Handy code-free mobile app development resources for small businesses

Handy code-free mobile app development resources for small businesses

Summary: If your company wants to write a smartphone or tablet application, it should consider these do-it-yourself options notable for their simplicity.


This post was updated Aug. 7, to add two additional resources for do-it-yourself mobile applications development: Apptive and MobileX Labs.


Many small businesses still shrug off the idea of creating a mobile app but the case for doing so continues to become stronger, not just when it comes to engaging more effectively with customers but for empowering employees.

I wrote about one example of the latter scenario last month: Ski and board shop Mount Everest in Westwood, N.J., created a mobile app to extend its LightSpeed point-of-sale (POS) solution so that the sales team is alerted when priority orders arrive. Its app helps the retailer boost credibility with certain search engines by responding more quickly. "This was essentially the only way to play. We wouldn't be able to do what we are doing without it," said Ryan McGarry, manager of e-commerce operations for the retailer. 

I mentioned two similar examples involving FileMaker late last year. One is eco-friendly pet manufacturing company West Paw Design, which created an iPad app for its warehouse and inventory workers to eliminate paperwork and speed processes based on real-time information. "They can make autonomous decisions about what to produce for the customer," said Spencer William, founder of the company.

As more people become familiar with mobile apps, this trend will only continue, and it's a pretty good bet that this will accelerate dramatically over the next three years, if you consider ongoing data collected by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

According to one of its findings, as of mid-to-late 2013, more than 50 percent of those surveyed by Pew Research had downloaded at least one mobile app. Yes, that's only half of the respondent base, but it's double the percent of smartphone and tablet users who were doing so just a few years ago. The percentage is very generationally dependent: It was a whopping 77 percent with those younger than 30 years old, slipping to 59 percent among those from 30 to 49, and 33 percent of those 50 to 64 years old.

Still, it's not all that hard to envision a scenario just five years from now in which mobile applications represent a dominant way in which to "transact" with their customers — whether that transaction means an actual purchase or whether a mobile application is a conduit for an appointment, an order, customer service, whatever.

Should your small business use some sort of mobile application to reach out to customers or rethink certain business processes internally? My past blogs about mobile application development resources for those interested in taking on that challenge still generate credible readership traffic, so it seemed like a reasonable juncture to update the list that I first started assembling in April 2012. 

Those of you who HAVE looked at that resource in the past will know that I'm keeping my eye out ONLY for those sites, services or solutions that can be used quickly by members of your own team who aren't necessarily tech-savvy. This list DOES NOT include professional toolkit or enterprise mobile development platforms that require someone with a programming degree. Nor does it include service bureaus that provide custom design or development. The focus is on do-it-yourself (DIY) resources that allow mobile apps to be assembled quickly.

Here's my original list, plus a few additional resources, circa April 2014. As before, these resources are listed alphabetically.

