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What’s the Difference Between No-Code and Low-Code App Development?

If your business uses custom apps or is in the market for one, you’ve probably come across the terms no-code and low-code. If by some chance you haven’t, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve published a primer on no-code development here, and this piece explores the differences between no-code and low-code.Both no-code and low-code app development platforms enable organizations to quickly and efficiently develop apps without having to manually write code. This means that new apps can be created in less time and for a fraction of the cost. It also means that iteration is easier than ever before. Low-code and no-code platforms are based on framework known as rapid application development (RAD), which, generally speaking, enables users to visually assemble an app via drag-and-drop tools. (Some leading no-code development platforms, however, can automatically create apps by analyzing business data. Those apps can then be further iterated by citizen developers.) So, what exactly are the differences between no-code and low-code development? And which approach is best for your company? Let’s take a look. What is low-code? Low-code app development was originally rolled out to streamline workflows of professional developers. Instead of having to manually write each line of code, developers could navigate pre-built app templates and user-friendly interfaces to quickly create and scale their applications. Low-code also enables more advanced developers to integrate an organization’s applications with other enterprise services. For example, a marketing team might want to create a custom app that automatically sends all social media notifications to one location, and a finance team might want to connect Quickbooks to an ERP or CRM solution. Low-code development, however, typically requires some level of technical coding expertise—more than the average citizen developer has. An easy way to remember all this: The word “low” doesn’t imply “nothing.” Low-code still involves a bit of effort on the employee’s end. Who should use low-code? A low-code platform is better suited for enterprises with in-house developers. With a low-code platform, developers can take advantage of: Packaged modules and templates that make it easy to reuse code. Design tools—most commonly drag-and-drop—that make for easier app design, especially when it comes to the UI. Lifecycle management functionality that simplifies the deployment, devops, and application management processes. Taken together, low-code platforms make developers more agile and productive. But if your employees don’t know how to code, or if you don’t have an IT or development team, low-code is probably not the best choice. What is no-code? No-code app development relies on the same RAD framework mentioned earlier. Depending on the no-code platform, apps can either be created automatically through data analysis or by using intuitive drag-and-drop techniques. In either case, the main advantage is that employees don’t have to know anything about coding to be able to build transformative applications. (That’s why it’s called no-code development, after all.) Not only does no-code save a ton of time (months and potentially even years of development), empowering all of your employees to be able to create apps may in fact boost morale. A recent Gallup study, for example, found that 87% of millennials want professional development opportunities within their organization. In other words, no-code is a win for your customers, your organization, and your employees. Who should use no-code? No-code platforms are ideal for organizations that want to build their own apps to increase efficiency and streamline business processes, yet have limited development resources. As an example, a leading Colorado-based construction contractor relies on AppSheet to automate reporting, maintenance, payroll, and repairs. The future is no-code Low-code and no-code app development platforms have revolutionized the app development industry. Projects that used to take months or years now take far less time, enabling organizations to build apps more quickly and efficiently to solve their unique problems. At the same time, everyday employees are becoming more engaged as they participate in the digital transformation of their organizations, using no-code platforms to build applications that make their teams, departments and entire companies more effective. Add it all up, and it’s safe to say the future is no-code. We expect to see organizations increasingly adopt no-code development platforms as we move into the future. Tell me more To learn more about no-code platforms and digital transformation check out: Our overview of what no-code platforms are and what they can do. The top 5 reasons companies are turning to no-code platforms for business app development. How our customers are unlocking the full potential of rapid no-code app development.

