Technology has made the creation of new software and techniques more accessible. It’s why there is a large push for open source products and shared codebases, increasing the ability to innovate and improve what exists and empowering anyone to explore what’s out there. These decisions have always focused on increasing the amount of people with technical skill sets and building a more knowledgeable community. However, the goal of technology has never been to shortcut the creative process or undermine the effort it takes to build a great product.
The art of building an app
A talented software engineer is like a talented writer, they’re both trying to create, but while the writer is creating a story with words, the engineer is guiding a machine to create its result. You wouldn’t cut out the writer and use another person’s script to tell the story of your company, so why would you use a pre-set app builder to make an impact on your business?
The rise of pre-set app builders is designed to make it easier to build a mobile or web based products quickly. Similar to website builders such as Squarespace, Wix, and or WordPress, these app builders are designed to take coding (and therefore the developer) out of the process to create a mobile or web app. Companies such as AppSheet, Bubble, and nandbox are proprietors of this software that allow non-developers to construct an app quickly. They streamline the design through drag and drop options while the backend is a pre-engineered system.
There are a number of limitations when building a no-code app.
1. It can’t build an app you own the rights to
When you hire a development team to build your app natively, the codebase is typically a part of that deal, meaning you own the app. Maintenance and any updates can be done by the company who built your app, your internal team, or another company, but it’s your decision to make. It’s more complicated with a pre-built app solution. While you own the content (depending on the software), content creation tools are subject to change or removed without warning. The company you essentially lease your app from owns their product, thus if you transition to a native app or another platform or that company goes under, what’s provided to you is dependent on the solution you chose.
2. It can’t play outside of the box
What you see is what you get. There isn’t much flexibility to change the appearance of how your app can appear outside of the default options. Since you’re not accessing the codebase either, any additions or deletions will be dependent on what tools are available. If it isn’t already built into the editor, it isn’t an option.
Your app features depend on the pre-built solution you choose, and anything you don’t see probably doesn’t exist. There won’t be custom features added for your specific needs and you have no control over what gets updated. This means no custom processes, no custom integrations , and no custom data structure.
3. Permissions can’t be edited
The ability to control information access based on an account’s role isn’t an option in these pre-built solutions. That means an administrator would have the same access rights as a manager or employee of a company. By not being able to differentiate these access points, it limits the type of apps that can be built on these platforms.
4. It can’t support a Custom API integration
You can still leverage integrations, but at the mercy they’re supported by the platform your app was built on. You may have existing solutions that aren’t supported but are crucial to your business. If this is case, you’ll need to consider your options more carefully.
5. It can’t guarantee who owns your data
Data is the most valuable aspect of your business. Most developers who are building your app will tell you that you own your data like the codebase. It’s less clear for pre-built mobile or web app solutions. Some indicate in their terms and service that the data you add within the app is yours, others are more obscure about this in their terms and service.
6. It can’t support robust analytics
Analytics are another option to consider with your app. When developing natively, the addition of APIs to get information or adding in hooks from a particular analytics software provides extensive access to measuring the effectiveness of your app. As mentioned before, integration access for a pre-built analytics solution will rely on what’s already supported.
7. It can’t update to suit your needs
Apps break. They’re no different than any other software or product in life, but like anything else that breaks, they can be fixed. That being said, the updates in a pre-built app are dependent on that company’s release schedule. Your app could be facing a minor issue like a search bar not appearing, but until the platform developer deems it worthy of a fix, that issue will remain.
8. It can’t be triaged or fixed by anyone else
A custom developed app can be taken to any shop that has developers who understand the language it was built in and any issues fixed. The same cannot be said for a pre-built app. Any support is dependent on the company that owns the proprietary codebase.
9. It can’t be monetized
The circumstances of ownership within a pre-built solution makes it tricky to determine the advantages of monetizing with it. For companies who would want to white label their product, it would seem unlikely as you don’t own the original code. There’s liberty with a custom built solution as you can create what you want with it. Either way, you should have a plan for monetization prior to developing the app.
Lest we be accused of broad negativity, there are a few things a no-code app builder can do.
1. Get info into email and spreadsheets quickly
Creating forms and moving information is simple within a pre-built app platform. Most information is prompted via forms then built out. When it comes time to export this info, it’s easy to move out to an email or send someone a spreadsheet thanks to the simplicity of the system.
2. Bundle your content from your website into mobile form
The app is a nice presentation of info from your site translated to a mobile form. Users can expect now expect to engage with your brand via mobile and will anticipate future updates that increase functionality.
Building your next app
No matter what you choose to build your next app, make sure it’s a product that will change your business. We prefer native apps, but that’s our expertise. You know who to contact for that decision (trust us, it’s the best one).