The Ultimate iOS App Development Guide 2023

Page reviewed by: Abhinav Girdhar | Last Updated on June 24th, 2024 11:55 am

iOS application development is the process of creating applications for Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. This includes creating both native and non-native applications for the iOS platform. iOS application development is highly specialized and requires a comprehensive understanding of the various components, stages, and best practices involved in developing applications for the iOS platform. In this article, we will discuss all of these components, stages, and best practices in detail.

  1. What are iOS Development Tools?
  2. Basic Requirements for iOS App Development
  3. How to prepare your environment for iOS App Development?
  4. What is iOS App Architecture?
  5. Components of iOS App Development
  6. What are the iOS Design and Development Guidelines?
  7. How to Start Your App Development Project?
  8. What are the stages of iOS App Development?
  9. What is iOS App Testing?
  10. iOS App Deployment
  11. Best Practices for iOS App Development
  12. Get Started with iOS Development
  13. Practice 1 Hour Per Day
  14. Recommended iOS App Development Topics
  15. Get Through “The Dip”
  16. How To Start Your Own App Project
  17. Conclusion

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What are iOS Development Tools?

The iOS development tools are a suite of software applications and tools used to create, debug, maintain, and deploy iOS applications. The main tools used in the development of iOS apps are the Apple Xcode IDE, the iOS SDK (Software Development Kit), and the Objective-C programming language. Xcode is an integrated development environment for developing iOS apps, and provides a graphical interface for managing source code, resources, debugging, and deploying apps. The iOS SDK contains a set of frameworks and development tools required to build iOS applications, including APIs for interacting with hardware components such as the accelerometer, camera, and GPS. Objective-C is a high-level object-oriented programming language specifically designed to develop applications for Apple platforms.

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What are the basic requirements for iOS App Development?

To develop iOS apps, you will need a Mac computer with the latest version of the macOS operating system, Xcode, and an Apple Developer account. In addition, developers should have a good understanding of the iOS software development kit (SDK) and be familiar with coding in Objective-C or Swift.

  1. The first requirement for developing iOS apps is to have a Mac computer with the latest version of the macOS operating system installed. The operating system is necessary for running Xcode and for providing access to the iOS SDK, which is required for developing apps. Additionally, it is important to have the latest version of macOS installed as older versions may not support the latest versions of Xcode or the SDK.
  2. The second requirement is Xcode. Xcode is an integrated development environment (IDE) used for writing code, building user interfaces (UI), and testing iOS apps. It is available as a free download from the Mac App Store and provides developers with a variety of tools for creating iOS apps.
  3. The third requirement is an Apple Developer account. This account is needed in order to submit apps to the App Store and access certain features of Xcode. It also allows developers to access technical support from Apple and receive notifications on updates to the SDK and other developer resources. An Apple Developer account requires a one-time fee of $99 USD per year.
  4. The fourth requirement is a good understanding of the iOS SDK. The SDK includes frameworks, libraries, tools, and APIs that allow developers to create applications for iOS devices. It contains all the tools necessary for creating user interfaces, connecting to external services, and creating custom views. In addition, it provides access to features such as push notifications and iCloud integration.
  5. The fifth requirement is familiarity with coding in Objective-C or Swift. Objective-C is an object-oriented programming language used for developing applications on Apple platforms such as macOS and iOS. It provides developers with a powerful way to write code that is both efficient and maintainable. Swift is Apple’s newer programming language designed specifically for iOS development. It provides developers with modern features such as type safety, generics, optionals, and closures that make coding faster and easier.

Developing iOS apps requires a Mac computer with the latest version of macOS installed, Xcode, an Apple Developer account, a good understanding of the iOS SDK, and familiarity with coding in Objective-C or Swift. These requirements provide developers with all the tools needed to create powerful and engaging applications for iOS devices.

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How to prepare your environment for iOS App Development?