  • AppInstitute (Android, Apple iOS; free for self-service platform, the company sells development services) — If you're based in the United Kingdom, AppInstitute offers a free self-service platform for creating simple mobile apps for commerce, location information, directories and many other purposes. This is essentially the company's introduction to its extensive mobile app development services.
  • Application Craft (HTML 5; starts at $14 per month) — The focus of this development service is one-click application deployment, turning HTML, CSS and JavaScript into mobile applications. You can try it out for free for 45 days. One of the reference customers for this approach is Coca-Cola.
  • Appmakr, now part of Infinite Monkeys (Apple iOS, Windows Phone, Android; paid plans start at $9 per month plus a $199 one-time fee for self-publishing capabilities) — If you're looking for simplicity, this barebones development service lets you build a native Android app plus HTML5 mobile web site for free, if you allow in-app advertising. The service includes analytics, along with RSS and push services to help you market your mobile app when it's finished.
  • AppNotch (Android, Apple iOS, HTML5; paid plans start at $18 per month) — This service includes a prototyping option for mocking up your mobile applications before committing too deeply. It offers a wide variety of templates and there is a 30-day trial period.
  • App Press (Android, Apple iOS; entry-level plan starts at $30 per month) — This four-year-old cloud-hosted development platform was designed with image in mind: the focus is on helping small businesses create highly visual mobile apps. One notable feature is an instant preview function. The entry plan includes 10 gigabytes (GB) of storage, 5GB of bandwidth and up to two projects.
  • AppsBuilder (Android, Apple iOS and HTML5 Web; pricing starts at approximately $13 per month, depending on euro exchange rate) — "You imagine it, we build it" is the slogan of this mobile apps design platform. Among other things, the platform supports the inclusion of QR codes. AppsBuilder has been used to create more than 500,000 apps so far. 
  • Apptive (Android, Apple iOS; $9.99 per month) — If your specific intention is to create a mobile commerce application, this is one service to consider. It integrates with major e-commerce platforms including BigCommerce, Shopify and Volusion.
  • AppyPie (HTML5 apps for Android, Apple iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry; pricing starts at $7 per month for single app support on Android) — This platform can be used for a variety of different sorts of apps, including games, or to create coupons for Passbook. Among its many features, AppyPie boasts integration with photo gallery services from Instagram, Flickr and Picasa. 
  • Attendify (Android, Apple iOS, HTML5; starts at $399 per year per event) — The specific focus of this development platform is to support companies that run events, and that want to create mobile apps with schedules and content to support them. It also offers features meant to encourage attendee engagement, such as an activity feed or messaging.
  • Bizness Apps (Android, Apple iOS; $59 per month for native app) — The platform contains specialized templates for small businesses including bars, restaurants, lawyers and realtors. You can customize the design, though, and get an online preview as you move along. The service includes a free mobile web site.
  • BuildAnApp (Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile; starts at $19 per month depending on platform) — The company has created a six-step process for building either mobile native apps or one that can be viewed with a mobile web browser. It offers a feature that lets your visitors "click to call" from within the app.
  • Como (Amazon Kindle Fire, Android, Apple iOS, HTML5; free for up to 50 downloads, pricing starts at $33 per month billed annually) — This mobile app platform from Conduit "powers" more than 600,000 mobile apps worldwide. It was updated (and rebranded) in May 2014 to support in-app mobile payments and online ordering, among other features. The paid pricing includes submissions to the Apple, Android and Amazon app stores.
  • Huzzah Media, formerly AppExpress (Android, Apple iOS, HTML5; pricing is $65 per month for a native mobile app) — This platform supports development of mobile apps for appointment scheduling, handling invoicing and accepting payments, messaging and marketing with coupons (among other things). You can also use it to create a mobile web site.
  • iBuildApp (Android, Apple iOS; pricing starts at $9.99 per month) — More than 450,00 mobile apps have been created with this rapid development platform over the past two years. All plans include analytics, and the company also highlights its management capabilities, which easily accommodate updates. 
  • Infinite Monkeys (Android, Apple iOS; pricing starts at $12 per month for a native mobile app plus HTML5 Web site) — This is the sister service to Appmakr, which it acquired last year. It focuses mainly on social or "fan" apps that help restaurants, retailers, organizations and individuals build apps that have a social twist to them. The company runs an Android marketplace where it features apps built on its platform.
  • JoeMobi (Android, BlackBerry, Apple iOS, Windows 8; $1,499 for a one-year commitment that covers native apps for all of these platforms) — The platform is a plug-in for WordPress that transforms sites or blogs into basic mobile apps.
  • Magmito (Cross-platform; $9.99 per month to keep app active up to one year plus $99.99 for unlimited updates) — Supported by Sprint and Telefonica, the service is aimed at helping small businesses create mobile apps that can include text, images, RSS feeds, feedback forms and click-to-call features. This is meant for temporary apps, or those with a shelf life.
  • Mippin App Factory (Android, Apple iOS, HMTL5, Windows Phone; $99 for an app pack that include an HTML5 iPhone app, native Android app and mobile Web site, $999 per app per year for native versions) — The platform lets content owners pull together mobile applications quickly using RSS feeds, either in a cross-platform format or one optimized for native platforms. 
  • MobBase (Android, Apple iOS, HTML5; prices start at $5 per month for mobile web version or $20 per month for a native app, along with a set-up fee that varies depending on the platform) — The specific focus of this tool is to help companies or individuals reach their mobile fanbase, so the focus is on media and content within the application templates.
  • Mobile Roadie (Android, Apple iOS; $125 per month) — This service boasts a number of familiar brands (and individuals) as customers, including the NFL, Cirque du Soleil and Adele. The focus is on letting virtually anyone assemble a mobile app and extend their identity to a mobile web site. The differentiator is the ability to update often and quickly.
  • MobileAppLoader (Android, Apple iOS; depending on whether you want to publish for more than one platform and the support your team needs, pricing starts at $5.99 plus set-up fees) — This offering includes all sorts of templates for the needs of small businesses — it supports everything from car dealerships to contractors to restaurants to hair salons. Those templates translate into speed of development, although the features are limited.
  • MobileX Labs Build (Android, Apple iOS; service is being tested in a private beta program) — One reason to watch this company is that it is backed by serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban. The company is divided into three divisions: one that develops games (5 million downloads and counting), one that builds apps, and another that does custom work. It received $1.5 million in seed funding after generating $1.5 million in revenue since its start-up.
  • Orbose (Android, Apple iOS; published pricing for businesses is about $40 per month) — The company behind this offering, Enigma Systems, promises a big reduction in development time for those who don't have any programming knowledge. The platform supports development of apps that can accommodate push notifications, appointment scheduling, payment processing and social media plug-ins.
  • Shoutem (Android, Apple iOS, HTML5; pricing starts at $19.90 per month for an HTML5 app) — The platform is a spin-off of a larger development company, Shoutem, focused on mobile application development. It is meant for small businesses that want to publish an ongoing stream of content and information to a mobile app. You need the advanced version, priced at $49 per month, to go native.
  • ViziApps (Android, Apple iOS, HTML5; starts at $99 per month plus publishing fee of $395 per month for up to five apps) — The focus is on mobile apps for front-end business processes, such as accident reporting or retail management. One thing that differentiates this platform is its support for lots of different back-end data sources. The company figures it takes about one week for a small businesses to develop a well-planned mobile app; updates are free under the service plans.
  • Windows Phone App Studio — If your company's preferred platform is Windows, Microsoft is beta-testing this drag-and-drop development resource that includes templates and designs for its mobile platform.
  • Wix — For small businesses that already use the web publishing resources of Wix.com, the developer last month acquired code-free mobile app development platform Appixia. The focus of the platform, currently in transition, is on creating mobile commerce apps. 