Top Five Reasons Companies are Turning to No-Code Development Platforms

In the past, companies had two options for building custom apps: They could either hire a team of internal developers and have them work on traditional or low-code app platforms or outsource the entire process to a third-party agency. Either way, the process was highly resource-intensive. Now, a growing number of companies are embracing an alternative method of software development: leveraging no-code platforms. AppSheet’s no-code platform, for instance, enables technical or non-technical workers to quickly and inexpensively create custom apps that solve everyday business challenges. No-code platforms are now being used to build apps that do everything from creating and tracking daily workflows to streamlining site and safety inspections—and everything in between. With that in mind, let’s look at five reasons today’s leading organizations are increasingly turning to no-code development platforms. 1. Reduced software development costs A recent DZone article suggests that it can take as long as nine months and cost as much as $250,000 to build a custom software application. AppSheet’s no-code development platform expedites the process considerably—translating into significant savings. For example, a home services company based out of Singapore was able to reduce software expenses by 60% with AppSheet. Instead of having to build apps from scratch, AppSheet analyzes the underlying data to determine how an app should work. The platform then builds out an initial iteration of the app that can then be updated by citizen developers via an intuitive user-friendly interface. Add it all up, and no-code platforms like AppSheet enable non-technical employees to build custom apps in days—or even hours. 2. Reclaimed time thanks to automation We all know what it’s like to do repetitive tasks at work every day. Cumulatively, these tasks take up a lot of time. When you keep doing the same thing over and over again, things are bound to get a bit monotonous, too. No-code platforms enable employees to build software solutions that streamline routine tasks like tracking inventory, compiling daily reports, and filling out time cards. As such, companies that use the innovative technology can expect their teams to reclaim a lot of time. In fact, Forrester says that low-code platforms (including no-code) can reduce development time by at least 10x. All of that extra time can then be invested in other growth areas. 3. Increased employee engagement One of the main causes of unhappiness and poor performance at work is a lack of engagement. When workers feel powerless or tethered to inefficient processes, they tend to lose motivation. An easy way to boost employee engagement is by helping your team develop digital skills. No-code platforms can help here, too, by enabling citizen developers to build powerful applications. Employees get to use new technology to learn new things—which translates into increased engagement and, by extension, more productivity. 4. Decreased security risks The last thing a business wants is for insecure apps to cascade across the enterprise, opening the door to countless vulnerabilities. Today’s leading no-code platforms offer robust features that guarantee secure and compliant apps that are in line with new regulatory protocols like Europe’s GDPR. Because it enables employees to build the perfect tool for the job, no-code development can also help reduce shadow IT. This has enormous implications, particularly since Gartner predicts that 33% of successful attacks on enterprises will result from shadow IT by 2020. Taken together, no-code platforms can help organizations strengthen security and governance while mitigating their exposure to risks. 5. Accelerated innovation(!) Since no-code platforms speed up software development, the technology also accelerates innovation. With custom apps in place, employees can get more things done in less time—which means getting products to market faster. Imagine an employee has to toggle between several different platforms to do their job. Not only can such an experience be frustrating, it can also be quite time-consuming. Now let’s say that same employee uses an app built on the AppSheet platform (or other no-code platform) to manage those actions. Efficiency increases, driving competitive advantage. No-code: The future of app development Getting the best results starts with using the right tool for the job at hand. Thanks to no-code platforms, organizations can increase efficiency and productivity while making their employees happier. To learn more about how your enterprise can benefit from a no-code platform, take a look at some of these sample apps to get an idea of what you can build. You can also read about how one of Colorado’s leading construction contractors used AppSheet to streamline management with custom apps in this case study.  

What is a No-Code Development Platform

Businesses use custom apps for a variety of critical needs like creating and tracking workflows, boosting productivity, and identifying key growth opportunities. Design and development, however, is often a highly resource-intensive process, putting custom apps out of reach for many organizations. To create custom apps, companies must either hire software engineers or outsource to third-party agencies—both of which are very expensive and time-consuming. A typical app can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take six months or longer to design and develop. App creation can also overwhelm technical teams, leading to software bottlenecks, delayed projects, and missed opportunities. As such, many IT decision makers are now looking for ways to streamline custom app creation and reduce their dependence on developers. In a recent study, 61 percent of C-level executives claimed that access to developer talent is a threat to the success of their business—higher than capital constraints, believe it or not. The solution to this challenge is using a no-code platform, which makes the app creation process significantly faster and more affordable. No-code: An overview Using a no-code platform, non-technical employees can quickly and easily create custom apps to solve everyday business challenges. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of no-code platforms: Visual drag-and-drop platforms that replace lines of complicated code with highly visual, intuitive tools and user-friendly modules. Data-driven platforms that analyze data to understand the intent of the app and then build out a first iteration, which can then be modified via a user-friendly interface. According to Forrester, replacing traditional programming with visual tools can make software development up to 10 times faster. In one example, Jesse Escobar, a facilities management analyst at a major university, used AppSheet’s no-code platform to streamline trash pickup at his school’s campus. “I certainly had no coding experience and there wasn’t a developer on my four-man team,” Jesse explained. “But AppSheet is simple enough that I was able to build my app in just a couple hours.” The future is no-code The need for cost-effective, custom apps is bound to accelerate as businesses continue to engage in digital transformation. For starters, more than one-third of organizations have already started implementing a digital-first approach to businesses processes, customer engagement, and operations. What’s more, 85 percent of enterprise decision makers believe they will become less competitive if they don’t make substantial progress on their digital transformation initiatives over the next two years. In the age of agile businesses, no-code development is the next step in the evolution of enterprise software. Businesses are now moving away from traditional legacy apps and hardware in favor of flexible and reliable cloud-based systems. Anyone can be a developer—even you! Cloud-based no-code development has given rise to a new generation of “citizen developers” who are driving digital innovation despite lacking technical expertise. Now, you no longer need to be a technical whiz and create software—suffice it to say this is a very powerful advancement. No-code development helps businesses of all sizes build powerful and reliable custom apps in less time—and for less money. These apps enable businesses to move faster and more efficiently, which ultimately translates into a healthier bottom line and a more engaged workforce. To learn more about AppSheet’s approach to no-code development, click here. 