  1. The first step is to install Xcode, the official Integrated Development Environment (IDE) from Apple, which includes everything you need to develop applications for iOS devices. Xcode is available as a free download from the Mac App Store. Once installed, it includes a wide range of tools and libraries that you can use to build your app.
  2. Once Xcode is installed, you will need to create a Developer Program account with Apple if you don’t already have one. This account will provide access to provisioning profiles and other resources that will be necessary for submitting your apps to the App Store.
  3. The next step is to configure your development environment. You should start by creating an Apple ID if you don’t already have one, as this will be necessary for signing into the App Store and downloading Xcode. After creating an Apple ID, it’s important to set up two-factor authentication to ensure security and protect your data.
  4. You’ll also need to create a unique development certificate and install it on your Mac. This certificate will be used to sign your apps and verify their authenticity. You’ll also need to create an App ID, which is a unique identifier for each app you develop. Finally, you should create a provisioning profile for each app, which contains all of the information needed for testing and submitting the app to the App Store.
  5. Once all of these steps are complete, you’re ready to begin developing your app! You can use Xcode to write code in Swift or Objective-C, design layouts in Interface Builder, debug your app with the debugger, and compile it into an executable file that can be tested on a device or submitted to the App Store.

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What is iOS App Architecture?

iOS App architecture is a set of tools, frameworks, and technologies that are used to develop an iOS application. It involves a number of components, such as user interface design, data persistence, networking, and security. The architecture is designed to ensure the app’s stability, scalability, and performance.

The main components of iOS app architecture include the following:

  1. User Interface Design: This component is responsible for the look and feel of the application. It includes the use of storyboards and XIB files to design the UI elements, such as buttons and labels. The user interface also includes navigation between different screens and options for user input.
  2. Data Persistence: Data persistence is responsible for storing and retrieving data from a database or file system. This component allows an application to store data locally or remotely. In iOS, Core Data is often used for this purpose.
  3. Networking: Networking allows an application to communicate with other services or applications over the internet. This component is responsible for sending data to and from other services, such as web APIs or cloud services. Networking components allow an app to access external data and services in a secure manner.
  4. Security: Security ensures that the app’s data is kept secure and private. It includes encryption techniques like SSL/TLS and authentication mechanisms such as OAuth. Security also helps protect against malicious attacks by using techniques such as sandboxing or jailbreaking prevention measures.
  5. Testing & Debugging: Testing and debugging are important components of iOS app architecture. Testing ensures that the app works correctly and debugging helps identify any issues in the code or design that may cause problems for users. Tools such as Xcode allow developers to quickly debug an application and identify potential issues before releasing it to the App Store.

In addition to these components, there are also several frameworks that can help speed up development time and improve the performance of an iOS application. Some of these frameworks include UIKit, Core Data, Foundation, Core Graphics, Core Animation, etc. Other tools that are often used in iOS app development include Xcode, CocoaPods, and Git.

iOS app architecture involves many components that need to be designed with care in order to create a successful application. User interface design, data persistence, networking, security, testing & debugging are just a few of the components that need to be considered when designing an iOS application’s architecture. Additionally, frameworks such as UIKit and Core Data can help speed up development time and improve an app’s performance. Finally, tools such as Xcode, CocoaPods and Git are essential for creating a successful iOS application.

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Components of iOS App Development

  1. Cocoa Touch: Cocoa Touch is the main framework used for developing iOS applications. This framework provides a comprehensive set of APIs that allow developers to create user interfaces, access system services, and manage multitasking. It also provides developers with access to a variety of UI elements such as views, controls, and animations.
  2. Xcode: Xcode is the integrated development environment (IDE) used for developing iOS applications. It includes a graphical user interface, code editor, and integrated debugging tools. Xcode also provides access to a variety of other features such as source control management and code refactoring tools.
  3. Interface Builder: Interface Builder is an editor used for designing user interfaces for iOS applications. This editor allows developers to quickly design screens and connect them to the code in Xcode.
  4. Simulator: The iOS Simulator is a tool used to test iOS applications on a computer without having to deploy them to an actual device. The simulator provides an accurate representation of how an application will look and function on an actual device.
  5. Instruments: Instruments is a performance-testing tool used to optimize the performance of an application by analyzing its memory usage, CPU usage, and other performance metrics.

