App development software, a.k.a. app builder software or DIY app builders, are programs that aim to simplify app development and allow anyone, even without programming skills, to make a mobile app of their own. With those, the process does not necessarily require coding, designing or hiring professional developers. Yet, all this might not be so bright and hopeful as it sounds on paper, so let’s elaborate. App building software provides basis to put building blocks for an app together, set up basic functionality and design (templates), but will such a mobile app have a chance to earn its place on the market? Are app builders really helpful?
To be frank, most of these app makers/app builders are good to create mobile-friendly versions of a website. Because very unlikely that with only interface templates and drag-n-drop components it would be possible to construct a unique and popular app. Shazam, WhatsApp, QQ, Instagram… certainly not. Yet, it doesn’t mean app builders are worthless. Consider a career in coding or hiring a team of app developers, how much time and budget it takes, and opposite to that, the ability to create a basic mobile app on your own in few hours.
Types of app development software. You should understand a crucial difference in regards to types of app builders:
1. Platforms that can produce mobile versions of web sites, or PWAs - progressive web apps.
2. Platforms that can produce native mobile apps - real app in a full sense, made for specific devices, e.g. Android apps published in the Google Play, or iOS apps that appear on the App Store.
These are great tools for non-programmers and non-designers to play with design templates, select and arrange app blocks, and few more basic elements to compile an app. That’s why they are often referred to as DIY app makers, as in do-it-yourself. Many of those platforms also offer options for advanced development: back-end, cloud database, push notifications, media plugins. etc., so you could find a flexible solution. Even creating a PWA does not necessarily mean something bad or inferior to mobile apps, it’s just different. Here’s a short explanation and comparison of both types by AppInstitute:
Key features & other aspects
So let’s see what features and possibilities are there, and let’s divide them in groups. These are basically all the ingredients you’d need to “cook and serve” a proper application.
Design features. As a rule, app makers provide design and interface templates to simplify the process. These may be text elements, images, buttons, color schemes, backgrounds, and so on, with the ability to move them around and adjust. Often, it is just ready-made full templates (functionally and visually) tailored for specific categories, e.g. radio apps, small business apps, event/scheduling/booking apps, e-commerce apps, entertainment/media apps, messenger apps, etc. For example, check out a restaurant app template and pre-set features by Appy Pie.
Some platforms provide visual IDE (integrated development environment), or in other words, a place to experiment with UI components while all the actions are executed automatically in the background via HTML5, jQuery Mobile, Ionic, AngularJS, Bootstrap, etc.
UI features. Mobile apps are meant for people (i.e. users) and mass use, so any app inevitably has to have user interface and all related elements. Good app builders provide this functionality, that typically includes user profiles and features for a standard user journey. Social login is one example, for users to sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Other features might include file/document sharing, media content, emojis, reviews, check-ins, payments, QR scanning, etc., although it will vary from one app builder to another.
Technical features, modules, add-ons. Sometimes it gets difficult to distinguish the difference between the main and additional features, because each app making platform interprets it in own way. Some may refer to the same thing as a UI/UX feature, a module, a tool, and add-on and possibly even something else. App development is very complex, and even such visual app making software can’t omit lots of technical stuff. So most of them offer things like:
- GPS/geo-location tools
- forms, checklists, calendar
- galleries, tables, charts, dashboards
- e-mail, SMS, push notifications
- localization, custom user settings
- database, cloud database, storage
- background data synchronization, offline mode
- HTML5 hosting (to accommodate an app online)
- secure HTTPS protocol for data safety
- monetization tools
For example, here’s a sneak peek of Mobincube tools:
Management features. Although user management features are not available in basic/standard/free versions of app building software, as a rule, some do provide it in paid (pro/plus/advanced) subscriptions. If you’re planning a mobile app up scale up and grow in number of users by thousands, user management and things like content management system (CMS) and customer console are vital.
