App Showcase

First Time App Developer Success Stories Part 3: Am I Too Late to Learn iOS Programming


Am I too late to start learning iOS programming? Simply do a search on Google or Quora. You’ll see lots of discussions around the web. The mobile market has created tons of opportunities and possibilities. It’s amazing you can turn an idea into app that millions of people use. I’ve met a lot of people who love to create apps but think coding is difficult and it’s too late for them to learn to code.

It’s never to late. It’s the lack of determination and drive that keep you from learning programming. Some time ago, we shared the first and second parts of app developer stories. In part 3 of the series, we featured even more app developers to share their success stories. The ages of these first-time app developers range from 15 to 68 years old. Yes, you read it right. Robert Chalmers, one of the featured developers, is 68 years old! Though Robert got years of experience, it’s amazing he still keeps learning new programming language. I couldn’t imagine if I would still learn programming at that age. Rémy Spehler, who is a doctor by profession, started from zero programming experience to published his first app at the age of 58. The design of their apps is elementary and may not catch your attention. But they set a great example showing that everyone can learn iOS programming and build apps regardless of age.

I haven’t highlighted all the developers here but all of the stories are truly inspiring. Read on and check out their success stories.

Leo Kin – NOAA Buoy Data

noaa-buoy-data-logo1. Tell me more about your background and your app. Was it your first app?

My name is Leo Kin and I was close to being paralyzed from the neck down from a large tumor in my spinal cord. I recently had spinal cord surgery to remove the tumor and because of that, I have been stuck inside sitting and resting a lot. While I recover, I wanted to do something productive so I decided to build an app! One of the things I couldn’t do while paralyzed was type on a computer keyboard so one of my goals was to be able to type again. And what better way to exercise the hand than to code? 🙂

The app I built is called NOAA Buoy Data. This app will get the latest weather, wind, and wave data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Data Buoy Center (NDBC). The app displays the data in a easy to read format and also show you a picture(if available) of the station. In addition, you can search for stations that are located around the world both in the oceans and on land or to find the closest to you.

Technically, this wasn’t my first app, but I consider it to be my first app that started from idea to publishing it in the app store.

2. How did you come up with the idea? How long did it take to develop the app?

After the surgery, I had to wear a neck brace for three months. During those three months, I couldn’t move a lot and even had a hard time walking or even raising my arms. My physical therapist advised that I go walking as much as I can to get exercise and to build back my atrophied leg muscles.

There is an island close to where I was living that I really enjoyed walking to. The only problem was that it can only be reached during low tide. And if the tide came in, there’s no way to get back home except by swimming. Since I was very physically weakened, I was very scared of getting stuck on the island with no way back. While walking, I was always going to NOAA’s website to check how high or low the tide was and if I had enough time to walk to the island and back.

During one of my walks, the idea came to me that I should build an app. Even if no one else uses the app, it wouldn’t matter because it would help me keep track of the tides and get back in time.

The app took about 6 months to develop including building the server backend NOAA data API and the app supporting website.

noaa-buoy-data3. Do you have any programming experience before developing the app? How did you learn iOS programming?

I studied a few programming languages while studying Electrical Engineering in college and taught myself HTML, Javascript and PHP. I learned iOS programming from a few books I bought from Amazon but mostly from awesome websites like AppCoda. In fact, AppCoda is set as my homepage so I can read their newest tutorials as soon as they come out.

4. What are you going to do to promote your app?

I have set up a website, facebook page, and twitter account but that’s about it. I haven’t really thought about promoting this app since it was mainly built for me so I don’t get stuck on that island. 🙂

5. What were the most valuable lessons you learnt from AppCoda and its book?

In truth, all the chapters and tutorials were really helpful. If I had to pick the most valuable I would say the chapters on UITableView / Recipe project. I must read those chapters and gone over the sample code like 20 times. In addition, I love the clear and easy readability of the tutorials. AppCoda was one of the only sites that had beautiful pictures / graphics to go along with the tutorials. Also, references to Pixeden.com and other graphics design helpers were invaluable to me as I used many of those resources to help build the app and website.

6. Any advices for those who just started learning iOS programming?

Life is short. You never know when it will be gone or taken away. Cherish the time you have and go build something that’s important and special to you.

7. What’s your next plan?

NOAA has lots and lots of climate data. I have a few ideas to add more functionality to this app and also build other climate / weather related apps.

And to take many walks to my favorite island. 🙂

Robert Chalmers – QikMsg

qikmsg-logo1. Tell me more about your background and your app. Was it your first app?