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What are the iOS Design and Development Guidelines?

iOS is the mobile operating system developed by Apple Inc. for use in its mobile devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. With its intuitive user interface, powerful features, and broad range of applications, iOS has revolutionized the way people interact with mobile devices. As such, developers have a wide range of options when creating iOS apps. To ensure that users have a consistent experience with their apps, Apple provides a set of design and development guidelines that all iOS developers should follow when creating their apps.

In general, the iOS Design and Development Guidelines (DDG) provide developers with clear guidance on how to design and develop their apps in a manner that is consistent with Apple’s standards. The DDG covers everything from the basics of designing an app’s interface to best practices for coding and testing an app. It also covers topics such as how to optimize an app for different devices, how to make sure an app meets accessibility standards and more.

The main goals of the DDG are to ensure that apps are intuitive and easy to use, secure, performant, accessible, and visually appealing. To achieve these goals, Apple recommends that developers follow a specific set of design principles. These principles include:

  • Focus on clarity Develop apps that are intuitive and easy to use by emphasizing clarity in text, visuals, and interactions.
  • Design for simplicity Keep the number of elements in an app design minimal while providing the necessary functionality.
  • Provide feedback Visual cues or animations can help users understand what is happening in an app.
  • Use standard controls Stick to using standard controls whenever possible as this helps to keep users familiar with the app’s layout and features.
  • Minimize user input Allow users to accomplish tasks quickly by minimizing the amount of input required from them.
  • Follow platform conventions Ensure that an app follows platform conventions whenever possible to maintain consistency between different apps.

In addition to following these design principles, Apple also recommends that developers use specific tools and techniques when building their apps. These include:

  • Xcode Xcode is Apple’s official integrated development environment for creating apps for iOS devices. It includes a code editor, debugger, compiler, simulators, debugging tools, and more.
  • Interface Builder Interface Builder is used to design user interfaces for iOS apps quickly and easily without having to write any code.
  • Swift Swift is Apple’s programming language for developing iOS apps. It is designed to be secure and fast while being easy to learn.
  • Core Data Core Data is a framework used to manage data models in iOS apps. It provides features such as object tracking, persistence, validation, and more.
  • Cocoa Touch Cocoa Touch is a collection of frameworks used to develop user interface elements for iOS apps such as buttons, menus, navigation bars, sliders, etc.
  • Accessibility technologies Accessibility technologies are used to make sure that an app is usable by people with disabilities or special needs. This includes features such as voice control or text-to-speech capabilities.

Finally, Apple also recommends that developers use specific tools and techniques when testing their apps before releasing them on the App Store. These include unit testing (testing individual parts of the code), regression testing (testing an app after changes have been made), stress testing (testing an app under heavy loads), usability testing (testing how easy it is to use an app), accessibility testing (testing how accessible an app is), performance testing (testing how well an app performs on different devices), reliability testing (testing how reliable an app is), security testing (testing how secure an app is), compatibility testing (testing if an app works on different versions of iOS), localization testing (testing if an app works in different languages), device compatibility testing (testing if an app works on different types of devices) ,and crash reporting (tracking any crashes or errors).

By following Apple’s design and development guidelines when creating iOS apps, developers can ensure that their apps are intuitive and easy to use while providing a consistent experience across all devices. This helps to create a positive experience for users while also helping developers maximize their chances of success on the App Store.

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How to Start Your App Development Project?

Xcode is a free integrated development environment (IDE) from Apple that’s used to create iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS apps. It’s a powerful tool for developers of all skill levels and can be used to create amazing mobile and desktop applications. In this tutorial, we’ll go over how to set up a project in Xcode for iOS app development.

Step 1: Install Xcode

Before you can start developing iOS apps, you’ll need to install Xcode. You can download Xcode from the App Store or directly from Apple’s Developer website. Once you’ve downloaded and installed Xcode, you’re ready to begin your project.

Step 2: Create Your Project

Once Xcode is installed, it’s time to create your project. To do this, open Xcode and select “Create a new Xcode project.” On the next screen, select “iOS App” as the template for your project.

