Getting started with Android app development is no easy task, especially if you don’t have any programming experience. As daunting as it might seem, it can be done. All it takes is a lot of motivation, dedication and willingness to learn.
If you’re contemplating getting into Android app development, then you should know you’ll be in good company. You’re about to become part of a wide community of Android developers, who are always eager to learn and share their knowledge with fellow mobile app developers.
As a fully-rounded mobile app development company, we’ve worked on various Android and iOS mobile apps over the years. We thought we’d create a quick guide to help aspiring Android developers jumpstart their careers. Below you’ll find what we think are the 7 most important steps to follow when getting started with Android app development.
1. First, learn a programming language
It obviously goes without saying that to be an Android developer, you’ll need to learn a programming language. Here you have two options, namely Java or Kotlin. Choosing between these two programming languages is probably the most important decision you’ll make in this process. You should give it some serious thought. Our advice is this: if you’re a Java programmer who wants to start developing Android apps, then go with Kotlin. It’ll be an easy transition, as you already know the basics of programming, and you’ll gain the advantage of being versed in two programming languages. What’s more, as of 2019, Kotlin replaced Java as the preferred language for Android app development.
However, if you’re absolutely new to programming, then start with Java; it’s been around for decades, and it’s the language Android was actually built on. Even though Kotlin is the preferred programming language currently, Java and C++ are still supported. You can learn Kotlin later on after you get a grip on the basics of programming.
2. Get to know Android for developers
If you’re a total beginner when it comes to Android, don’t worry: there are a myriad of resources available online to help you familiarize yourself with this software. The first step is to head over to the official Android Developer website. Get to know the software and tools you’ll be working with. Here you’ll find all the resources and information you need to get started with Android app development. Browse the training courses and quality guidelines to in-depth developer guides. You can also catch up on all the latest developments and updates, and join virtual meetups that discuss what’s new in the Android world.
3. Download the tools of the trade
To be able to learn and test out your skills, you’ll need to download and install a few crucial programs. The important step here is to download Android Studio – you’ll find the link on the Android Developer website. This is the official integrated development environment for the Android operating system, and it replaces Eclipse as the primary IDE for native Android app development. Android Studio is available for Windows, macOS and Linux systems, so you won’t have to worry about any compatibility issues. The download link on the official developer website also includes the Android SDK. This way, you’ll have access to all the native functions of the Android operating system. Of course, if you’re more experienced and don’t want to be limited to the Android ecosystem, you can use other platforms to develop Android apps, like Visual Studio with Xamarin or Unity, if you want to create gaming apps.
4. Get some practical training
Let’s say you’re a total newcomer to Android app development or mobile app development in general. Learning to navigate and use Android Studio and all its features might seem overwhelming, especially if you’re also new to programming. The good news is that the Android Developer website is chock-full of training and learning resources. If you head over to the Developer Guides section of the website, you’ll gain access to a plethora of documentation and guidelines to get you started. You can access Codelabs, which offers short tutorials that allow you to learn how to build an Android app at your own pace, step by step. If you’re a fan of video training, you can check out their video courses on Udacity, which cover topics like Android Basics, Developing Android Apps with Kotlin or Advanced Android App Development.
5. Learn to navigate the files and folders
After you’ve gone through the basics of Android app development and what it implies, it’s time to learn to use Android Studio and all its features. If you’ve never worked in Android Studio, you might be puzzled by all the files and folders, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
The most important file is MainActivity.java or MainActivity.kt, depending on the programming language you’re using. You’ll also have a layout file dubbed activity_main.xml, which is used to define the way that your app will look like by letting you add buttons, text, widgets, and more. Every time you start a new activity in Android Studio, you’ll require either a Java or Kotlin file and a corresponding XML file, so that’s what you need to remember.
Other crucial files to know include the Android Manifest, an XML file that defines essential app features, Drawable, which is a folder where you keep images and other visuals to use later, and Gradle, which generates previews and allows you to test the functionality of your code.
6. Get coding
Well done! You’re now familiar with the files, folders and features in Android Studio. And you have a basic grasp of your chosen programming language. It’s time to start writing some code! This is probably the most exciting step on your journey towards becoming an Android app developer, and it allows you to put everything you’ve learned so far to the test.
Open a New Project in Android Studio, and take your time going through all the steps that the program requires. You’ll have to pick a Project Template, which defines the type, the look and the UI elements that you want to include in your app. You’ll have the option of starting with a Basic Activity, an Empty Activity, or a Basic Activity. Start with an Empty Activity if you’re a beginner, as the Studio will automatically create an activity and other basic files. But it won’t add any additional code that might confuse you. Next up, you’ll have to choose your preferred programming language, namely Java or Kotlin. Now you can try your hand at writing some code and testing it out, tweaking where necessary. Exciting times!
7. Join the Android community
Last but not least, we highly recommend that you take advantage of the wide community of Android app developers. Subscribe to official newsletters and outlets, join forums and groups, and try as much as you can to stay up to date with the latest updates, features and developments in the Android world. There are plenty of resources to choose from, including Android Weekly, the AndroidDev Digest, the Android Developers Backstage podcast, Android threads on Reddit, Kotlin Weekly, the official Android Developers blog, and the official Android Developers YouTube channel.
These are the most important steps we think you should focus on if you’re considering getting into Android app development. Obviously, the list is non-exhaustive, and things can get a lot more complicated as you keep learning and coding, but you have to start somewhere. If that all sounds too complicated for you, and you’d rather have someone else take your idea and turn it into an awesome Android app, pitch us your idea and we’ll guide you through the whole thing.