4 Ways to Build an App Without Code

If you think developing apps is difficult, well, we're here to help you out!  While it may seem like a daunting undertaking to build your own mobile it, no-code technology has helped streamline the process exponentially. On AppSheet, there are actually four ways—none of which require any special skill set—to build an app without code: Start from Data. Start from an Add-On. Start from Sample Apps. Start from Natural Language. Use any of these “ways” to build a powerful no-code app in minutes. And, as always, on the AppSheet platform you can prototype apps with any feature for free. And if your app is for personal use, it’s always free.       1. Build an app using your own data The AppSheet platform connects with a variety of sources including Office 365, Google Drive, SQL, and many more. If you are using any of the data sources listed below, you can build an app directly from your existing data sources. After connecting to your data, the platform auto-creates an app prototype. You can then use the the app editor to add features, change the UI, etc., until your custom business app works exactly the way you want it to. As you add functionality and make modifications to your app, a live preview of the current version is always visible in a multi-device emulator (or install the prototype on your devices to test as you build). When you’re done, deploy the app and share it with your team. And remember, AppSheet automatically supports multiple form factors (web browsers, tablets, and mobile) so you should be good to go. To get started with your app customizing, here’s a quick overview of AppSheet’s App Editor.           2. Build an app from an add-on   The great thing about our add-ons is that they allow you to launch AppSheet directly from wherever your data resides—for example, in a Google Sheet or Form. Our add-ons take you from data source to app in just a few clicks and within minutes, you have a working version of your app. Google Sheets Google Sheets is one of our most popular add-ons. Just make sure each column is properly formatted with a title in row 1,there are at least 3 rows of data, and then use the add-on to generate your app. To get started, here’s a quick tutorial on how build an app with Google Sheets.       Google Forms Why move your form to an app? Well, if you need to collect different kind of inputs, like photos, signatures, barcodes, or GPS locations, appifying your Form is the way to go. AppSheet also features powerful workflow and reporting tools that allow you to turn a simple form into a fully-functioning web app, so why not move your form to an app? To get started, check out this video.       Google Docs AppSheet is the fastest way to convert paper-based (or digital) forms into an app. With automatic workflows, you can easily capture real-time data directly from the app and automatically generate standardized reports. And, just like Google Forms, you can collect photos, signatures, GPS location, and barcodes.   Office 365 If you’re an Office user, AppSheet can turn your static Excel spreadsheets into feature-rich apps. In just a few minutes, our platform auto-creates the first iteration of your app which you can then customize and deploy using AppSheet’s editor. To get started, check out this video.       Box Do you work in a Box environment? Then get the AppSheet add-on for Box and build apps directly from Excel spreadsheets in Box.   3. Build an app from sample apps   Looking for a proven model—something you can build on or use as is? Explore our collection of sample apps by industry and use case (like inspections, field services, sales & marketing, & much more) and find one that that meets your needs. Once you find that "almost" perfect app: Copy it. Integrate your data. Customize it to meet your specific needs using the AppSheet editor. Deploy your “perfect” version.   4. Build an App from Natural Language     "Spec," is a natural language interface, and a recent app building feature in our catalog. With it, you simply “dictate” what you want your app to do by text or speech. Spec then builds out the app based on your idea. After using Spec to frame your app, you can continue to customize it with the AppSheet App Editor before deploying it to your users. Here’s a video to get started.       Make your first app today! So there you have it: four ways to build an app without code. Let us know what method worked best for you in the comments!

