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Mobile apps have become an essential piece of technology businesses use to engage with their customers. However, small business have been slow in adopting this technology, with less than 25 of them stating they have a mobile app, according to a survey conducted by Clutch. And the biggest reason for the low adoption number is the cost, which Clutch also revealed can be anywhere between $37,913 and $171,450, but could go as high as $500,000 or more.

To overcome the financial burden of creating an app, more small business are using app builders like BiznessApps and others. And with the DIY solution the average cost comes to only $61.50/month, which is much, much lower than hiring a developer.

So what is an app builder, and can anyone use it as most of the companies that offer these services claim? The answer of course depends on the company, so just as anything else you purchase, it is buyer beware. There are some very cheap services, but they have limitations, and you will have to deal with inefficient user interfaces (UIs), vendor branding and ads that are very intrusive.

If you are just starting, it is best to have an intuitive UI without any ads. If you choose the right company, you will be able to create an app that will address the vast majority or all of the needs of a small business.

How Easy is it to Create an App With an App Builder?

what is an app builder

GoodBarber is one of the highest rated companies in the market, which addresses small businesses. The platform it has created is as easy as:

  1. Designing your app by customizing the navigation mode, header, body, splashscreen and icon with simple clicks.
  2. Adding your content by using the built-in CMS or connecting existing content sources.
  3. Testing your app on your device to check it is working, and if it is to your liking complete the submission and send it to the app store of your choice.

For most of the quality companies, it is as easy as that.

Who Needs to Build a Mobile App?

what is an app builder

Actually, everyone can use a mobile app, but small businesses with customer facing industries, such as restaurants, professional installers, realtors, gyms, bars, car dealerships, religious services and many others can benefit. With the right mobile app, these and other industries can engage with their customers to improve services, build loyalty programs, promote new offerings, compete in new markets and more.

Here’s a look at a few specific types of businesses that may benefit significantly from having their own mobile app:

  1. Retail and E-commerce Stores:
    • Benefits: Mobile apps offer a streamlined shopping experience for customers, with features like push notifications to alert users of sales or new products, secure payment options, and personalized product recommendations. With the help of augmented reality, some apps also let customers virtually try out products before buying.
  2. Restaurants and Food Delivery Services:
    • Benefits: Apps can simplify the ordering process, save previous orders for easy reordering, offer loyalty programs, and send out promotions or coupons. It can also integrate with map services for delivery tracking.
  3. Fitness Centers and Health Clubs:
    • Benefits: Through apps, members can book classes, track their fitness progress, set and achieve goals, and even receive workout tutorials or nutrition tips.
  4. Event and Ticketing Companies:
    • Benefits: Mobile apps can simplify the process of searching for events, booking tickets, and even providing electronic tickets that can be scanned at the venue.
  5. Travel and Hospitality:
    • Benefits: Hotels, airlines, and travel agencies can allow users to make reservations, check-in, access itineraries, and even get real-time updates on flight status or hotel amenities through their apps.
  6. Service-based Businesses (like salons, spas, handymen):
    • Benefits: Clients can book and manage appointments, view services, and perhaps see previous work or read reviews.
  7. Educational Institutions and eLearning Platforms:
    • Benefits: Apps can provide interactive learning experiences, access to resources and materials, online tests, and communication tools for educators and students.
  8. Financial Institutions and Fintech:
    • Benefits: Banks, credit unions, and fintech startups can offer mobile banking services, including fund transfers, bill payments, account monitoring, and even financial planning or trading.
  9. Entertainment and Gaming:
    • Benefits: For businesses in the entertainment sector, apps can be the primary product, providing games, video content, or other forms of entertainment.
  10. Real Estate and Housing:
    • Benefits: Agents and agencies can showcase properties with high-resolution images, virtual tours, filter-based searches, and location-based services.
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To summarize, virtually any business that aims to provide convenience, improve user engagement, or offer unique value through digital means can benefit from a mobile app. In today’s digitally-driven world, having an app can enhance brand visibility, foster customer loyalty, and even open up new revenue streams.