My background may surprise a lot of people. I’ve just turned 68, born in 1946, so you would think that I’m past it all. Not so. In fact I still enjoy a challenge, and I see programming as a challenge. My primary role though has been as a teacher, and an ESL teacher, and Author of books. However, I’ve been involved with computers for many years. So I guess this familiarity helped when I made the move to iOS and Apple. That move came about out of sheer frustration with trying to code using Adobe’s AS3. I needed to convert the Action Script 3 app, Pin Point, and Pin Point Xtra to Apple’s iOS. So the mission began. I ran up a Virtual Mac on my Windows machine, installed Xcode, and began. It was not ideal. Slow, prone to dying unexpectedly, and just plain not suitable as a platform. To cut a long story short, I eventually moved to a Mac Mini, iOS 7, and Xcode 5, 16GB of ram and 1TB drive. Nice big Samsung monitor. Oddly, the PinPoint Xtra app went onto the back burner, as I began to teach myself programming iOS7 and XCode 5. I have ended up with at least 8 books, from iOS 6 to iOS 7, all on Application Development. While they are interesting, and useful as References, I soon found that AppCoda tutorials taught me all I needed to know, right there on the spot. Too easy. So I shelved PinPoint Xtra, and PinPoint, and thought, ok, lets start small here and get something that is in native iOS 7 onto the app store. QikMsg became it.

2. How did you come up with the idea? How long did it take to develop the app?

So my first iOS 7 app, designed from the ground up for the app store, was QikMsg. This app couldn’t be simpler. I took the initial SocialMedia tutorial for Facebook and Twitter, wrapped it in a nice front end, added Weibo and Tencent, so the app has four Social Media sites it can send to, tested it, and dropped it in the App Store.

I came up with the idea, because the original PinPoint Xtra app sent a link to Twitter, and I wanted to understand how that happened with iOS7. As well as the other Social Media sites. I have found that when on the road I often need to quickly send a message to a SocialMedia account, and don’t need menus, don’t need to read messages, none of that, just need to SEND a message. Perfect. That’s just what this does. Open the app, pick an account, click, type in message, send. Job done.

From the idea, which came to me when reading the SocialMedia Tutorial, to launching on the AppStore, about a week all up I guess. Hey, I have to eat and sleep you know! The interesting thing is, the tutorials could not be clearer. While I now have a whole library of very heavy reference books – I mostly now use printed out tutorials from AppCoda.

3. Do you have any programming experience before developing the app? How did you learn iOS programming?

As I mentioned, I do have quite a bit of programming experience in other languages, like Perl, Action Script 3, C, C++, Pascal, Basic, Javascript, etc, and the one thing I take from all of that, is that the fundamentals remain the same. Apple does it Apple’s way, and I LOVE programming in XCode 5. Everything is under one roof so to speak. I don’t need third party libraries, I don’t need to buy, usually at great expense, various other programs just to make one little app work. Run up XCode 5, select the basic template – hey, why reinvent the wheel – and launch the exercise. I learnt iOS programming purely and simply by tutorial. I tried a lot of the tutorials out there, but I have to say, most are lacking in that certain “Teacher/Learner” paradigm that is necessary. AppCoda’s tutorials don’t miss any steps, and make no assumptions about prior knowledge. I had NO prior knowledge of iOS programming, and after I found AppCoda’s tutorials, I’ve used them unabashedly since. I’m a teacher (retired) by profession, and your tutorials have what all teachers like to be able to do – impart the knowledge, with a minimum of fuss, and a very minimum of “jokey” asides. It was the AppCoda tutorials that got me started on my second project, iWS – a WeatherDisplay app, for users of that particular Weather Station software – Weather Display. It reads the data file, and gives a snapshot of the weather on that Personal Weather Station.

There is such a wide range of tutorials, covering virtually all aspects of iOS, that I can now happily return to redoing in iOS, the original PinPoint/Xtra apps. This time with all the social media sites, and embedded maps – how cool will that be.

qikmsg4. What are you going to do to promote your app?

Promotion is another thing all together. I regularly pop a little message – via QikMsg of course 🙂 onto my timeline in Twitter and the other social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. Other than that, not much promotion.