Topics: Apps, Mobility, Security, Wi-Fi, SMBs

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  • Reviews

    Thanks for the nice read. Selling anything takes knowledge and dedication, but online is tough too. When I want to get info on getting an edge, I go to http://www.seosack.com and read their reviews for the good and the bad. Hope this helps.

  • Weever Apps

    There's also Weever Apps. They offer a free service that lets you turn your WordPress or Joomla site into mobile app in under 5 minutes.

    • mobile apps development company in india

      mobile app development india, mobile app development delhi, mobile application development delhi, mobile application development companies in delhi ncr, best top 10 iphone and android app development companies.
      Refer www.i-softnc.com
  • MobileAppLoader.com - Most Features, Most Affordable, Easiest 2 Build & Use

    MobileAppLoader.com is a DIY mobile app builder that has uploaded more than 1,150 native Apps to the app stores (Apple and Android). We build highly branded, NATIVE apps for businesses that use mobile marketing to boost loyalty, visibility and revenue. Our customers love us because we are easy to use - easy for them AND easy for their customers. Our apps are intuitive and our suite of features is rich: Push Notifications, QR Code and VIN scanners, Chat, Appointment Scheduling, Links to Inventory and Social Networking Sites. Our prices -- the best -- for a FULL-FEATURED app for small businesses start at: $199.99 (one-time setup fee) and $14.99 per month. Check out how businesses use our Apps: http://mobileapploader.wordpress.com/
    ... and visit our web site at: www.MobileAppLoader.com
  • I have used the Red Foundry app tool to build a marketing app

    Thanks for the article and list of app tools. I have used an app tool from www.redfoundry.com to build an app that provides ???marketing coaching??? for tech entrepreneurs, and small businesses. Here is a link to the app http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/marketissimo-marketing-ideas/id437978001?mt=8

    What I liked about Red Foundry was that it was pretty easy for a non-programmer to build an app that works on both, iPhone and iPad.

  • I've used LiveCode to build a Fitness app

    I've used LiveCode to build a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) timer app, Flat Out Fitness (http://www.flatoutfitness.com).