PowerApps vs AppSheet: an in-depth comparison of no-code app platforms

No-code app platforms allow business users to create apps without writing code. There are many vendors with offerings that are labeled “no-code”. This article describes a framework with six criteria used to evaluate and benchmark these offerings. The article uses these criteria to evaluate and compare the two leading no-code app platforms: Microsoft PowerApps and AppSheet. Who is a Business User? Our focus is on business users rather than software engineers, programmers, or IT personnel. A classic business user works in some line of business in the organization (small, medium, or large organization), has an existing full time job, is comfortable with the consumption of desktop, web, and mobile technologies, and is competent with tools like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Google Docs, and WordPress. Often, business users will interact with cloud-based productivity systems like Salesforce, Workday, ServiceNow, Jira, Trello, Hubspot, etc that may be managed by their own teams or by a central IT team. Worldwide, there are many more business users ( ~1.5B) than developers (only ~15-20M). Platform Tenets This article considers app platforms that support business users who create and deploy their own apps to their teams (colleagues, vendors, etc) to improve business productivity. Such platforms must conform to certain tenets: No-code: These platforms have to cater to the business user audience who is not trained to code. Integrate with business data: The apps must work in an existing business environment and therefore integrate with existing business data. Work across devices and form factors: Not only must the apps support various device form factors, they must also run on various app form factors (web, mobile app, chatbot, etc). Implicit Criteria As we compare no-code platforms, there are two implicit subjective criteria that apply to all features and functionality. Expressive power: It is important that the apps can be rich and support a range of business functionality. Ease of use: Features should model intuitive user concepts (the way the user thinks of the problem being solved) rather than force the user to understand technical platform concepts. Comparison Framework We evaluate PowerApps and AppSheet along six technical dimensions. Data architecture Design for scale Security model Behavior description UI configuration Authoring environment 1. Data Architecture: PowerApps Business apps need to connect with business data. PowerApps is integrated with Microsoft’s Common Data Model that shares a data connector framework with other Microsoft tools like Power BI and Flow. As a result, connectors to most common data sources are available. This is a strength of the platform.  Every business app needs to be able to run offline or at least occasionally disconnected. However, the PowerApps architecture is implicitly connected. If you want the app to work disconnected, you have to set up local tables and manage data loading yourself via code. That is described at length in Microsoft’s documentation. This leads to ugly “code” like this: Unless you are a developer, you should steer clear of such logic. And even if you are developer, it is completely non-trivial to debug such logic and determine when it should and shouldn’t be used. Yet at the same time, the apps do not behave seamlessly when connected. It is common for apps to tell their users when there is newly available data. However, PowerApps does not automatically provide this functionality. Instead, this is the responsibility of the app creator. As described here, the recommended design is to use code to create a second data source to the same data, set up a background timer to repeatedly fetch the data, do a data diff by comparing data counts, and if so, show a refresh icon. Further, this timer has to be placed (but can be hidden) on the ‘current’ view, or else it will not run. The problems with this design are too many to list here, ranging from correctness to performance issues. This design choice also impacts operations like bulk update of multiple rows. This should be a standard operation in business app platforms. In PowerApps, you have to write code to do this. You have to keep your own “copy” collection of updated records and then you have to copy these back over into the original dataset. This is really a fragile design. The app is doing a “shadow copy” rather than updating data in place. It is not clear what happens to formulas that run at the same time: Do they work on the original data or the shadow copy? Summary: While the breadth of data connectors is a strong positive, the data architecture of PowerApps itself assigns too much responsibility to the app creator. In comparison, while AppSheet has fewer builtin data connectors, the platform automatically provides offline support, data synchronization, concurrent and bulk update capabilities.  