Our company OperationWorks (original name Versa Cloud) designs complex operation workflows for a variety of municipal and enterprise clients. To ensure the best possible app performance, expedite development and lower costs, we decided to search for an app maker platform.
In a recent post, I offered 7 things to consider when selecting a no-code platform. That should help you narrow down your list of platforms to just a few candidates. Now, in this article, I’ll share some important criteria to apply when making your final decision. We used these principles to decide between two leading app makers: Microsoft PowerApps and AppSheet.
Why should you evaluate no-code app maker platforms?
Take our advice: This is one technology where it pays to be highly-selective before making a purchase.
We found that the market is loaded with different platforms, the vast majority of which are very expensive, unreliable and difficult to learn and operate. If you are new to using no-code app platforms, you could easily wind up buying a disappointing product that nobody on your team will want to use. A waste of money and time.
Here are four important questions to consider:
Does it work with our existing infrastructure?
You want a real “plug and play” solution that will immediately integrate with your existing software and hardware. Understand, though, that not all programs offer a high level of flexibility and interoperability.
PowerApps, for instance, is a Microsoft product through and through. The program offers a limited amount of integration with Google Drive which is helpful, and it also lists a large number of other data integrations. However, you will still need to have an Office365 subscription, or you won’t be able to use the software.
AppSheet works with both Microsoft and Google, and it’s much easier to use (more on that below). Using AppSheet, we can quickly switch back and forth between the different systems as needed. This is important because Versa Cloud will occasionally work with clients who prefer to use Microsoft over Google, and vice versa. AppSheet lets us seamlessly work around their preferences, and this adds a significant amount of value to our operation by allowing us to go to market faster. AppSheet also has deep integrations with several common data sources, including any we’d want to use. Its list of integrations, though, is not as comprehensive as PowerApps. This is one area where the product has room for improvement.
PowerApps: B+ AppSheet: A-
Is it easy to make apps?
A good rule of thumb when buying a no-code app maker platform is whether it will allow a novice user — equipped with data — to build a simple app in about 10 minutes. Granted, it takes us longer at Versa Cloud because we put a great deal of time and effort into creating feature-rich robust apps. All the same, the “10-minute test” is a good indicator of the usability of the platform.
What we love about AppSheet is that it’s easy enough for a novice app creator to use without getting overwhelmed. AppSheet lets you condense specific features in the platform during development (like advanced expressions) so that the layout is easy to understand. You don’t have to be a computer expert to use it. While this did not apply to us, we believe that AppSheet could add more onboarding materials and tutorials to benefit an utterly non-technical user.
With PowerApps, while the very initial steps were simple, even the smallest additional features were difficult to add. PowerApps fares poorly in the 10-minute test.
PowerApps: B- AppSheet: A-
Are the apps fast and stable?
We found the user interface in PowerApps to be buggy and slow, particularly on Android devices and iPads. This was a significant problem for us, as we needed a platform that was fast, reliable and easy to operate. With AppSheet, we have never had a complaint about the performance of an app.
Another significant requirement is that the apps must work offline. It is common in work environments to have a temporary loss of connectivity. AppSheet apps work offline by design. On the other hand, with PowerApps, we have to explicitly program the code that saves data locally on the device and loads it when offline. When it comes to offline behavior, PowerApps is definitely not a no-code platform.
PowerApps: C AppSheet: A
How much does it cost?
PowerApps offers a free version for Office365 subscribers and then jumps to $7 per month for business users and a whopping $40 per month for app makers and administrators. AppSheet starts with a free prototype, moving up to $1 or $5 per business user per month depending on features, and then $10 for the professional version. So from our perspective, AppSheet is clearly much more affordable.
PowerApps: B AppSheet: A
To summarize, Microsoft PowerApps and AppSheet are two of the most powerful app maker platforms in the market. While the products have similarities, our comparison based on four critical criteria revealed that PowerApps lags significantly behind AppSheet. The PowerApps product holds promise, and I expect Microsoft will continue to improve it over time. However, the current version of the platform still needs much improvement in the core technology and usability.
We decided to move forward with AppSheet and it has become one of our favorite tools. As we use it every day, the platform continues to live up to our initial assessment. We have also been impressed by its scalability and flexibility. As I recently explained here on AppSheet’s blog, we wouldn’t dream now of using any other product.
For further reading, check out our story in the App Maker Spotlight! For more stories on no-code app maker platforms, check out the following stories: