try. Note that you can use Appmakr only for apps that deliver content from a site that has blogging software installed, or uses a feed in some way.

So if you have a blog on your group’s website, you can use this service to make your own app!

Once you log in to Appmakr, (registration is free) it asks for a graphic for a splash screen in 640X960 .png format (the screen that shows when you open the app) and a 512X512 .png button for the icon that will appear on the iPhone.

You can also change the font color, header bars and make some other tweaks. The site gives you the option to add push notifications (a message pops up when a new article is published, even if the app isn’t open) and advertising. There are also lots of videos to help you through the process. When you’re done you can even have Appmakr submit the app for you for a fee.

We will submit it ourselves which means we had to open an Apple Developer account for $99 per year. You can use all of Apple’s software and resources for free, but in order to submit your app for approval and to distribute it through their app store and iTunes, you have to have an Apple Developer account.

To get our splash screen (first screen when you open up the app) and buttons we’ve decided to work with a designer to make sure the app will look professional. Appmakr displays links to professionals who can help you design your app, or you could look for a designer through one of the many freelance websites, like ODesk.com, or vWorker.com. There isn’t that much to design, so if you know a graphic designer, he or she may even do it for free.

The design work for our app will be done this week, but then it still needs to be tested and sent to Apple for approval. So far our only expense has been the $99 for the Apple Developer Program (which includes all kinds of software, how-to videos and sample code) and whatever our designer will charge us.

Here’s a screenshot of one of the pages inside Appmakr:



We will keep you updated on the progress!

Update: It’s been 2 weeks since we’ve applied for the Apple Developer Program. We’ve had to send some forms and are waiting for approval. Maybe applying for the program should be one of the first things on your to-do-list, since it can take a while.

Have you tried Appmakr yet? Please let us know in the comments!

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