Worldwide smartphone web traffic passed desktop web traffic back in 2015. Today, smartphones and tablets account for nearly 70% of all web traffic according to Zenith, a media company.
As consumer browsing habits shift to mobile, money follows, but mobile is attractive to businesses for more than just the user numbers.
Push notifications make it possible to grab a customer’s attention anytime, anywhere. Mobile checkouts often have higher conversion rates than desktop. In many cases, mobile applications offer a better user experience, reducing total clicks, faster load time, offline capabilities, and giving users quicker access to important information.
Mobile app development once required expensive in-house development resources or working with an development agency. Now, with the development of low and no-code mobile app development platforms, building a mobile application is accessible to a far wider range of businesses.
If you’re semi- or non-technical, a low- or no-code mobile app development platform may be the best way for you to reach your customers on their platform of choice, without breaking the bank or crippling your calendar.
Below, we review what you need to know about mobile app development platforms and how to get started:
Different types of apps
Do you need access to a users camera, microphone, GPS, contacts, files, accelerometer, or push notifications? Do you have the need for processing graphic or making heavy calculations? Will users access your app on a wide variety of devices? Does the mobile experience nee to be significantly different than desktop? Do you need to store data on the user’s device?
These are all questions you should ask yourself before building to decide which type of app to build: responsive web app, native app, or hybrid app.
Web apps are basically mobile versions of web pages accessed through browsers, such as Chrome or Safari. You do not download them through an app marketplace.
One of the major advantages to web applications is that they work the same on all devices, no matter the operating system is. Web app also only have one codebase, which make them easy and faster to update.
Native apps are built for specific platforms and downloaded through app stores.
Each platform requires its own code base. Before distributing your app through app stores, the app needs to be submitted and approved by the stores before it can get published.
Native apps are more powerful that web applications (in most cases) because they have the ability to interact directly with a devices hardware (given the right permissions) — for example, sending push notifications.
Progressive Web Applications
Progressive web applications (PWA) are web pages that can appear to the user like a native app, but are accessed through web browsers. By doing this the applications responds quickly, is available offline, fits the device theme and works good on other devices than mobile.
The development cost of PWAs is lower compared to developing an app for each platform. Because users are not directed to the app stores, but rather downloaded the app directly, the install process for users can be quicker.
PWSs are searchable on the web, so regular SEO techniques apply.
One of the drawbacks is that new users will not find or come across your app in the app store, they have to already know about the web page.
Most hybrid apps are built the same way as web applications, and are wrapped in a native cross-platform technology.
This means that you have an app that looks like a web application, but it can be accessed through app stores.
A big advantage of hybrid apps is that they have much of the same features as native apps, but are easier to update, create, and manage because of their single codebase.
On the other hand, hybrids sometimes have problems getting approved in app marketplaces. It’s always important to know that your design and implementation will be marketplace-compliant compliant early in the development process.
No code solutions
There are now low- and no-code mobile app development platforms for a variety of needs.
This post focuses on 5 common and frequently used platforms. We compare their pros, cons and overall functionality. If you cannot find a solution that meets your needs, you can review more obscure and varied options at AppToolTester.com.
Using GoodBarber you can build web mobile applications as well as Android and IOS applications without having to write a single line of code.
GoodBarber differentiates their mobile app development platform with high-quality design. GoodBarber prioritizes beautiful looking applications, while many of the others focus on features.
When you start you can choose from 50 elegant templates, and further on you can choose from 350 icons and 600 fonts to get the design you want.
GoodBarber can integrate with most social networks, videos, calendars and eCommerce platforms.
Price: Ranges from $15 per month for PWA to $96 per month for IOS (based on yearly subscription). They also offer a free month trial period.
Conclusion: GoodBarber will fit the demands of most people who want to develop a functional business application with striking design. GoodBarber costs a little more than some of its competitors, but the quality and ease of use to justify the price.
Appery.io is a cloud-based application development platform that provides both front-end tools as well as back-end in one place.
While most solutions require you to download the program locally on your computer, Appery.io runs solely in the cloud.
The platform includes integrated visual design, deployment and integration services. It generates code in several languages and automatically builds frameworks according to requirements. Accordingly, you can build Android, IOS and web mobile applications all in one place.
Technical individuals can access an application’s source code source for customization. There are also advanced features for the technically skilled persons such as database options, plug-ins and APIs.
Price: $60 per month on an annual basis, $30 per person extra if you are several people on one project.
Conclusion: Appery.io is very useful if have a little technical experience or. You can quickly develop pretty much whatever you want at a reasonable cost. However, if you are just building a simple application, and want to prioritize visual design, one of the other solutions may be a better option.
Shoutem started out as a social mobile-network platform back in 2010, but pivoted to an app building platform a year.
Because of their background (and their “social wall”), Shoutem works great if you are building communities or some kind of event application. The platform is very easy to use. It’s user friendly and and easy to make good looking apps with the design templates.
There are not that many features available, but if the app you are making is either simple or has something to do with communication (sharing pictures, posts, chat etc) you should be okay.
Price: the basic package starts at $49 per month, but if you plan publish in IOS store, the price starts at $79 per month.