2. Scale: PowerApps Apps often have to work with moderately large data sets (10,000 rows or more). In some cases, the data sets may be much larger but each app user may only need to see a smaller subset of the data. In PowerApps, all the data used has to be brought to the device, so to be efficient, the developer has to create filters that reduce the number of rows in each table. This is called “delegation” and is described here. PowerApps tries to be efficient with the delegation filters by “pushing” them to the data source. For example, if the data source were a SQL database, PowerApps will try to convert the request into a SQL query so that only the (hopefully small) result is brought back to the device. However, there are two problems with this: Not all data sources support filters. For example, many spreadsheets do not. Data sources do not support _all_ filters. In these cases, all the data is brought to the device and then filtered locally. This should still lead to a correct (though perhaps inefficient) result, except that PowerApps arbitrarily limits the number of rows that can be fetched per table. The limit is 500 rows (though recently, they have announced an increase of this limit in some cases to 2,000 rows). This has the effect of both producing arbitrary truncation of results but also incorrectness when there is logic that is based on the data. A more appropriate and scalable design choice would have been to filter data at a cloud-based web service and then send that data to the device. Under no circumstances should data be truncated. Summary: If you use PowerApps, make sure your apps use small data sets. In comparison, AppSheet apps can scale to significantly greater data sizes, limited primarily by the storage capacity on the device. The Security Filter mechanism is similar to the "delegation" concept of PowerApps, but more powerful. The Data Partitioning mechanism allows apps with very large data sets to still be supported. 3. Security: PowerApps Mobile business apps should be able to enforce security at two levels: (a) through authentication -- i.e., signin, (b) authorization -- who can use the app and do what with it. In PowerApps, authentication is exclusively handled via Active Directory. This is good because it integrates with the standard authentication mechanism used within many organizations. However, this is not so good if you want to use an app with anyone outside the organization (e.g., vendors, partners, etc). This turns out to be one of the major sources of dissatisfaction among the PowerApps user community. Authorization should be simple and transparent. For PowerApps, you authorize different classes of users based on their group membership in Active Directory. By itself, this is sound design if PowerApps were to handle it natively. However, in order to implement this authorization logic, you will end up having to write complicated code as described here. You set up an Active Directory custom data connector. Then you manually pull group membership data into the app as a local table. Then you check this data to see if a specific group is present and if the current user is part of this group. So in effect, groups and roles are not used as a security model at all. Instead, the security model is implemented by your code and may have loopholes if your code doesn’t get it exactly right. Summary: Security should be built into the platform rather than bolted on via code. In contrast, the AppSheet platform treats security as a first-class concept. Apps may require sign-in but the users may be within the same domain or outside the domain. No procedural code needs to be written involved in setting up or enforcing security. The app creator has control over data security at the row level, and also over actions at the row level. These security controls can be conditional and data-driven to provide rich dynamic security options. 4. Customizing App Behavior: PowerApps Most apps require dynamic behaviors that can be customized by the app creator. In a no-code app platform, you should expect common behavioral patterns to be easy to express in an understandable and logical manner. PowerApps provides two mechanisms to control dynamic behaviors --- spreadsheet-style formulas and procedural code. Formulas are widely used in PowerApps and they provide a powerful yet declarative mechanism for behavior. We really like and approve of this design choice! Where formulas are used, they conform to the spirit of a no-code platform. However, where code is used, it often results in brittle and opaque behaviors. Here are two examples: Deep linking is a common concept used to launch an app into a specific state. For example, a sales app might be launched with a deep link to a specific customer record. In PowerApps, this is not easy to control. The way to do this is to add an arbitrary query parameter to a link, then add an onStart timer to the app that looks for this query parameter, and if so, invoke a Navigate() function to go to a specific screen/view. In other words, you design your own deep links and you implement them yourself in code. Data capture forms often have custom logic that determines how to prepopulate a new row, how to branch based on initial answers, etc. Most form builders provide simple high-level mechanisms to define such logic. In PowerApps, this has to be done in code. Each form has a number of different events defined and each needs custom code to control behavior. Summary: We really like the