    LiveCode has a great community, development environment, and English-like scripting language.
    The Grubbery
  • Appshikra

    Appshikra is another tool where businesses can create mobile apps in simple 4 steps.

    • Work at home special report.........www.Works23.us

      Start working from home! Great job for students, stay-at-home moms or anyone needing an extra income... You only need a computer and a reliable internet connection... Make $90 hourly and up to $12000 a month by following link at the bottom and signing up... You can have your first check by the end of this week­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­......................http://x.co/5CSb6
      • Is that all?

        Who can live on $90 per hour these days? You should promise $900 per hour. Wouldn't that be exciting?
        Producto Endorsair
  • Add AppsGeyser to the list, too.

    AppsGeyser takes any web content - URL, JavaScript, HTML code, and turns it into a native Android App. It works beautifully for turning mobile websites into apps. There's even a WordPress plugin.

    Leah Goodman
    Content & Community Manager
  • AppNotch

    We recently launched http://www.AppNotch.com a 100% pure cloud based do-it-yourself online html5 mobile website and app builder for Android. iPhone is coming soon. The service is 100% free.

  • If you want an app that connects to SharePoint data...

    Check out Formotus. Custom apps without coding that Work offline on iPad, iPhone and Android, collect data such as photos and signatures, and submit to any SharePoint including Office 365.


    -Formotus Glen
    Formotus Glen
  • Everything comes at a cost

    We have clients come to us after using these quick-fix products and the story seems to be the same time and time again. I appreciate that the more tools there are, the more choices businesses have (especially when on a tight budget) but I cannot stress enough how much damage you can do to your brand by releasing a poorly created app. The companies mentioned above, and also in the comments, whilst appearing to be a cost effective solution for the budget-conscious in fact end up costing businesses more both in terms of the final cost in having a more tailored app created but also in the brand re-building that inevitably comes after launching a simple automatically-created app.

    The myth that software development is expensive is perpetuated by those wishing to cash in on the businesses who need such services, blinding them to the damage that taking a cheap route can cause.

    Everything comes at a cost, even if it's not obvious at first.
    • Amen!

      I couldn't have said it better myself. If you can't afford a real app, you're probably going to do yourself a favor and waiting until you do. If you use a cheap automated solution, it will look cheap. Not exactly what you want for your business image.
  • Add JoeMobi to the list!

    We're a WordPress-to-app creation tool that integrates many of the same features - push notifications, monetization, WordPress support. But we're also the only solution that offers native BlackBerry applications. For some markets, BlackBerry is still a hugely popular platform.

    As others above have mentioned, these one-size-fits-all don't fit all situations. We realize this, and also offer various levels of custom development too.

    Really, it comes down to the business doing their research and finding a solution that works with both their current needs and future growth plans.
  • Having Trouble With Developing

    Very few of your competitors are using the new mobile web technology. Get in now and start leading the pack. If your company does not have a mobile presence, you risk losing ground to your competition that do. You also risk failing to connect with users, and miss out on opportunities to extend and strengthen your brand. But here is a team that offers quality mobile web app development. http://gomobile.searchbarbadosonline.com/
  • App Builder

    Very nice post and very informative..i agree with you we have got many resources for apps building and they are doing great job.Apart from this they provide us with online app builder which creates new app without knowing any programming skills.Thanks for them because with the increasing demand of iphones there is also increase in demand of iphone apps.
  • Mobile Application Development

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful resource. I totally agree with your post that mobile application development is a great resource for small businesses and it also offers various advantages.
    Cheryl Ray
  • Infinite Monkeys DIY Mobile Apps Builder is Easiet and userfriendly

    All the above mention DIY mobile apps builder tools like Apps Maker, Shoutem are good tools. But I found http://www.infinitemonkeys.mobi/ the most easiest one and user friendly as no coding requires, just simply drag and drop functionality
  • Mobile Marketing Forensic - custom-made Apps or Cookie Cutters?

    While I see the benefit(s) of DIY as a major advantage to those MBSs that want to jump in to the market with simplefied mobile apps, I also stress the importance of getting to know your clients. I agree with the above comment when it comes to repeat business and reputation. If YOU plan in being in the Mobile App building business for a longtime,,, Quality is your key to your success. http://mobilemarketingforensic.com