Before You Start

what is an app builder

Building a mobile app as a small business can be a significant move to capture more customers and provide enhanced services. However, it’s essential to approach the process strategically to ensure the app adds value and doesn’t become a financial burden. For example, you may start by finding out what type of app your business needs. Here are some tips for small businesses considering this venture:

  1. Clearly Define Your Objectives:
    • Understand why you want an app in the first place.
    • Do you want to enhance the shopping experience? Improve customer service? Provide a new service?
    • Ensure that your app aligns with your business goals and adds tangible value to your customers.
  2. Know Your Audience:
    • Determine who your target users are and what they need or expect from your app.
    • Use surveys or feedback forms to get insights from your current customers.
  3. Prioritize Essential Features:
    • As a small business, it’s wise to start with a minimal viable product (MVP) to test the waters.
    • Prioritize features that directly address your objectives and user needs, and avoid overloading your app with unnecessary functionalities.
  4. Consider User Experience (UX):
    • A smooth and intuitive user experience is crucial for an app’s success.
    • Invest in good design principles and ensure that the user journey within the app is seamless.
  5. Set a Budget and Stick to It:
    • Developing an app can be costly, especially if you factor in ongoing maintenance and updates.
    • Set a realistic budget based on the features you need and avoid unexpected expenses.
  6. Choose the Right Development Approach:
    • Decide whether to go with a native app (specific to a platform like iOS or Android), a cross-platform app, or a progressive web app (PWA).
    • Each approach has its costs, benefits, and limitations.
  7. Focus on Marketing and Promotion:
    • An app’s success isn’t only about its features but also about how many people know about it.
    • Develop a launch and promotion strategy to create awareness and drive downloads.
  8. Gather Feedback and Iterate:
    • After launching, continuously gather feedback from your users.
    • Use this feedback to make necessary improvements and ensure your app remains relevant and valuable.
  9. Plan for Maintenance:
    • Apps require regular updates, security patches, and bug fixes.
    • Ensure you have a plan (and budget) in place for ongoing maintenance.
  10. Stay Updated with Technology Trends:
  • Mobile app technology evolves rapidly.
  • Staying updated can help you leverage new features and keep your app modern.
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Basically, while developing a mobile app can be a great move for small businesses, it’s essential to approach it with careful planning and strategic thinking. Investing time in research, understanding your audience, and continuously iterating based on feedback can help ensure that your app delivers value both to your business and your customers.

What is a Mobile App Maker?

what is an app builder

If you are not using a developer to make your app, you can do so by using a DIY mobile app maker. The platform you choose should provide you with all of the tools you will need to create and publish an app on your own without any technical skill. This of course depends on the service provider, so thoroughly research the company before you give them your money. In the vast majority of cases, the companies have a free trial period, so have a go at it and see if they deliver on the tools that are essential for your case.

Some of the things you should look out for include detailed step-by-step instructions with video if possible, easy to use platform, multiple templates to address different use cases, drag-and-drop functionality, customization options and reliable 24/7 support via phone, chat or email.

Choose the OS

Most of the DIY platforms provide iOS and Android operating system solutions. If you want Windows, BlackBerry or an HTML5 app, make sure they have those options. If you are going to target a specific OS or device, find a company that specializes in it because you will be able to take advantage of device and OS specific functionalities.

Features

Apps can be used in many different industries, so there are many features you can choose from. Whether you are going to conduct ecommerce on your app or you just want to provide information, it runs the gamut.

For the customer end of the solution, you can choose: a shopping cart, mobile payments, reservation systems, delivery service, interactive menus, self-service appointments, real-time availability, automatic scheduling and more.

For your end, it should let you use social media, loyalty programs, location based services, one-click contact and other integrations to make customer engagement as easy as possible. Don’t forget to look for analytics, because it will let you see how your app is performing and the adjustments you need to make to improve it.

Price 

The cost will vary greatly depending on the type of app you create and for what device, where you want to sell it, app store placement, hosting and more. You can pay as little as one dollar per month with some promotions to a couple of hundred dollars. That is why it is so important to know exactly what kind of app your business needs before you begin. It will let you choose the company that provides the options you need without paying for things you might never use. 