emphasis on formulas even though the procedural code extensions make things complicated. The AppSheet platform has similarly embraced the use of spreadsheet-style formulas. In fact, if anything, formulas in AppSheet are more powerful and more ubiquitous, controlling computed columns, form logic, localization, actions, workflow rules, and much more. 5. UI Flexibility: PowerApps Of course, you need to be able to choose and configure mobile-friendly UI for your app. Some standard display patterns are really easy in PowerApps. For example, this article shows how to use a Gallery control. There is unfortunately no map control, which is a serious limitation at the moment. The default layouts can be customized via a drag-and-drop editor. While this adds flexibility, it also becomes the responsibility of the app creator then to ensure that the new layout works well on different device form factors. You can also define your own custom controls, but while this sounds powerful, it turns out to be a _lot_ of custom code for basic functions. This article describes how to build a confirmation dialog for a Delete operation. You have to build every element of it, lay it out and then hook up the events. Just like in Visual Basic. You have to define how to connect it with search, with sort, how to highlight the current item, etc. And you have to style it separately for iOS and for Android. That is a ridiculous amount of effort for a confirmation dialog. Summary: The flexibility adds power but takes a lot of work. The AppSheet platform consciously makes a different decision. Users can pick and configure broad display patterns, but cannot layout individual display elements. While this is less flexible, the platform can ensure consistent behavior and performance across a variety of form factors. 6. Authoring Environment PowerApps provides an authoring environment with an emulator to see your app as it is being built. While the environment is powerful in what it can do, it is very complicated for a new user. Of equal concern, it is also very slow and these performance issues are a significant source of dissatisfaction in the PowerApps user forum. Summary: An authoring environment for app creators should be intuitive and performant. Performance improvements will greatly enhance the experience. In contrast, the authoring environment of the AppSheet platform integrates the end-to-end capabilities of app creation, deployment and management into a single intelligent dashboard that suggests next steps, identifies opportunities and steers the user towards successful outcomes. Summary: PowerApps PowerApps is an evolving platform. While we expect some aspects to improve, some of the core architectural decisions have already been made and will be tough to change. While simple apps can be built in a no-code fashion, it is more of a framework for software engineers to build apps by writing code snippets in a stylized way. The data architecture and scale are matters of serious concern and we do not believe these concerns will recede in subsequent versions. They are a direct consequence of architectural choices of the platform. The security model has limitations at the moment, but these issues can be addressed. The behavior model based on spreadsheet-style formulas is by far the best aspect of the platform design. If Microsoft stays with an enhances this aspect of the platform, that will enhance the platform. However, the code-based behavioral extensions seem hacky at best. The UI model provides the potential for rich and flexible UI. In subsequent versions of the platform, we hope to see more standardized UI elements introduced so that app creators do not have to write code for common UI patterns. Finally, the authoring environment is sluggish and unnecessarily complex. As you evaluate PowerApps further, make sure to consider product reviews like the following: https://www.g2crowd.com/products/powerapps/reviews https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/powerapps/9nblggh5z8f3 https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microsoft.msapps&hl=en Also, read case studies like this article from Microsoft’s own IT department describing how they build internal apps with PowerApps. They use an entire dev and design team and a waterfall design process to build these apps. While they have been successful, I believe it is a true reflection of the product and that it targets a traditional IT-based development team rather than a citizen developer.  You should also consider alternatives. Most mobile apps that you’d be able to build on PowerApps are built easily on other no-code platforms like AppSheet, or on low-code platforms like Mendix or OutSystems. If you find positive reviews and happy customers for another app platform, you’re unlikely to go wrong. Good luck and much success in your app making. Summary: AppSheet The core technology in AppSheet differs from PowerApps in one significant way --- it is firmly "no-code". Everything that the app creator specifics is understood by the platform. While this limits some flexibility, it allows the platform to be intelligent, guide and help the app creator. This reflects in significant gains in simplicity and productivity.

