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Building an app is expensive. Although you can build a basic app for less than $10,000, a fully functional app built from scratch can set you back tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As an alternative to hiring costly app designers and developers to build an app for you, why not get creative and build an app yourself? Here are 10 of the best app creators for building a high-quality app without hurting the bank.
1. MainStreet Apps
MainStreet Apps, a Jersey City, N.J.-based startup, provides small businesses a do-it-yourself, cloud-based platform to build apps catered to its customers. Users can point and click their way to building brand-focused apps — no tech wizardry required. Once you've built your app, MainStreet Apps does everything from hosting your data in the cloud to reviewing your app and uploading it to the app store.
Using MainStreet Apps, businesses can create branded, customer-focused apps. You may add photos, individualized content, photos via Flickr, task lists and a contact page to make it easy for users to get in touch via email, phone and social media. The app builder also includes a handy appointment scheduler, which lets users schedule appointments using the app; the scheduler can be synced with Google Calendar so users can see your availability in real time.
MainStreet Apps also provides a way for businesses to collect data from users via questionnaires and location services, as well as sends user reports back to businesses any time users interact with certain features.
MainStreet Apps starts at $39 a month for up to 20 end-users and 100 push notifications per month. Upgrades are available for additional users and higher notification limits.
AppMakr is a free DIY app-creation platform for building robust, native apps for iOS and Android — no coding required.
With AppMakr, businesses can build as many high-quality apps as they want, with unlimited updates at no cost. Features include push notifications, HTML 5 functionality, high-resolution photo galleries, live updates, and branding and design customizations. Additional features include navigation control, tab viewing and monetization.
Building an iPhone app? AppMakr also allows builders to publish a test app to see how the app looks and feels prior to publishing it in the App Store. Throughout the creation process, AppMakr also displays the app's App Quality Index (AQI), a meter that indicates the likelihood that your app will be rejected during Apple's review process.
Unlike the majority of app builders, AppMakr gives you complete autonomy over your app – all apps created through AppMakr is published under your own Developer Account and brand, not AppMakr.
AppMakr is free with advertisements. If you'd prefer an ad-free app with dedicated monetization options, scroll menu navigation, custom image or video wallpaper and other features, you can purchase a premium account for $79 per app per month.
AppMachine is a cost-effective way to build a professional, full-featured app either by yourself or with the help of designers. With AppMachine, businesses can build apps for free and only pay for the service when they are ready to publish.
Using AppMachine, businesses have a choice of implementing standard or advanced features. Standard features include activities, photos, videos, music, social media, contact information, analytics and more. Advanced features include an online store, custom coding and Web services to enable connections to external data sources.
AppMachine starts at $499 per app published. As you build the app, features are calculated into the price based on the final product, so you can clearly see which features are within or outside your budget. All plans come with Previewer, so you can view your app on your smartphone as you build it.
4. Conduit Mobile
Conduit Mobile allows business owners to easily create customized apps. The software offers a variety of niche-specific features for almost any type of business:
- Own a restaurant? Using Conduit, you can create an app that lets users book a table right on the app using reservation services such as OpenTable, Urbanspoon or TopTable. If you take to-go orders, your app can also allow users to order food through their phones using your menu or by grabbing your content from GrubHub, Seamless, Eat24Hours and other online services.
- Run an online store? Take advantage of Conduit's e-commerce options by integrating a mobile shopping cart into your app, which includes support for eBay, Shopify, Etsy and more.
- Services by appointment only? Conduit offers a scheduling feature so users can book appointments right on the app using online scheduling services like Genbook, Schedulicity and Appointy.
- In a band? Add music from SoundCloud, Beatport and BandPage, and even sell albums and tracks via iTunes and Amazon.
In addition, Conduit has a host of add-ons for promoting your business, such as push notifications, about and contact pages, user reviews, catalog displays, directions and maps, content sharing and social media integration. Like other app-creation services, Conduit also features a number of app-management tools, including advanced analytics, preview and testing, monetization, user reports and user engagement.
It's free to build an app on Conduit for up to five users. For unlimited users, app-store submission (so you don't have to do it yourself), push notifications and customer support, choose the Gold Plan for $39 a month, or Platinum for $99 a month for White Label publishing (removes Conduit branding from your app).
5. Bizness Apps
Bizness Apps is an app creator suitable for almost any type of business, including restaurants, bands, sports, real estate, legal services, nonprofits and even religious organizations.
Built from the ground up with small businesses in mind, Bizness Apps offers a user-friendly content-management system that lets companies design and customize iPhone, iPad, Android and mobile Web apps.
Although you can create your own app design, Bizness Apps offers hundreds of design templates, which can also be customized. The builder includes such features as push notifications, GPS, content sharing, social media, mobile shopping cart, mobile reservations and food ordering, custom email forms, mailing lists and more. You can also use the preview feature to demo apps online or from mobile devices.
