How useful are DIY tools for businesses looking to create an app?

The development of these new app building tools can be seen as quite exciting as they open up the possibility for people to get a little creative and make their own apps. However, in terms of using these tools within a business, it’s extremely important to think carefully about whether this is the best way to create an app that will deliver the required results and will represent the company in the best light. Taking this approach and being able to make it work for the business will depend on a number of factors.

For example, it is advisable to give some thought about what type of business you are. Many of these tools are targeted at small businesses, clubs, restaurants and cafes, the education sector and not for profit organisations that may not be looking to invest large amounts of money on app development.

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Larger organisations are unlikely to be interested in using these services when seeking to build apps that deliver particular functions and these tools are not suitable for meeting advanced briefs. This type of technology cannot be tailored to meet specific requirements and usually offer a one-size-fits-all approach.

So the next thing to ask is whether this technology will be able to meet your needs. What function does the app need to carry out? In most cases, a good responsive website can do everything that and online app tool can do so it’s important to focus on creating the best possible website first before looking to development an app.

And before going ahead with building an app, you need to consider how a self-built app will help to improve or enhance the consumer’s experience. To do this you need to think about how customers are interacting with your business at the present and then look at how the app would fit in with this. You may find that developing an app will not bring the results that you are looking for, but instead that time might be better spent on social media engagement or improving your existing website, for example.

I would suggest testing out some of the apps that are listed as case studies by the service providers and consider whether the examples would be something you’d be happy to associate your brand with.

You also need to be aware of the restrictions that may be imposed in regards to creativity and innovation. With this type of technology, the end result is unlikely to be on the same level as an app that has been created using more advanced tools and services. You may even notice that the app is similar in design to other apps that have been created using these tools – and this may include being similar to your competitors apps too.

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Further to this, if you decide to leave the platform or change supplier then you’ll lose what you’ve created and have to start all over again. In addition, users of these services will only be able to achieve ‘lite integration’, so you could struggle when trying to integrate the app into existing business systems.

It’s important not to forget that these services don’t tend to be immune to the challenges of app development. By using this type of tool, you are working with a layer of technology that sits between the mobile operating system (Android or iOS, for example) and your app.

For this reason, any defects in a service provider’s technology will be seen in your app, which can leave you vulnerable to flaws and reputational issues. In addition, any delays to the supplier updating their technology to new versions of the mobile operating system – iOS updates, for example – will affect your app.

My view is that this type of app development tool is only suitable for small independent businesses, clubs, restaurants, that don’t have the requirements of larger businesses and corporates.

Saying this, I can see some value in the educational benefits these tools will provide. I’m all for new audiences being introduced to mobile development and prototyping. However, it would be great to see some of the providers demonstrate some real success stories.

For businesses really vested in developing an app, I would still question why they would use a platform which will lead to an end result which has very limited functionality. Businesses might be best focusing their efforts on good social networking engagement and their websites instead.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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