App Maker Review: AppSheet vs. Microsoft PowerApps

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   Our decision 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: PowerApps vs AppSheet: an in-depth comparison of no-code app platforms Need an App Maker? 3 Questions You Should Ask Top 7 Things to Consider When Selecting a No Code App Maker Platform Build or Buy Mobile Apps: Focus on the Platform, NOT the App  

Need an App Maker? 3 Questions You Should Ask

  If you want to know how to make an app, there are three important questions to ask: What kind of app do you want to make? What are your technical skills? How much time and money do you want to invest? Once you have a rough sense of the answers to these questions (this should take about 5 minutes), you can choose an App Maker (an online platform that you use to make an app) and proceed. What kind of app do you want to make? This is the most important question, so we’ll break it up into three sub-questions. Q1: Is your app meant to be a large-scale consumer app (like a game or a shopping app) or is it meant to be used for work (in your business or for your team)? If you want to build a consumer app, then You need to be a software developer or hire software developers You will use a code-centric app development platform like XCode, Android Studio or Xamarin Your costs (time and money) will be high—probably $100,000 or more If, instead, you want to make an app for your work or team, read on. Q2: Who do you expect will use the app and why? It is always good to know who your initial users will be. The more specific the users and the use case, the better. Here are examples of good answers: The app users will be members of my sales team in the field who will use the app to capture new sales leads. The app users will be drivers of our delivery trucks who will use the app to record daily vehicle inspections A bad answer would be: My users are anyone in the world and they will use the app to communicate better with each other Q3: Can you describe what the initial version of the app should do? This is also a pretty open-ended question. If you haven’t already, you should definitely think about the requirements at a very high-level. Should it run on iOS as well as Android? Should it also run in a web browser? What data does the app use (eg: your existing customer data) ? Should the app be able to work offline? Does it need to show data or also capture new data? For now, let’s assume you need your app to run on a variety of mobile devices as well as web browsers, utilize some existing data in spreadsheets or databases, work in occasionally offline environments, and both show and capture new data.  What are your technical skills? Are you:  A programmer (you write software for a living)?  A knowledge worker (you use computer technology regularly in your job)?  A web and smartphone user (you use spreadsheets, forms, and apps etc)? If you answered yes to 1, 2, or 3, you could use a “no-code” app maker platform. The term “no-code” indicates that you do not need programming skills. Even if you do have programming skills, a “no-code” platform can make you much more productive. To learn more about this option, read on. If you answered yes to 1, you could write the app yourself. An app is just a program. It is tougher to write a mobile app than a regular web app because you have to handle offline behavior and the differences between iOS and Android. If you haven’t built a mobile app before, it is a learning experience and can be rewarding even just for the learning. There are a variety of platforms to consider. For example, you might want to think about writing a “native” app (an app specifically written to run on mobile devices): XCode is the programming environment for native iOS apps. Apple advocates that all new apps be written in the Swift programming language. Android Studio is the standard programming environment for native Android apps (sometimes called an ‘apk’). If  you chose this option, your app will be written in the Java programming language. It can be challenging to ensure that the app works the same on both Android and iOS if the code has to be written twice. Some solutions you might want to try: Use a programming environment like Xamarin. You write the code once and it translates the code to iOS and Android. The downside is that Xamarin doesn’t have all the features that each platform natively provides. Make a HTML5 mobile web app. This is really just a web app that runs in a web browser on the mobile device. It has the ease of development of a web app (if you are familiar with how to build a web app). However, it has all the limitations of a web app and in particular, will not work well offline. Make a “hybrid” app. This is a simple native app that hosts a web browser. Some part of your app is written with native code and some of it (usually, most of it) is written with HTML5. The advantage of a hybrid app is that you might also be able to get the same app to run in a regular web browser without much effort. A popular platform for hybrid apps is PhoneGap which is based on the Apache Cordova technology. Or use a “low-code” app builder. There are many such platforms that have emerged recently to make it easier to develop an app. The term “low-code” implies that these platforms provide some of the common code modules automatically so that what you need to do is to only write the remaining custom code components. To summarize: If you are a programmer, the good news is that you have many choices. However, many of these options are potentially expensive in terms of time and effort. If you are not a programmer, the good news is that you can choose a no-code app maker and be on your way to building your first app within an hour. However, you will be limited to the feature set provided by the no-code app maker you choose. How much time and money do you want to invest? Of course, this question has an entire spectrum of possible answers, but here are three main options to consider: Option 1: I want an app that is made in minutes and that is free. Option 2: I’m happy to put in a few hours to learn and get started, but need my app done in a few weeks. I do not have much budget to spend and I’d really like to at least start for free. Option 3: I need this done within a year. The project and a significant budget has been approved by our IT director. If you intend to write code or hire developers to write code, you fall into option 3 as options 1 and 2 are not really viable. But if you select options 1 or 2,  you should probably be considering a no-code or low-code app maker. Please note that if you selected option 1, we sympathize :]. Realistically, while it is possible to make an app in minutes, it is likely that it will take more time for you to refine it into a useful app. In practice, option 1 is the same as option 2.  We’ve pulled together a number of resources that will help you make your first app, regardless of the app making platform you choose (we like to think that our platform is the best but leave the final decision up to you). If you are a new app creator about to embark on your first custom app, this page is for you!  