Step 3: Choose Your Project Options

Next, you’ll need to choose the options for your project. Select the language you want to use (Swift or Objective-C), the type of device you’re developing for (iPhone or iPad), and the user interface you want to use (Storyboard or Code).

Step 4: Design Your App

Now it’s time to design your app. If you chose Storyboards as your user interface option, then you’ll be able to drag and drop elements onto the canvas to create your app. If you chose Code as your user interface option, then you’ll need to write the code for your app in either Swift or Objective-C.

Programming the App with Swift

  1. Create the ViewController class: Open the ViewController.swift file and create a new class called ViewController that inherits from the UIViewController class.
  2. Set up the view: Inside the ViewController class, override the viewDidLoad() method and add any necessary subviews.
  3. Connect the outlets: Connect any necessary IBOutlets to the storyboard or nib file so that they can be accessed in code.
  4. Set up Actions: Connect any necessary IBActions to the storyboard or nib file so that they can be triggered by user interaction.
  5. Customize the ViewController: Add any additional methods or properties that are necessary for customizing the behavior of your ViewController.
  6. Implement data source methods: Implement any necessary data source methods for loading or displaying data in your ViewController.
  7. Finalize initialization: Call any additional setup methods that need to be called before the ViewController is displayed to the user.

Step 5: Add Resources and Assets

Once you have your app designed, it’s time to add any resources and assets that you may need for your app. This could include images, audio files, videos, etc. You can add these resources either by dragging and dropping them into Xcode or by adding them manually via code.

Step 6: Test Your App

Now that you have all the pieces of your app in place, it’s time to test it out. You can use the built-in simulator in Xcode to test out your app on different devices and operating systems. You can also use real devices to test out your app if you have them available.

Step 7: Debug Your App

If there are any bugs or issues with your app, now is the time to debug it. Xcode has a powerful debugger that allows you to step through your code line by line and identify any issues with your code. You can also use breakpoints and logs to help identify any issues with your code.

Step 8: Publish Your App

Once all of the bugs have been fixed and your app is ready for release, it’s time to publish it! If you want to distribute your app on the App Store, then you will need an Apple Developer account in order to do so. Once you have an Apple Developer account set up, then you can submit your app for review on the App Store.

Setting up a project in Xcode for iOS app development is a straightforward process that requires some planning and organization but isn’t overly difficult. With this tutorial as a guide, you should be able to easily create a project in Xcode and begin developing amazing iOS apps in no time!

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What are the stages of iOS App Development?

  1. Design: The design process involves creating wireframes and mockups that define the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) of an application. This process is usually done using design tools such as Sketch or Adobe XD.
  2. Development: During this stage, developers write code to implement the features and functionality specified in the design stage. This is done using Xcode and other development tools such as CocoaPods or Carthage for dependency management.
  3. Testing: During this stage, developers use the iOS Simulator or other testing tools such as XCTest or Appium to test the application for performance and compatibility issues before it is deployed to actual devices.
  4. Deployment: After testing has been completed, the application can be deployed to the App Store or other platforms via TestFlight or other deployment solutions such as HockeyApp or Fabric Beta by Crashlytics.

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What is iOS App Testing?

“Testing your app on multiple devices and versions of iOS is key to successful deployment.” – Dave Mark, Developer at Apple

The iOS app testing is a process of ensuring that the software application runs smoothly on any Apple device. It involves testing for compatibility with different versions of the iOS operating system, verifying functionality, and ensuring the application does not crash or cause any other issues.

Apple’s App Store review process is designed to ensure high-quality applications, however, it is still important for developers to test their applications before submitting them to the store. This helps to ensure that they will not experience any issues while they are running on users’ devices.