Developer or DIY App Builder

If you are considering using a developer to create your own app, the price puts it out of the reach of the vast majority of small businesses. As mentioned above, you can spend tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but if you find the right DIY company, you just might end up creating the same features yourself for much less.

Criteria DIY App Builder Outsourcing to a Professional
Complexity Limited to platform’s offerings. Ideal for basic to moderately complex apps. Can handle a wide range of complexities, from basic to highly specialized functions.
Customization Offers predefined templates and modules; limited customization. Highly customizable to cater to specific requirements and branding.
Cost Generally more affordable with subscription or one-time fee models. Higher upfront costs. Depends on the app’s complexity, features, and the developer’s expertise.
Development Time Faster deployment due to ready-to-use templates and features. Longer development time due to custom features, testing, and iterations.
Technical Expertise No technical expertise required; user-friendly interfaces. Not required from the client’s side as the developer/team provides the necessary expertise.
Maintenance & Updates Handled by the platform. Potential risks if the platform faces issues or becomes obsolete. More control but requires separate budgeting and may involve retaining the developer/team for adjustments and updates.
Scalability Might have limitations based on platform’s capabilities. Built with scalability in mind; can anticipate and adjust for future growth.
Control & Ownership Dependence on the platform; potential restrictions based on terms of service. Full control and ownership over the app, including source code and data.
Integration & Extensions Limited to platform’s integrations; may not support unique third-party tools or services. Can integrate a wide variety of tools, services, and custom modules as required.
Support & Resources Typically offers support and resources, but might be generalized. Direct communication with developers; can get specific solutions and recommendations tailored to the app’s needs.
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Benefits of Using a DIY Mobile App Builder

what is an app builder

Using a DIY (Do It Yourself) mobile app builder can offer various advantages, especially for individuals, startups, or small businesses looking to venture into the mobile app space without a hefty investment. These platforms often come with intuitive interfaces and pre-built templates, making app creation accessible to those without technical expertise. Here are some benefits of using a DIY mobile app builder:

  1. Cost-Efficient:
    • Building an app from scratch can be expensive. DIY app builders typically offer a more affordable solution, with some even having free tiers.
    • Eliminates the need for hiring specialized developers, which can be costly.
  2. User-Friendly Interface:
    • Most DIY app builders have drag-and-drop interfaces, allowing users to design and structure their apps without writing any code.
    • Simplified user experience means even those with little to no technical background can develop an app.
  3. Speedy Development:
    • With templates and pre-built modules available, you can get your app up and running in a fraction of the time compared to traditional development.
    • Quick iterations are possible, allowing businesses to test ideas rapidly.
  4. Cross-Platform Capability:
    • Many DIY builders offer cross-platform development, meaning you can create an app that works on both Android and iOS without building them separately.
    • This approach ensures a wider audience reach without extra development effort.
  5. Easy Integration with Tools:
    • DIY app builders often come with built-in integrations for popular tools and services like social media platforms, payment gateways, and analytics tools.
    • This reduces the hassle of manually integrating third-party services.
  6. Regular Updates and Maintenance:
    • Platform providers usually handle updates, security patches, and bug fixes, ensuring your app remains functional and up-to-date.
    • This offloads the technical responsibility from the app owner.
  7. Customization:
    • While DIY builders offer templates, many also allow for a degree of customization, letting brands infuse their unique identity and design preferences.
  8. Built-in Analytics:
    • Many platforms offer analytics dashboards, providing insights into user behavior, app performance, and other critical metrics.
    • This helps businesses make informed decisions without seeking separate analytics tools.
  9. Scalability:
    • Some DIY platforms offer scalability options, ensuring that as your user base grows, the app can handle the increased load.
  10. Community Support:
  • Popular DIY app builders often have large communities, forums, and resources available. This can be invaluable for troubleshooting, seeking advice, or sharing experiences.

In conclusion, DIY mobile app builders democratize the app development process, making it accessible and affordable. While they might not always match the depth and complexity of apps developed from scratch, they serve as an excellent starting point for many businesses and individuals aiming to establish a mobile presence without significant upfront investment.

Mobile App Creator Photo via Shutterstock




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