Top 7 Things to Consider When Selecting a No Code App Maker Platform

  A couple of years ago I was searching for a no code platform that our team at Versa Cloud could use to streamline the development of work process apps for our clients — most of which are towns and municipalities across Massachusetts. Along the way, we discovered AppSheet. And we haven’t looked back since. As I explained in a recent blog post, AppSheet has become our preferred app development tool as it gives us the scalability and flexibility that we need to build efficient and highly-customizable solutions in less time — saving our clients’ money, without having to make any compromises regarding performance or quality. In short, AppSheet beats the competition and is reasonably priced. AppSheet wasn’t the first tool we tried. We experimented with just about every available solution, in a diligent trial and error process. So in this article, I will share some of the things that we learned throughout our journey in hopes of sparing you some of the trouble that we went through. Here are some of the top things to consider when shopping for a no code app platform: Ease of use: When all is said and done, a no code app platform is supposed to make life easier for developers and end users. It should be a time-saving mechanism. But not all providers accomplish this, as many platforms are too advanced for their own good. One example is Zerion’s iFormBuilder. Its reporting mechanism is very complicated and requires a fair amount of training to master. Conversely, AppSheet can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be depending on what you are trying to accomplish. The big difference is that AppSheet requires little training. Its user interface is very well developed, as it allows users to seamlessly enter, sync, organize, search and share their data. Scalability: Some databases will restrict the amount of information that you can access at a single time. For instance, if a dataset gets too large when using Microsoft Office 365, you won’t be able to access the spreadsheet online through the cloud. You will have to the desktop version, which is very inconvenient. AppSheet closely integrates with Google, allowing us to create useful Google add-ons to merge spreadsheets and forms. At the same time, AppSheet integrates with Microsoft — giving you the option to use whichever platform you or your clients prefer making AppSheet very flexible. Custom reporting: Reports serve little benefit when they are carved in stone. There are many platforms, though, that make it difficult to quickly access data and create custom, on-the-fly reports. AppSheet’s Google integration allows us to create special add-ons for merging data, creating status updates and exporting them to users through Gmail — sparing our end users from having to request and wait for reports to come in. It’s a painless process with AppSheet.  Reporting costs: There are many no code app platforms that seem relatively inexpensive but actually contain hidden costs — especially with reports.  We found that one product, doForms, offers low monthly prices but charges upwards of $2,000 each for custom reports. Suffice to say, this was a major problem. The idea that you should have to pay for a report on your own data is illogical and with AppSheet we do not have this problem as they do not charge for them. Data security: We discovered another hidden problem. Some platform providers will keep the data you enter as their own, which is especially problematic for companies that want to lock down their sensitive information. Surrendering your data to a third party organization will mean putting it under someone else’s control meaning it could be sold or manipulated without your consent. AppSheet, however, lets its customers retain control over their data. What’s more, AppSheet offers special security filters that can be applied to restrict data as it’s needed in the field. Documentation and support: Your team is bound to run into questions from time to time when using a no code app platform, regardless of how experienced they are. This is true even on intuitive platforms like AppSheet. What AppSheet does a great job of is offering assistance when it’s needed. AppSheet offers comprehensive documentation, and even a special user community where members can post questions and receive answers. What’s more, the AppSheet team takes a unique approach to customer service. Their technicians and engineers will not hesitate to get on the phone and walk you through problems when they need to, and they always have a great attitude. So my advice is to steer clear of solutions that lack comprehensive support. Error notification: Another feature that AppSheet offers is a robust error notification system. If you make a mistake when entering an expression, the platform will notify you about the issue in bold red letters. Plus, it will tell you where the error is occurring so you can go back in and fix it quickly. So take my advice: AppSheet is without question the no code app platform that you should be using in your organization. It’s reliable, flexible and scalable, and will allow you to run expressions that you wouldn’t be able to in most other applications. Make sure to check back soon, too, as our next article will provide an overview of the major differences between AppSheet and Microsoft PowerApps. We’ve pulled together a number of resources that will help you make your first app, regardless of the app making platform you choose (we like to think that our platform is the best but leave the final decision up to you). If you’re a new app creator about to embark on your first custom app, this page is for you!

What are citizen developers?

In 2009, Apple ran a series of commercials that put the phrase “There’s an app for that” in the minds of millions of Americans. Almost a decade later, there are even more apps that do even more specific tasks. But while there are apps that can tell you in a pirate’s voice where you parked or prevent you from drunk-dialing an ex, many need apps that are so specific and customized that they have to develop them. This is particularly true with departments or teams operating inside of a business or organization. What are citizen developers? Plenty of computer whizzes are fluent in a number of programming languages and can develop a custom app that can help increase efficiencies in a supply chain or help a project management team rein in a complex project. But increasingly, the trend is turning towards citizen development to create these apps. A citizen developer is someone who doesn’t necessarily know any programming languages and who might not even have a background in computers, but who nonetheless can piece together an app or a website that traditionally required specialized coding knowledge. Virtually anyone can become a citizen developer. For example, people who create their own website though Squarespace or Wix are citizen developers. When you set up a page through WordPress or Tumblr you’re a citizen developer. Similarly, AppSheet allows people with no specialized knowledge to create their own apps. With a spreadsheet and an idea you can become a citizen developer and create an app to suit your unique business needs. Why kind of apps are they creating? Who’s developing and using these custom apps? AppSheet data shows that users come from all sectors of the economy, which is evident by looking through some of the sample apps on their website. As far as what industries use AppSheet the most, the top two are Education (12.4% of total users) and Non-Profit (15.2%). Other major industries include Business Services, Construction, Medical, Technology, Manufacutring, Retail and Transportation. Within these various industries, AppSheet app creators come from almost every department (see more details in the pie chart below). We hate to bog you down with all these numbers, but they are proof that virtually anyone with a need for an app can create one to suit their unique business needs. More than 12,000 people are using AppSheet apps daily, with time-on-app averaging between 15 and 20 minutes a day. This proves that not only can you create customized apps, but that people will use your apps. You’ve probably spent some time customizing your Facebook page or Twitter handle. Creating your own app is only slightly more complicated, but much more useful! More about Citizen Developer and AppSheet App Creators: The AppSheet Manifesto Part 2: No-Code Is "Know"-Code The Wand Chooses the Wizard: the Appsheet Customer Definition


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