A mobile app is a must for any business that wishes to reach customers wherever they are on the device they use the most: their mobile phones. And today, building an app is easier and more affordable than ever. With do-it-yourself (DIY) app makers, anyone can create a mobile app in a matter of minutes. The challenge, however, is choosing which DIY app maker is right for your business. Not only is there a long list of app makers from which to choose, but they also offer a wide range of capabilities at various price points. To make the choice a little easier, here are 10 things to look for in a DIY app maker.
1. No coding skills necessary
Building your own mobile app should be a simple, hassle-free process. The best DIY app makers facilitate this and make it easy for beginners by using a drag-and-drop platform that requires no coding or programming skills. This method lets users add, modify and remove elements with just a few clicks, as well as view changes in real time. If you eventually plan on working with an app developer, app makers like EachScape also feature true native source code and custom coding so you can tweak your app from scratch.
Note: Apple recently changed its iTunes App Store regulations, which can affect some no-code app makers. The regulation says "Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected." The purpose is to eliminate clones and spam apps that can be quickly created, but it may have an effect on small businesses that don't employ a dedicated app developer. Apple doesn't disclose which apps have been rejected or ejected from the App Store, so there's no firm evidence that this will affect those using any specific app maker, but it may.
2. Multiplatform publishing
If you want to reach the most customers possible, choose an app maker that lets you create an app for multiple devices. While you may want to start with an iOS or Android app, consider making an app for not only those two but also other platforms to cast a wider net. Most app makers also support Windows Phone, BlackBerry and HTML5 Web apps to cover all your bases. This doesn't mean, however, that you need to start from scratch every time. Some app makers let you create a single app in one platform, then convert it to another platform in just a few steps. [Best App Makers 2014]
3. Preview mode
You want your app to be perfect and deliver a seamless user experience. This means you should be able to see what it looks like and how it works before it hits the market. Choose an app maker that has a preview mode so you can see exactly how your app will appear and check if everything is functioning properly. The preview feature should be available for multiple platforms and devices, such as iPhone and iPad views for iOS apps.
4. Business tools
Mobile apps can do so much to help your business grow. Own an online store? Choose an app maker like Conduit, which supports integration with Shopify, eBay, Etsy and other ecommerce shopping carts and services. Own a restaurant? App makers like Appy Pie feature a menu builder and integrate apps such as OpenTable for mobile reservations and GrubHub for ordering delivery straight from your app. Other business tools to look for are automated appointment scheduling and one-touch contact pages, which enable users to call or email you without having to type in your phone number or email address.
5. Marketing tools
Marketing is a 24/7 job. Let your app help by doing a good chunk of the work for you. Look for an app maker with a wide range of automated marketing tools, such as:
- Social media integration.Let users be able to easily follow you on social media and automatically share your app and their activities to their followers.
- Email marketing. Create custom forms to grow your email marketing list. For example, Bizness Apps will also let you import contacts from email marketing solutions like MailChimp, MyEmma, Constant Contact and more.
- Push notifications and GPS. Be able to send alerts to users when you're having a sale or other special events. This works even better with GPS support for more effective location-based marketing.
- Content sharing. Add a feed from a blog, website or other content. For instance, App makers like Mobile Roadie let you integrate a wide range of media, from photo galleries from Instagram and Flickr to videos from YouTube, Vimeo and other sources.
6. App management tools
Apps don't maintain themselves. Choose an app maker that will let you manage different aspects of your app, such as allowing you to edit its design and content to better meet your goals. It should also offer robust analytics capabilities so you can measure your app's performance, monitor user engagement and generate reports. For instance, Mobile Roadie's analytics includes data on what users are viewing, content they are sharing, and products they are buying from the app, while EachScape integrates with third-party tools like Google Analytics, Omniture and Flurry.
7. Back-end support
Just like how a website relies on a Web host, mobile apps rely on back-end support to keep them running. Choose an app maker that uses a reliable infrastructure, cloud storage and data backup so you're not left out in the cold during an outage. Furthermore, you should also make sure the app maker's security measures meet industry standards to keep both your information and your customers' safe.
8. Publishing and distribution
Most app makers will automatically submit your app in popular app marketplaces like the Apple App Store and Google Play. Appsbar, Appy Pie, GameSalad and other app makers also have the option of publishing your app in their own marketplaces or giving you a quick response (QR) code so customers can easily download your app by scanning the code in person or from your website. The app maker you choose should also make sure your app meets app store standards for a smooth submission and publishing process. (Appsbar's developers will review your app, for example.) You should also check whether your app will be submitted, published and distributed with a license under your business name or the app maker's.
Different app makers have different pay structures, so be sure to choose the one that best suits your budget. Most app makers have a free-to-build model, so you can design your app without paying a cent — you only pay when you're ready to publish, making this a great option if you want to give several app makers a try. Publishing fees range anywhere from less than $10 to more than $500, depending on the app maker and the plan you choose. Others require a monthly fee, which let you build a certain number of apps per month. Some offer basic apps for free and instead charge for advanced features a la carte, while others are free with advertisements (AppMakr).
DIY app makers are supposed to make creating your own apps a breeze. But that doesn't mean you won't need help at some point. Choose an app maker that has your back by providing phone, email or chat support. Note that some app makers charge an additional fee or require more expensive packages for customer support.
Originally published on Business News Daily.