  1. The first step in iOS app testing is to create a test environment. This involves setting up devices with different versions of the iOS operating system, so that the application can be tested on different devices. The test environment should also include tools for simulating user input, such as touch gestures and voice commands.
  2. The next step is to create test cases for the application. Test cases are structured scenarios that cover different aspects of the application’s functionality. They should be designed to cover all possible user scenarios and should be written in a way that allows testers to identify potential issues quickly.
  3. Once the test cases have been created, the application can be tested on each device in the test environment. The testers should look out for any unexpected behavior or crashes while they are running the application. If any issues are discovered, they should be documented and reported to the development team.
  4. Finally, it is important to run tests on actual devices in order to ensure that there are no compatibility issues between the application and hardware components or other apps. This can help to identify any hardware-related problems that may not have been detected in the test environment.

iOS app testing is an essential part of the development process and should not be overlooked. It helps developers to ensure that their applications run smoothly on all compatible devices and provides users with a quality experience. By taking the time to thoroughly test their applications, developers can reduce the risk of rejection from Apple’s App Store review process and increase their chances of success.

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iOS App Deployment

“Deploying iOS apps is a lot like making art – it’s a careful combination of the right tools, preparation, and patience.” – Mike Atherton, Senior Software Engineer at Apple

The iOS app deployment is the process of getting an app from its source code to the App Store, where it can be downloaded and used by users. It is a complex process that requires several steps, from creating the source code to submitting your app for review. The goal of this process is to ensure that the app is properly tested, optimized, and ready for use on iOS devices.

  1. The first step in iOS app deployment is creating and developing the source code. This involves writing code in Objective-C, Swift, and other languages that are compatible with Apple’s platforms. You must also design the user interface and make sure that the user experience is optimized for iOS devices.
  2. Once the source code has been written, you will need to compile it into a package that can be uploaded to Apple’s App Store. This package includes all of the necessary files and data needed to run your app on an iOS device, such as images and other resources.
  3. Once your package has been compiled, you will need to submit it to Apple for review. This review process is designed to ensure that your app meets Apple’s guidelines and standards for quality and usability. If your app passes this review process, it will be accepted and published on the App Store.
  4. Once your app is available on the App Store, users can download and install it on their devices. Your app must also be regularly updated with bug fixes and new features. You must also monitor user feedback to ensure that your app remains useful and usable in the long term.
  5. Finally, you should use analytics tools to track usage data for your app. This data can help you understand how users are using your app and what features they find most useful or enjoyable. This data can then be used to inform future development decisions and optimize the user experience.

iOS app deployment is a complex process that requires several steps from creating the source code all the way through submitting your app for review. Once your app is available on the App Store, you must continually monitor it for bugs and user feedback in order to ensure its long-term success.

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Best Practices for iOS App Development

  1. Use Auto Layout: Auto Layout is a powerful system used for creating dynamic layouts based on user interface elements’ size and position onscreen. Using Auto Layout helps ensure that an application looks consistent across different device sizes and orientations without having to manually adjust layout constraints each time a device size changes or orientation changes occur.
  2. Use Storyboards: Storyboards are a visual way of laying out an application’s user interface in Xcode’s Interface Builder editor. Using storyboards helps reduce development time by making it easier to quickly create views that are linked together via transition segues between them.
  3. Use Core Data: Core Data is Apple’s object graph management framework used for managing persistent data in applications. Using Core Data makes it easy to store user data locally on devices and sync it with cloud services like iCloud or Firebase if needed.
  4. Optimize Performance: Optimizing an application’s performance is essential for providing users with a good experience when using it on their devices. This can be done by using Instruments to identify memory leaks and other performance issues that may be causing slowdowns or crashes in the application and then addressing them accordingly.
  5. Follow Design Guidelines: Apple has created design guidelines that must be followed when developing apps for its platform in order to provide users with an intuitive experience when using them on their devices. Following these guidelines helps ensure that an application looks consistent with other apps built for Apple’s platform while also providing users with a familiar experience when using it on their devices.

Get Started with iOS Development

Let’s first talk about what skills you need to build your own apps.