No less important is internal control over app workflow, so a platform that offers role team management (with different access and permissions) and app analytics would clearly be a big plus.
Options for developers. Some app development software go beyond basic blocks and templates, offering options for customization (such a cliche term, but there’s no other for this instance). Not every service offers developer tools, for sure, but some good ones do, for example Appery, and that’s not a promotion. So few examples:
- HTML5 testing directly in browser and/or sending a link to a client to supervise;
- web console for database management (create databases, define columns, enter data, test queries, etc.);
- APIs for assets and presentations.
App builder software pricing
Usually, there are 3 pricing versions to choose from:
- Standard/Basic - a standard subscription option, with basic functionality and crucial features missing, as a rule. $15-40 per month range.
- Pro - an advanced version that usually meets all the needs of customers. $30-80 per month range.
- Premium - the most advanced version of the program with full and extra functionality, to the extent which app builders are capable of. $50-150 per month range, and above.
Also, many of them have a trial period of 7 or 14 days to get acquainted with its characteristics and capabilities.
How to select & user tips
When you are in process of selecting the right software for app development, first of all pay attention to capabilities and functionality. For instance, if you need to publish the app afterwards without hassle, find app makers that have such option, because not all of them do. Secondly, check supported platforms. While some focus on particular platforms (e.g.only ITT or Android, aka “native apps”), others may offer only PWA, or all kinds of apps possible, i.e. cross-platform. Offline mode and data synchronization would be significant in many cases. When developing a website-version-mobile-app, definitely find out whether the platform supports hosting where the site and its data sit.
For those seeking mobile platform-specific services, we’d recommend the following:
- Android app builders - Andromo, Appy Pie, AppsGeyser, Fizery.
- iOS / iPhone app builders - Marvel, AppYourself, Mobincube, GoodBarber.
- Android + iOS - iBuildApp, Appery, BuildFire, AppInstitute.
- Convert website to app (PWA builders) - KickApp, BiznessApps, PWABuilder, NoCode360.
Finally, technical support system is vital herein like in no other case - because there will be dozens of questions and issues, no doubt.
Why use app development software?
It saves time, makes application development process accessible to people with no coding skills.
How many apps can I create with an app builder?
Usually, there’s no limit on the number of mobile apps to create.
What kind of apps can I build?
Any kind - iOS, Android, cross-platform or web apps, and of any category - from educational apps, business apps to mobile games or entertainment and social apps.
Do I need to install additional software?
Normally, yes. In order to compile the source code, you will need Xcode, iOS SDK or Eclipse (Apple), Android SDK - these are free downloads. For more, check tech requirements and setups of a particular app maker.
What are key features of app makers?
Generally, there are design features and templates, drag-n-drop editing, visual IDE, modules, app blocks and elements, back-end functionality, management features, integrations and plugins, publishing tools.
What is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website?
A mobile app is installed on smartphones and is a standalone product. Mobile website, or PWA, is a mobile-friendly version of a website. Both are developed in a different manner.
How to choose a mobile app builder software?
Consider the potential, capabilities, available platforms, trial and pricing. For more, check the chapter above.
How long does it take to develop a standard app?
Usually, it takes 4-6 weeks for a basic small app with help of an app builder software.
Who uploads an app to App Store or Play Market?
If an app builder doesn’t take care of publishing, you’ll have to do it yourself or hire an expert app developer. In any case, it will require a developer account in app stores, e.g. Apple developer account ($99 per year), or Google Play developer account ($25 one-time payment).
Do app builders provide access to code?
Unfortunately, most of these platforms do not provide free access to app code.
What’s the best app builder?
There are plenty of mobile app building platforms with positive ratings and user reviews. Examine products listed above in our category, study functionality and choose the one that will be best for your particular project.
Free app maker software for Windows
Apps Bar, Appy Pie, Game Salad, AppMakr, MobiRoller are free. All other programs also have free trial periods to dabble in app making.