As my company produces ready mobile apps, I decided to experiment with a few online app builders, to figure out how helpful they were for businesses and in what cases they were most convenient. These services fell into four general categories, and I’ve given a short review of each of them below.
Tied-Up App Building
I found the first app building service using PPC advertising on Google Search. It offered a free preview, and the first several steps weren’t difficult at all—naming your app, sharing your Facebook feed or website (note: the app builder wouldn’t let me pour in any original content), selecting the functionality.
The app building interface offered me a bunch of functions that helped with coupons and loyalty cards, social feeds, menu building, the Review and About Us section, contacts, and food ordering. The options for food orders were limited to only a few outside food ordering services. The app did a much better job on the coupons: I could select the design and the type of the coupon and provide detailed information on the conditions and the validity. The loyalty cards only included stamps (for example, 9+1 FREE), and the reviews could only be downloaded from popular review websites.
Menu building provided more freedom, however, letting you type in the categories and the meal units behind them and accompanying everything with a picture, if you wanted. The only available way to interact with customers was the mailing list form or the inquiry form, which is designed to invite clients to join any promos or campaigns using their e-mail addresses. The About Us section was stiff, but included everything necessary for a restaurant: hours of operation, a map, and the address. The photo gallery was tied to the major photo storage services and social networks like Facebook or Instagram. Finally, I received my QR code for previewing the app, and there it was—with a weird advertising banner underneath. When I clicked on it, Safari, Chrome, and App Store popped up one by one, making the experience pretty annoying. The monthly fee with white label and admission to App Store, Play Market and Windows Phone Market was $99.
The Designer’s Nightmare
Another app builder asked me to fill out a form with my name and e-mail address prior to letting me build anything. Then I started working on the logo of my app, and was pleasantly surprised by the number of functions available here—from choosing your own designed logo to making a compilation of bright stickers that the service has installed.
Too bad that, once again, the tools were extremely inflexible, and there wasn’t much to choose from. For the next step, the service just let me know that further upgrades were needed, and I wasn’t able to proceed any further. The look was even worse than in the previous case. That’s where I stopped. The cost was something like $70-80 per month.
Sophisticated Programmers Only
The last app group had nice design, multiple layout options, and themes for the mobile app development projects together. The themes only provided different button colors that basically looked the same. The nature of the buttons depended on your goals: just like the first case, you could choose restaurant, celebrity, artist, hotel, and many more templates. It looked good at the end of the day (though I had a content integration problem) but as I entered the pricing section, I was shocked. The full list of features was as expensive as $1,000 per month, and designers’ help was up to $10,000. That would be too much for an individual, and even companies with small marketing/digital budgets wouldn’t be able to afford it.
In conclusion, I’d say that online app builders can be great at integrating outside content from various sources, including your own website and other supporting services. But you don’t get much control over the looks, the order, and the way the content is represented. I got the feeling that my app would look like zillions of other apps out there. If you don’t mind that possibility, you could go for one of these online options. On the other hand, there are app building services where you can expect more flexibility, although you also need some profound knowledge about coding and UI, while bug fixing would be your responsibility. Unfortunately, an individual without sharp coding skills is kind of trapped by the available options!