  1. Master Xcode: Xcode is the Mac app you use to create apps. It has a code editor, project organizer, compiler, debugger, and many more important tools to build great apps.
  2. Swift Programming: Swift is the powerful programming language that you use to code iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS apps. It’s easier to learn than Objective-C, and Swift packs a ton of features that help you code productively. It’s also a lot of fun!
  3. Build UIs: Every app needs a User Interface (UI). UIs are made up of buttons, views, navigation, labels, images, controls, etcetera. It’s important that you know how to build UIs and design them. You can use UIKit or SwiftUI.
  4. Coding Logic: Your Swift code governs what happens in your app, and when. If this then that. This is called logic, and it’s crucial to any app. Most of learning iOS app development is focused on understanding code and logic, and being able to code from scratch.
  5. App Architecture: Writing clear, extensible and maintainable code is as important as writing code that works. App architecture is like the foundation you build a house on. It’s a challenging topic, and it takes time to learn what solution works best in different scenarios.

Can anyone learn how to code? Absolutely! You only need some time, and a bit of perseverance to get started. It helps to pick an iOS app project you want to build, because that’ll motivate you to learn more.

Xcode, the Mac app you use to create iOS apps, only runs on macOS. And to use macOS, you need a Mac computer. Xcode doesn’t run on iPad, unfortunately. If you want to learn iOS development, you will need a Mac! There are other options too, as I’ve explained in this tutorial.

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Practice 1 Hour Per Day

This is my no. 1 rule for learning anything. If you can set aside one hour a day to focus exclusively on learning iOS app development, you’re guaranteed to make progress. It’s that simple.

Here’s how it works:

  • Learn iOS app development for one hour a day, every day, for one year
  • Focus exclusively on iOS development in this hour, without distractions
  • Set a timer for an hour, and stop when the timer goes off
  • Get back to learning iOS app development for one hour the next day
  • When you miss a day, don’t worry, and pick it up again the next day

Research shows that our brains learn new information when we repeatedly expose ourselves to the learning material in different ways. You could say that practice makes permanent, so by consistently spending time to learn iOS development you will master it.

In the years that I’ve run, I’ve seen many people learn to code iOS apps. A pattern that stood out among successful learners is that they learned habitually, and kept their momentum between learning sessions. So, when you learn consistently, and get back to it regularly, you’ll learn app development more successfully.

A great insight I’ve learned from mindfulness, is that you can always start over. The goal isn’t to build a habit, the goal is to start again when you’ve lost the path somehow. When you start again every day, you build that skill every day, and it becomes easier to make progress 1 day at a time. Focus on today, here and now, and commit to doing the same thing tomorrow. But don’t worry, tomorrow will come on its own.

Learning is, of course, a complex topic. If you’re interested to learn more about how we learn, I recommend you check out Barbara Oakley’s excellent Coursera course, Learning How To Learn.

Do excuses bog you down, when you want to learn iOS development? Commit to 1 hour of learning a day. Keep a run streak count on your calendar to keep yourself accountable. Mark every day you learned for 1 hour with a big red X, and don’t break your day-to-day streak. No zero days!

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Get Through “The Dip”

I’ve learned plenty of new things in my life. Every time I learned a new skill, I would encounter something known as “the dip”. The concept of this “dip” was originally introduced to me by Seth Godin.

You want to get through the dip as soon as possible, because everything gets easier after the dip. The idea of the dip is quitting before you start something, and powering through the dip no matter what, if you decided to pursue your goal.

Here’s how you recognize the dip when learning iOS development:

  • You can write more code, with fewer errors, without running your app in between, to check your results
  • When you encounter bugs or errors, you have an intuitive workflow that you follow automatically
  • You get better at reading someone else’s code, and understand what they’re doing
  • You understand what tools and components you need to build an app feature, and you can create a break-down of steps you need to take to build it

When you feel a certain fluency when you’re coding apps, you know you’re through the dip. It’s a great feeling of ease, clarity and comfort. And it’s awesome!

Beginner iOS developers make two common mistakes when dealing with the dip:

  • They don’t give up before the dip, and lose valuable time
  • They slack off, and stay in the dip forever

When you set your expectations of learning iOS app development too high, you’re likely to give up when the going gets tough. You get frustrated, lose motivation and give up. If you reflect on this before starting, you might be compelled to give it a try and decide that it’s not for you.