Conclusion: Shoutem apps tend to look good and the platform is quite user friendly. On the negative side, if you need a lot of features, you might have to find another platform to fulfill all your requirements.
AppyPie is the fastest growing cloud based mobile app development platfor, with more than 1.5 million apps built in 4 years.
AppyPie’s free option (for just web applications) makes it possible to get really familiar with the tool before purchasing. Another advantage is that they have a lot of features available like AR or CRM. You can even build from popular app templates like Uber and Tinder.
However, even though simple apps are easy enough to make, many of the features are based on third party solutions, and demand some time and knowledge to make them work.
Price: If you are just making a web application it is free to use. If you are making a native app it costs $40 per month.
Conclusion: If your app demands a lot of features or you are making something similar to existing apps, this could be a good option for you. If your app is within an e-commerce or marketing vertical, you may find a template that does almost exactly what you need right out of the box. On the negative side, the designs are a little outdated and it can be a little bit of a hassle to add on some of the features.
Bizness Apps provides app templates with common ecommerce features such as shopping cart, loyalty cards, and advanced analytics.
The content management is easy to use and you can choose to make your own design or use pre-made templates. Another useful feature is that you can update your app online, directly through Bizness Apps, without having to send a lengthy update to Google or Apple.
Price: $99 per month for an app for one business.
Conclusion: Bizness Apps specializes specifically in the e-commerce vertical, and has a lot of handy features for small businesses. If you fall within this category, Bizness Apps is a very good choice. On the other hand, this option is a little pricey compared to the others, but it might be worth it for the special features.
Buildfire provides a library of themes to suit a lot of specific industries. A factor that differentiates Buildfire is that they offer a team of engineers and designers for hire which can be used to customize your app to meet your demands. This might help you solve a little more technical challenges and increase your customer experience in the app you are building. Lastly, Buildfire takes care of the submission process to both Google as well as Apple.
Price: The basic package, which gives a lot of the features is $59 per month, while professional is $149 per month and business, with a lot of extra features is $499 per month.
Conclusion: If you are a small business looking for creating an app or PWA Buildfire is a very good option which lets you optimize on behalf of what sector you are in. Also with a team for hire lets you put a little more resources into your app and could help increase your customer retention. However, after reading some reviews, the only concerns might be a lack of customer support and an editor that could take some time getting used to.
Before choosing a mobile app development platform, sketch out your concept and decide what features you really need.
Popular mobile app functionality includes:
- Push notifications — push notifications make it easy to engage with customers
- Social media integration — most app creators have this option, letting you use either Facebook or Google for authentication or making it easier for potential clients to find and connect with your app
- Geotargeting — this lets you contact and target your users based on their location, making it perfect if you have a store in different locations and want to tailor the message accordingly.
- Reseller option — if you are planning on selling the apps you are making and act as a third party, you want to make sure they allow that. Most services do, but it typically costs a little extra.
- Customer discounts and loyalty programs — this feature makes it easier to track customers involvement in your store and could also add great value for your customers as well.
- Third party integration — if you need to add features or additional integration from outside actors, for example Google Maps, you will have to check if the platform supports this.
- Customer service — sometimes you will have some errors that just will stop your process, fast answers with detailed answers is always good to have then. However, it might not be on the top of the list then choosing platform, but it is worth having in mind.
- Analytics and reporting — if you are launching an app, you really have to watch the metrics and progress over time. Most platforms have this included, but check out a little what metrics you will get.
Other Development Options
This post is primarily focused on low- and no-code mobile app platforms, but it’s important to know your other options.
Mobile development agencies
Development agencies specialize in making customized apps from scratch for every client. They employ designers, developers, and project managers build the best product for your needs. When developing an app from scratch without using templates, hiring a team is costly, and can also take some time.
But, if you need something out of the ordinary and you have the money to pay for it, this will probably save you some headaches and let you spend your time on more important matters.
Entry-level apps typically starts at around $15,000, but if you are looking into more advanced applications and customization, the price typically tends to be between $30,000-$150,000. To ensure you get the best price, you should request a quote from a couple of companies.
For smaller projects, hiring a freelancer could be a viable option. Freelancers are a viable option when you have very specific and detailed project specifications.
Recommended reading: How to Hire a Great iOS Developer
Even though app building platforms have come a long way, they are hardly perfect.
If a mobile application development platform isn’t right for you, and you don’t have detailed specs for a freelancer, or you don’t have the budget for an agency, you should check out Crowdbotics.
Crowdbotics helps rapidly scaling businesses build production-ready apps faster than ever before.
Crowdbotics uses a combination of modular development, machine learning, and a network of expert engineers to help both technical and non-technical teams turn their ideas and specs into working software.
Most software looks like software that has been built before.
By analyzing millions software packages with machine learning, brand new apps can be assembled from desired features sets. With this approach, production-ready apps can not only be built faster by developers, but non-technical business leaders can use these tools to address business challenges in their own domain.
Crowdbotics scopes your project, provides a PM, and domain-expert engineers to build to your custom needs. Crowdbotics also provides infrastructure, maintenance, operations, monitoring, and security for your project. You own all your code and can export it anytime.
Edited by: William Wickey