How I Turned My First App From Epic Fail to 400K Downloads

NIck Walter app developerIf you are still on the fence when it comes to making your first app, then I hope that this post shows you what is possible. I’m generally against coding an app myself, simply because that isn’t something that I’m good at.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn how to do it, if you are so inclined. Nick Walter is a perfect example of this.
He taught himself how to code and his first app was rejected for possibly the most embarrassing reason. But he did not let that stop him and actually turned that app into a success.
Here is how he did it…
– Carter

How I Went From a Mormon Mission to Developing Apps

I got into iPhone programming in 2010. I had just come back from a two-year Mormon mission in Japan. As a welcome home gift, my old man bought me a brand new iPhone 4.
That thing was DOPE.
It had an HD camera, it had the slick metal frame and had these cool things called apps. It blew my mind how there were apps for everything.
I could use Facebook on my phone, get driving directions, play games while waiting in line, and make movies. I knew things were insane when I was playing Scrabble with my family and my aunt had a Scrabble dictionary app.
I decided that I wanted to start making apps. I spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas for apps and drawing them out on paper.
After I had a good idea what it would look like, it was time to build it. The only problem was I had no idea what to do.

  • How do you start making an app?
  • What software do you need?

I had a lot of questions. I spent about two years reading tutorials and taking online classes.
None of them were helping.
I felt like tutorials and online classes didn’t understand how much of a noob I was. They all seemed to assume I had been programming since birth.
Eventually, through making friends with iPhone programmers and getting an internship making apps, I started to get a hold of things.
It was freaking exciting.
Seeing an app that I made run on my own phone was an incredible feeling. It was like I had this new super power.
But I didn’t want my apps to just be on my phone, I wanted them in the App Store.

My First Failure (and Success)

The first app that I got in the app store was an app called Weight Lifting videos. It was an app that helped people find the best weight lifting videos from YouTube for a specific muscle group.
I remember the very first time I submitted the app to Apple. I had spent months making this app in my spare time.
It was my pride an joy. After submitting the app, I got a rejection letter back from Apple.
Reason for rejection?
Too ugly. 🙁
Nick at computer
Now Apple wasn’t that direct, they said in in a much nicer way but essentially they said my app was too ugly.
It was hard to hear but I wasn’t going to let this stop me from getting my app in the store. I then turned to a friend who was a designer.
He helped me add some style into the app with some fancier looking buttons and a nice icon for the app. Once we had the app looking good I submitted again. Whenever you submit an app to Apple for approval it takes around a week to hear back from them.
It’s pure torture 🙂
Eventually I got another response and what do ya know? Another rejection.
This time they said that my app was too simple and didn’t do enough to justify having it in the App Store. I was pretty bummed at this point but I kept moving.
I added some new features to the app like favoring of videos and a little notes section to keep track of your progress. I submitted now for a 3rd time with my fingers crossed.
Low and behold, it got accepted! I was so excited. I told everyone I knew to download my app, it was such a thrill.
This app was on the store for 3 years and in that time got over 400,000 downloads. It’s still amazing to think that something I made was used by over 400,000 people.

How You Can Start Making Apps

I still make apps in my spare time for sun but most of my time is now spent as a full time instructor teaching people how to make apps. I have found a pattern that when followed, has helped students make the app they’ve always wanted to make.

1. Brainstorm App Ideas

You may already have an idea for an app but if you don’t, you need one.
Think about…

  • What’s something that you always wanted to build?
  • What is an app that you wished you had on your phone?
  • What would make you life better?

Do some brainstorming until you have an idea for an app that you’re fired up about.
It’s really important to be passionate about the app. If you don’t love it, then you have a very small chance of succeeding.

2. Draw Out the App (on Paper)

App wireframe

Image: intelfreepress/Flickr

We live in a digital age but I want you to take out a piece of paper and draw what you want your app to look like. This doesn’t have to be a professional design of your app or anything but it has to be a rough idea of what you want.
Be sure to draw out every part of your app.
What happens when someone taps on a button in the app, what screen does it go to next? Get detailed with you drawing so you know exactly what it will look like.

3. Learn the Basics

Now is the time to dive into some coding!
You need to learn the basics of making apps so that then you can start building your dream app. The good news is there are TONS of resources online.
Youtube videos, tutorials, classes, books etc…
The important thing to remember is that you want to just get the basic down. Many online materials will have you keep building app after app but that’s not what you want.
You want to make YOUR app.
So maybe make an app or two but once you have the basics down, it’s time to focus your attention on your app.

4. Build Your Dream App

Now you start working on your app. You have the app all drawn out so you know what it should look like, now you just have to start putting the pieces together.
Without a doubt, you will get to a point where you don’t know how to build a certain part of your app. This is where the real learning happens.
Let’s say you want to add a button to your app that when it’s tapped sends an email to someone. But you have no idea how to add that button.
Look online!
Like I said earlier, there is so much info out there. And because this is your dream app, you will be more motivated to find your answer.
Follow this pattern and you can be in the App Store.
You can do this!

Student Example

Baby Awww AppOne of my students, named John, wanted to make an app that recorded his newborn baby’s first words. By following the above pattern, he made and launched his first app in 3 months.
Here’s a link to his app.
The cool thing too is that he made over $400 in his first month on the App Store!
Not bad for a first timer 🙂
If you’d like to see the apps my students have made, I made a page on my website that lists all their apps.
Feel free to check any of them out!

How You Can Start Learning to Code, Right Now

I have partnered with Bluecloud and have my latest course on making apps in Bluecloud University. This class is for the absolute beginner and walks you through the process I mentioned above.
It’s also a great place to connect with me if you have any questions or with other students who are learning.


You can learn how to make apps. If you create an app that you are actually excited about, you’ll have a blast doing it.
Don’t let the fear of not knowing stop you. The information is out there, go do it!


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