When there’s too much time between learning sessions, you don’t build up momentum. Your brain doesn’t get enough exposure to the materials you’re trying to learn. So, you forget what you learn and you won’t get over the hump.

It’s surprisingly simple to overcome these mistakes. Here’s how:

  • Give up before you start, and if you start, don’t give up
  • Commit, build momentum, and keep the pressure on

If you give up before you start, you will never have to get through the dip. It sounds defeatist, and that’s the point: quitting before you start is exceptionally effective! You can try lots of things, decide that it’s not for you, and move on. You increase your chances of succeeding at a greater number of goals, having tried many of them. And think about the time you’ve saved!

If you commit to learning app development, then follow through. Don’t give up! Commit yourself, build momentum, and keep the pressure on. Power through the dip, and everything gets easier after.

The essence of the dip is your ability to assess future failures, and choosing what to commit to. You save time, money and energy because you didn’t waste it on something you were going to give up anyway. Instead, you spend these resources on something you’re 100% committed to. And that’s what you’ll succeed at.

This is an excellent video that explains how The Dip works, in more detail.

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How To Start Your Own App Project

The best way to learn iOS app development is to start your own app project. You can try out newly learned things in your own app, and gradually build towards a complete app.

The single biggest struggle for beginner app developers is transitioning from doing tutorials to coding your own iOS apps from scratch. Everything makes sense when you’re following a tutorial, but you’re stumped when starting a project from scratch.

Sounds familiar?

When you start your own project as early as possible in the learning process, you get used to coding from scratch. And that’s exactly what you want to practice. Don’t stay stuck with iOS tutorials!

Here’s the approach I recommend:

  1. Learning Phase: Start with tutorials, and let them teach you individual topics and skills
  2. Practice Phase: Apply what you learn in tutorials in mini “sketch” projects to practice
  3. Experience Phase: Focus on incorporating newly learned topics and skills in your big project

Divide your time equally between the three phases. You can move between the phases however you see fit, but you’ll see that it’s easiest to go from Learning to Practice to Experience.

The last step is called the Experience Phase because real-world experience is important. If you stay in the learning and practicing phases, you never incorporate what you learn in real-world projects.

It’s exactly this real-world experience that matters to employers, freelance clients, indie apps and startups. Building iOS apps is different in the real world, compared to the classroom. You might learn “fake” swimming on land first, but you don’t want to stay there forever. Jump in!

The Practice Phase is crucial, too. I see iOS developers learn something new and then immediately apply it in a real-world project. This leads to errors and frustrations, because your new skill hasn’t developed enough to be ready for an actual project. Practice it from different perspectives first and avoid copying-and-pasting code.

How do you start your app project?

  1. Start with a simple, basic app idea
  2. Design and map out your app’s features
  3. Work out your app’s data structure
  4. Investigate frameworks and libraries
  5. Set up your app project and build the 1st feature
  6. Build the next feature when you’re ready
  7. Backtrack, keep going, and don’t stop

I’ve written extensively about creating your app project from start to finish, so here are a few quick tips:

  • Don’t try to build the next Facebook, and don’t make your app idea too complex
  • Keep a notebook of best practices, summaries and tips and tricks
  • Gradually upgrade your goals when you feel you can handle more challenging projects
  • Learn to approach a problem from several angles, and learn different solutions for one problem – this one skill has kept me in business for 10+ years
  • When you use a framework or library, find out how it works internally
  • Go back to code you’ve written before, and features you’ve build, and improve them with what you know now

Building your own app project is incredibly fun and rewarding. It’s not just the end result that counts – the gradual progress of improving, learning and refining is what makes it worth it. And you’ll cultivate a valuable, employable skill in the process: iOS development!


iOS app development requires a thorough understanding of all components, stages, and best practices involved in developing applications for Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. This includes understanding Cocoa Touch, Xcode, Interface Builder, the Simulator, Instruments, design processes, development processes, testing processes, deployment processes, Auto Layout usage, Storyboard usage, Core Data usage, performance optimization techniques, and design guidelines set by Apple for its platform in order to provide users with an intuitive experience when using apps built for it on their devices