Bizness Apps also offers a plethora of convenient in-app integrations with other business apps. For instance, you can import contacts from the app into email marketing services such as MyEmma, MailChimp, Constant Contact, Get Response and others.
Bizness Apps costs $29 per month for a mobile website, or $59 per month for a native and mobile app. A White Label plan is also available.
6. Mobile Roadie
Mobile Roadie is one of the most popular self-service app-creation tools available to businesses. Currently used by the NFL, the NBA, NBCUniversal, Random House, TED, EMI, Live Nation, Cirque du Soleil, Wynn and Verizon, Mobile Roadie offers an extensive collection of professional app features.
Using Mobile Roadie, businesses can create robust apps with advanced features, such as geotargeted push notifications for relevant and individualized messages, location maps to see where users are and to filter engagement, in-app activity points and rewards, mobile marketing tools, news updates, a fan wall with threaded posts, and chat options.
Additional features include photo uploads or galleries via Flickr, Twitpic, Facebook and Instagram; video integration from YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion and similar websites; and audio importing from iTunes, SoundCloud and other services that allow users to buy music directly from the app. Businesses can also create Quick Response (QR) codes that, when scanned, can link to or unlock additional content.
Mobile Roadie's advanced analytics feature also reveals important customer data, such as what users are viewing, sharing and buying on the app, as well as their app sessions and demographics.
Mobile Roadie starts at $125 a month with restricted features and unlimited downloads, or $667 a month for unlimited features, a mobile Web app and other premium add-ons.
Priding itself on its easy-to-use online app builder, Appsme is designed to allow anyone to build fully customizable apps for any smartphone, using native apps for iPhone and Android, and optimized mobile websites for other platforms.
What makes Appsme stand out is its three-step process, which makes it easy for anyone without any tech skills to build an app in just 10 minutes. In fact, Appsme says that with this tool, building an app is just as quick and easy as setting up a Facebook page. Appsme also eliminates the hassle of managing apps via the Apple App Store and Google Play store by providing an install link and QR code to distribute and share your app.
Appsme comes with standard features, such as one-touch contact options, photo galleries, social media integration, built-in sharing and customer rewards. You may also customize your app by uploading your own background images and using multiple layout and style options.
It's free to create an app on Appsme and costs $25 a month to run your app.
8. App Factory
All about content? Mippin's App Factory is for you. Using your website, RSS feed or Atom feed, the App Factory automatically pulls your content so you can create an app in as little as five minutes. Just enter your website or feed URL, upload your logo, choose your colors, and you're set. The App Factory supports up to four website and URL feeds as individual channels within your app. Based on its straightforward app building process, App Factory is a no-fuss app-making process so you can deliver content directly to your audience's mobile devices as it goes live.
The App Factory App Pack starts at $99 per year for HTML5 Web apps for iOS and Android, or you can upgrade to a native app for iOS, Android and Windows for $999 per year for each platform. Need a BlackBerry app? Mippin's BlackBerry App Generator also enables businesses to build feed-based apps for the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
Appery.io is the only drag-and-drop cloud-based platform with visual development tools and integrated back-end services. This means that the builder runs completely in the cloud, so there is nothing to install or download, which makes it easy to build and launch your app.
Though it has similar features as those offered by other app-creation services, what makes Appery.io different is that it's simple enough to use that anyone without any programming skills can figure it out, but it also includes advanced features for developers.
For instance, using jQuery Mobile and HTML 5 components within the visual editor, novices can simply drag and drop elements for a true what-you-see-is-what-you-get experience. Developers, however, can perform more advanced functions, such as add and delete cloud databases and plugins; edit source code; use custom coding; export the app as HTML; or build a binary for Android and iOS.
Appery.io builds real HTML5, jQuery Mobile and Hybrid apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. It is free for one project and starts at $15 a month for three projects.
Want to get in on the gaming-app craze? GameSalad is a popular drag-and-drop app builder that allows anyone to build a robust gaming app — no coding necessary.
After downloading the free GameSalad Creator, you can start building your game using its drag-and-drop interface and library of behaviors and game elements. Using its In-App Previewer, users can test game logics and behavior sets on their desktop or mobile devices for a full, real-life gaming experience. According to GameSalad, users can build a game in hours instead of weeks and months.
Publishing options include iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle, Nook, Windows 8 and Mac desktop. You may also publish your game online to the GameSalad Arcade and widen your reach over the Web outside of these platforms.
GameSalad's free version includes the GameSalad Creator and Viewer, as well as Web, Mac and iOS publishing. The Pro version comes with additional features — such as Android and Windows 8 publishing, Twitter TweetSheet, external links, iOS in-app purchases and Game Center — for $299 per year.