5. What were the most valuable lessons you learnt from AppCoda and its book?

With the latest app, iWS and the first one, QikMsg the most valuable lessons are that I have to read every line of code. You can’t just copy and paste, although initially the temptation is to do just that. Don’t just download the sample and hope it runs. You won’t learn a thing. Only by stepping through the tutorial, and asking questions, can you hope to get it right, and more importantly, expand on that basic application. The code int the tutorials and the book are step by step, clear, concise and well worth referring back to time and time again. As a beginner with iOS, I couldn’t have done it without this.

6. Any advices for those who just start learning iOS programming?

Yes, but basically it’s just common sense. Keep your work organised. Make a folder called Projects, and put everything under that. Don’t leave code strewn around your hard drive – you will never find it again. Grab the AppCoda book, and the tutorials, and work through them, one at a time. If you find a tutorial that is from an earlier version, e.g. iOS 6, or even earlier !!! forget it. As a beginner you will get hopelessly confused. Apple in its wisdom, like all the big players, changed things pretty dramatically between releases. Only when you have lot of experience can you hope to ‘convert’ those great ideas into the latest version. Stay updated. Always have the latest version. Update Xcode regularly. Or at least check for updates. Stay current.

Use the Community Forum that AppCoda has. Lots of people just like you on there. If something won’t work for you – find out why. Go over the tutorial step by step.

7. What’s your next plan?

My next plan is to tackle PinPoint Xtra again, and it’s little brother PinPoint. or maybe something else that catches my eye, Something to do with maps, photography, and social media sites. It’s all there in the book 🙂

Rémy Spehler – Carnet du Jour and Week-End Info

weekend-info-logo1. Tell me more about your background and your app. Was it your first app?

I created 2 apps with similar interface – Carnet du Jour and Week-End Info. Both are my first apps.

2. How did you come up with the idea? How long did it take to develop the app?

I have thought to create both apps for a long time. The Carnet du Jour app allows users to view information such as birth, marriage in a specific area without syndication that Facebook needs. As I traveled in different regions in France, sometimes I lost contact with close friends and that inspired me to create this app. The second app is Week-End Info. If you organize something such as a concert or meeting in a specific area, it is not easy to be covered by local press without paying. So I had an idea in my mind for a long time to create an app that allows anyone to share and advertise event information for free.

I bought my first programming book in November 2013 to learn iOS programming. I progressed to develop my app as I found AppCoda’s tutorials in early 2014. It took me some time to develop both apps. I only worked a few hours daily as I still got a day job.

3.Do you have any programming experience before developing the app? How did you learn iOS programming?

I built my first website, www.chir-otho.com, 15 year ago. I used the Microsoft FrontPage and HTML to create. That’s my only programming experience. In other words, but I do not have any real programming experience beforehand.

weekend-info4. What are you going to promote your app?

Not think of that yet. I hope the app will be accepted by the Appstore and I hope to find some partners in France to promote the ideas.

Editor’s note: At the time of the interview, both apps were not yet approved by Apple.

5. What were the most valuable lessons you learnt from AppCoda and its book?

The first one was the tutorial about UICollectionViewController. I discovered your tutorials on the web with that controller and AppCoda is the first website for me, which explains the concept well. The tutorial is easy to adapt for my own project.

Your book was very helpful and the sample code are clear. It is not difficult to find information and solution for a specific situation and present it with a clean code. Your book picks different situations and gives the solutions with sample code. If you understand the process step by step, you can gradually progress and understand the programming language. That is the same as surgery learning, which is my profession. It’s impossible to have a complex knee prosthetic reconstructive surgery for your first operation!

6. Any advices for those who just start learning iOS programming?

My first advice is that they have to buy the AppCoda book. Secondly, don’t afraid to learn programming. Like me, if you are able to create your first app, you know you can build your own app as you keep learning. Now I continue to learn more about Xcode and objective C. It is a nice challenge for a guy who is 58 years old and a nice way to learn something different other than surgery.

7. What’s your next plan?

I plan to completely change the app design, my websites and tweak the app graphics.

Balazs Orban – Hangman+

hangman-logo1. Tell me more about your background and your app. Was it your first app?

My name in Balazs Orban, I’m a 15 year iOS developer from Hungary. My app called Hangman+. It’s based on the classic hangman game but it offers a lot more. I wanted to make this game as good as possible so I added a lot of new functions to the game and even new modes. It has 4 single player modes, multiplayer on one device (Online multiplayer mode in development), choosable words, difficulty, icloud sync, multiple languages and a lot more. This is my first app for iOS.

