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Want to build an app? Gone are the days of needing to hire an expensive mobile app developer. Do-it-yourself (DIY) app builders let businesses craft their own apps with no technical skills required. While developing a robust app from scratch can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, DIY app-making platforms enable budget-conscious businesses to build functional mobile apps at a fraction of the cost. Below are some of the best app creators available for businesses to create their own apps and connect with customers on their mobile devices.
BuildFire aims to make it easy for small businesses to create their own mobile apps. The service offers two ways to build an app: do it yourself or have a BuildFire app developer do it for you for free. To build an app yourself, use BuildFire's "click and edit" dashboard, a no-coding platform that lets anyone with zero tech skills create a high quality, engaging app in minutes. There users can easily change designs, colors, layouts, content and more. To have a BuildFire developer create your app, just enter your website's URL and your app will be ready for publishing within two business days.
BuildFire apps come with several small business-friendly features, such as push notifications, calendar integration, streaming video, m-commerce and e-commerce capabilities and more. A mobile website is also included with each mobile app.
What makes BuildFire stand out is its customer service. First, the company has a US-based customer service team that offers live support. Second, a representative will also contact you (by phone or email) once your app is built to guide you through the publishing process or if you need any other type of assistance.
BuildFire is free to use, but the free is limited to an HTML5 Web app. A paid Premium plan ($49 per month) is required to create an iPhone, iPad or Android app and includes free submission to the app store. [How Much Does it Cost to Build a Mobile App?]
Como, formerly Conduit Mobile, is a three-in-one app maker that lets all types of businesses create, promote and manage mobile apps. Its redesigned app development platform — called the Como Console — makes it easy to build professional-looking apps using a collection of themes, colors, icons, layouts, styles and backgrounds. It also offers several features to help you run your business, such as the ability to accept in-app mobile payments via MyCheck, enable customers to place in-app orders with Online Ordering, and track customer deliveries with Bringg.
In addition to being a DIY mobile app builder, Como also helps with app distribution and management. First, Como's Marketing Genie provides a wide range of services to promote your app on- and offline. This includes Facebook advertising campaigns, as well as in-store promotions using QR codes, window stickers, certificates and other print materials. Como's management dashboard, on the other hand, lets businesses track app performance and oversee user activities like customer reservations, orders, deliveries, coupons, loyalty cards, in-app sales and other revenue-generating activities.
Como apps are available for all major mobile devices. A recent partnership with Amazon also makes it possible to publish Como apps at the Amazon Appstore for download on Kindle Fire devices. It's free to build apps on Como for up to five downloads. For unlimited downloads and to build feature-rich apps, paid plans start at $33 a month.
The Taplytics platform is a native mobile A/B testing solution that offers the ability for entire teams — from product managers to designers and developers — to update apps without the use of code or the need for approvals, enabling businesses to focus on their core jobs in a streamlined platform. Taplytics is designed to provide instant app updates using the web-based Visual App Editor.
The latest version of Taplytics offers several new functionalities including on-devices menus, custom goals and code-based experiments. These additions give mobile teams the necessary information to run successful apps and experiments.
Taplytic offers a free trial and packages range from Free for the Basic up to $100 per month for the Scale package with unlimited everything.
appsbar is an app maker and publisher that lets users create native Android apps, as well as HTML5 apps for iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices. It is backed by a team of app developers that makes sure you have the best app possible for your business.
Creating an app on appsbar is a three-step process. First, select from one of 37 app types, such as general business, online business, restaurant, salon, gym, event planning and more. Next, build your app with features like menu choices, pages, multimedia, forms, social links and other content; you can also preview your app and make changes as you go. Lastly, submit your app for publishing and appsbar's developers will review and enhance your app to make sure it meets app store standards.
appsbar also makes it easy for businesses to promote their apps. Once published, users can share their app directly from the appsbar app builder to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more. In addition to major app marketplaces like the Apple App Store and Google Play, apps can also be published at appsbar's free app marketplace appcatch. There, customers, prospective clients and partners can download your app as they would from any other app store.
appsbar is completely free to both create and publish DIY apps.
Appy Pie is one of the fastest growing DIY mobile app-building tools being used worldwide. Its drag-and-drop platform makes it easy to build mobile apps for all major platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. Apps are automatically published to their respective app stores, including Appy Pie's own app marketplace.
Appy Pie apps offers business users a complete set of features to stay connected with customers. With the Appy Pie App Maker, users can add push notifications, social media and blog integration, photo galleries, and sharing capabilities. Several business tools are also available, such as an appointment scheduler; restaurant tools like OpenTable, GrubHub and Menu builder; Passbook Coupons; GPS tracking for strategic location-based marketing; and Contact Features, which includes one-touch calling, QR code and website integration.
Appy Pie also provides a series of app management tools to better gauge an app's performance and improve customer interactions: app analytics, real-time revisions and updates, custom coding and app monetization.
Users can begin designing HTML5 apps on Appy Pie for free. To publish an app, Appy Pie offers three subscription plans, starting at $7 a month for a single app. Each plan comes with a free mobile website, and paid plans all include customer support.
EachScape is a browser-based drag-and-drop app builder that lets users build custom, high-quality iOS, Android and HTML5 apps. Companies using EachScape include NBC, CBS, E!, Discovery and Kellogg's.
Because EachScape doesn't rely on templates, its app-building platform enables users to build customizable, feature-rich native and HTML5 apps. These features include location-based services, push notifications, live streaming and a wide range of social network integration beyond Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. EachScape also provides Cloud CMS to store text, images, audio and videos that power your app, as well as a Data Manager that works with multiple types of data sources, including RSS and XML.
EachScape also offers advanced app management tools. For instance, with User Manager, administrators can grant permissions to different users to manage dedicated aspects of the app, while Third Party Analytics enables EachScape's own analytics to integrate with Omniture, Flurry or Google Analytics.
EachScape offers a free trial to get started.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Originally published on Business News Daily.