Build your first Support app - Part 1: Laying the groundwork

In this five-part tutorial series, you'll learn how to build a Zendesk app from start to finish. The app you'll build is called Requester X-ray.

This tutorial covers the first steps to building the app:

The other tutorials in the series teach you how to build and install the app:

Because the tutorials build on each other, tackle them in order and finish each tutorial before moving on to the next one.

To download the completed source code of the app in this tutorial, click xr_app.zip. You can review the code as you follow along or check your work.

Disclaimer: Zendesk provides this article for instructional purposes only. Zendesk does not provide support for the content. Please post any issue in the comments section below or in the Zendesk Apps community, or search for a solution online.

What you'll need

To build and upload a private app, you must have Zendesk Suite Professional plan or above. If you're on the Team or Growth plan, Zendesk offers developers a free, sponsored Enterprise account for testing and debugging apps. We ask only that you don't use it to provide actual support. See Request a sponsored test account.

You can also try out apps in the Trial account, which gives you access to all Professional features.

Planning the app

You should have a good idea of how your app will look and work before you start working on it. The Requester X-ray app will display the following information about the requester:

  • the requester's name
  • any user tags applied to the requester in Zendesk Support
  • the date the requester was added to Zendesk Support
  • the time the requester last signed in to Zendesk Support

The app will display this information in the Apps panel on the right when the agent opens a ticket in the Zendesk Support agent interface.

The app will include a "Report bugs" link that lets the agent report a bug in an email to the app's author.

Here's a mockup of the user interface:

Installing the Zendesk app tools

In this section, you'll install the Zendesk app tools (also known as ZAT). Among other tasks, the tools let you perform the following tasks:

  • Automatically create all the necessary files and folders for a new app
  • Test your app locally in a browser
  • Validate your app
  • Package your app for upload

Installing the tools is a one-time task. Once installed, you can use ZAT for all your Zendesk app projects.

Follow the instructions in Installing and using the Zendesk apps tools. After you're done, return here to continue the tutorial.

Creating the app files

After installing the Zendesk app tools, you can start building the app. The first step is to create the starter files for a new app called Requester X-ray in a folder called xr_app. You can use the ZAT tools to accomplish this task.

Create the app files

  1. In your command-line interface (the command prompt in Windows or Terminal in macOS), navigate to the folder where you want the app files to be saved in a subfolder.

    Use the cd command (for change directory) to navigate to a child folder. Example:

    cd projects

    Tip: To go back up to a parent directory, use cd followed by a space and two periods. Example:

    cd ..

  2. Run the following ZAT command:

    zat new

    If you get an error that the command doesn't exist, make sure the Zendesk app tools are installed. See Installing the Zendesk apps tools.

  3. At the prompts, enter the following values:

    • author's name - your name
    • author's email - your email
    • author's url - your website url if you have one, or press Enter to leave it blank
    • app name - Requester X-ray
    • iFrame URI - press Enter to leave it blank. You'll use the default local iframe file
    • directory name - xr_app

    The ZAT tool creates and lists the files. The window should look as follows in macOS:

  4. Open your file browser and navigate to the files.

    The folder contains an assets and translations folder, plus a manifest.json and README.md file. You can add as many files as you need when you're building your app, but for now it's all you need to start building an app.

    Because it's an iframe app, you can host the app in Zendesk Support or on a remote server with any technology stack you want. If you're only using client-side technologies like Handlebars and jQuery, as you are here, you can simply host it in Zendesk Support.

Everything is in place to start building. In the next tutorial, you'll learn more about the HTML file to be iframed into Zendesk Support. You'll add a footer, add some stylesheets, and replace the logo to meet the design requirements specified in Planning the app above. Get started: Part 2 - Designing the user interface.