Once upon a time, website development was a job for smart tech people. Making cool landing pages and responsive elements was not something non-developers concerned themselves with.
This was the case until a little CMS called WordPress gathered steam. It made website development a less daunting task for non developers. New plugins helped WordPress users build highly functional websites.
WordPress is not just another CMS anymore. More than a third of the websites in the world operate on its platform.
App development is at a similar crossroads. It is generally considered a task that only highly-skilled developers can perform well.
Could app builders become the WordPress-like solution for app development?
What are app builders?
App builders are not an entirely new concept. They’ve been around for some time now.
App builders are typically DIY solutions for app development. They allow users to build their own app without writing a single line of code.
Such a solution naturally attracts non-developers.
Does this mean app builders are already a perfect alternative to traditional custom app development?
Not so fast.
How do app builders work?
App builders generally use website data as reference to create mobile apps.
Take AppMySite as an example. It is amongst the prominent app builders in the domain.
AppMySite allows users to convert their WordPress websites and WooCommerce stores to mobile apps. It imports the content from the website and displays it in a native app vessel.
If users wish to change the content of their app, all they need to do is make the same changes on their websites. The WordPress app builder will automatically sync app data according to the changes on the website.
Options to develop other app elements like icon, launch screen, and log-in and sign-up screens are also provided.
Why is building an app important?
It is not uncommon for those with a functional business website to question the need for an app.
There was a time when people used to question the need for a website too. Back in the early days of the internet, many used to consider a Craigslist business listing enough to ward off any need for a website.
At the time, website development was both expensive and time-consuming. There was a clear incentive for businesses and individuals to look for a quick-fix solution like an online business listing.
The history of the digital age gives us a good insight into what happens in the future.
Native apps will soon become the primary medium through which people go online. A study by inMobi shows as much. According to the report, people spend 87% of their time on apps while using their mobile devices.
It won’t be a surprise to see mobile apps become nearly as ubiquitous as websites.
App builders will play an important role if such a change should happen.
App builders - What are the benefits compared to custom app development?
There are some obvious benefits to using app builders. The following points explain some of them -
Cost - Using an app builder means significantly reducing the cost of app development. Generally, hiring a development agency to build an app is an expensive way of creating an app.
App builder platforms are effortless to use and do not require users to hire third-party developers. In addition, the cost of using app builders is a tiny fraction of the overall cost of hiring a development agency.
Time - Custom app development is a long process. It can take anywhere between 2-8 months for an agency to deliver an MVP-version of an app. Such a wide span of time is not viable for many companies. For example, someone trying to develop a simple WooCommerce Android app cannot wait for such a long period of time.
App builders don’t come with such complications. At the very most, it takes a few weeks to build an app using a standard app builder.
Control - One of frustrating parts of custom app development for a non techie is explaining the app to a developer. Both operate on different wavelengths and that is often apparent when the final product comes out.
Users can take control of every part of their app using app builders. There is no need to rely on a development agency to understand the vision behind the app. Users can truly leave their mark on the final app
App builders don’t come without their faults. They offer an interesting app development solution to interested users, but they have their own share of drawbacks. The points below highlight some of them.
Limited features - Custom app development is partly popular because it enables users to develop the exact features they want. There is no fixed paradigm users have to follow. Every feature is built from the ground up.
For now, app builders are great solutions for those trying to convert WordPress site to Android app or building a mobile ecommerce platform. Is it possible to create a game like PUB-G using an app builder? Not yet.
Access to code - You generally cannot tinker with the code of an app created with a mobile app builder. This can later become a problem if a developer in your team wants to access the source code.
These drawbacks all have a common theme. App builders are still a relatively new phenomenon. They may not meet certain high expectations users have.
In the future, we could literally see an app builder powerful enough to create any kind of mobile app that comes to the mind of a user. A little patience and time will render these drawbacks obsolete.
Are app builders the ‘WordPress’ of app development?
Why is WordPress so popular now? It is one of few CMS options that provide users a very powerful library of plugins.
An entire community of developers scattered across the world created powerful plugins that enabledWordPress users to create highly-functional websites. The hard work of developers made it possible for non-developers to run powerful websites on their own.
Imagine WordPress without plugins. Would you still use it?
App builders are at a similar nascent stage WordPress once was. They offer an incredible service to non-tech users in helping them go from website to APK and IPA.
A powerful app builder will eventually have to offer an incredible range of features and functionalities. Only then will app builders become the WordPress-like solution for app development.
WordPress played a defining role in democratizing website development. A person left alone with a WordPress backend and an internet connection will emerge as an able website manager within a week.
App builders aim to become the WordPress of app development domain. They are not there yet and need to cover a lot of bases. However, all the signs indicate that we would soon see a massive shift amongst big and small companies from websites to apps. In such a case, the role of app builders will become paramount.
This piece lays out the state of app builders right now. Even with limited features, app builders can help vast swathes of people develop powerful mobile apps capable of standing apart in the app market.
First-mover advantage could prove vital for success in the world of mobile apps. Trying out a few app builders and publishing an app is not a bad idea considering the general trend of the tech world towards smartphones.