2. How did you come up with the idea? How long did it take to develop the app?

I love the hangman game, but I found it a bit boring after some time. So I decided to make it cool and enjoyable. The basic idea was to make an app which I could distribute and what people will like, but it isn’t complex, so I can start my iOS development with it. I started developing this last summer so it nearly took me a year to develop.

3. Do you have any programming experience before developing the app? How did you learn iOS programming?

Yes, I already learned PHP, HTML, CSS and C#, but Objective-C is my first programming language which I really like. I learned it by developing my app and I checked forums, guides, books to solve my problems.

hangman-plus4. What did you do to promote your app?
I share my app on Facebook and Twitter nearly every day and I made a mini website for it. However it wasn’t doing very well. I got 17 downloads on the first day. But after the launch, I only get a few downloads per day, sometimes even zero download. I’m still not sure how to promote my app.

5. What were the most valuable lessons you learnt from AppCoda and its book?

Honestly, I only found the AppCoda website when I searched a guide for multipeer connectivity framework. I found this website and it’s really awesome. I definitely can recommend it to anyone. If I could find this website earlier, I believe it would made things lot easier.

6. Any advices for those who just start learning iOS programming?

First and foremost, never give up. You can get lot of stupid errors, some of them do not even make any sense. Just keep doing. Objective-C is not an easy to learn at first. When you get used to it, you’ll find it friendly and easy. Secondly, do not set the expectation too high. It takes time. As you can see, my first app took me nearly a year. As for my second app, I can create it in around two months.

7. What’s your next plan?

I’m working on another game actually and I think it’ll be successful. I got a great idea and I’m so motivated to create it, though I couldn’t share too much about it. Another thing is that I should find a better way to promote my apps, because it really matters.

Andy Lofianto – WishTracker

wishtracker-logo1. Tell me more about your background and your app. Was it your first app?

I’m a freelance graphic designer. I used to design iOS/Android app UI or app icon, website, web app etc. Dated back to the early 2013, I designed an iOS app for my client. In 2 months, he finished the app. But to me, the app was not very good. The graphic assets were not properly ‘cut’ and there were bugs everywhere. That motivated me to learn and build my own iOS app from scratch. And WishTracker is my first app I published on App Store.

2. How did you come up with the idea? How long did it take to develop the app?

Another app with similar concept named ‘Desire’ inspired me a lot, but the app is probably removed from App Store now. Therefore, I just want to build my own version. It took me about 6 months to develop and the app was submitted at the end of November 2013.

3. Do you have any programming experience before developing the app? How did you learn iOS programming?

At that time, I did not have any programming experience. I learnt it by building the real project and that project turned it into WishTracker app. I’ve read 1 or 2 ebooks before I found AppCoda. The books are good, but for me it’s not the real world situation. For example you won’t find this kind of tutorial like this on other ebooks or online tutorials. It’s very simple and short with big screenshots here and there. It’s very helpful for any newbies like me. Actually there’s some limitations on the code of that tutorial but you will realize it later and then fix it yourself!! This gives you very good learning experience.

wishtracker4. What have you done to promote your app?

I didn’t do anything for promoting. I just put all things at this web page for support purpose. Later I may focus more on marketing the app but I now focus on how to improve the app.

5. What were the most valuable lessons you learnt from AppCoda and its book?

Both Core Data and UITableView tutorials are good. They taught the basics but important stuffs. and that AppCoda explained it very well.

6. Any advices for those who just start learning iOS programming?

Don’t worry if you just copy & paste the code when you first start to learn programming. I did this copy & paste thing too. As you learn more, you’ll know where to put your code and which method to use. Once you understand the basics like UITableView, viewDidLoad, viewWillAppear, viewDidAppear, you will know how an iOS app works. If you’re stuck at some point, just take a short nap or take a short break. Trust me this works like magic!

7. What’s your next plan?

I want to build some apps that don’t have the UITableView at the main screen. Instead it interacts with user by using gestures and with beautiful animation. The next app will focus on the UI, custom animation transition etc.

What’re You Still Waiting for?

If you still think it’s too late to learn iOS programming, I hope this post inspires you to kick start and build your own app. The real trick to learn iOS programming is just to get started. Fire up Xcode, follow a tutorial and code.

To be clear, I didn’t say programming is easy. These developers work really hard to build their first apps. The mobile market is still expanding and there are still lots of opportunities out there. Remember don’t wait for “some day” to get started if you’re serious to invest your time to learn. Now is always the best time to get started. You may grab our iOS programming book or check out our free course to start learning.

If you have built your first app and want to share your experience, leave us comment below and share with us.

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