Have you ever wanted a custom app for a particular business purpose but didn't have the programming expertise or resources to develop it? Here's a rundown on three easy app makers requiring little or no coding.
As mentioned in INTHEBLACK’s September 2019 Tech Talk, some cloud platforms such as Google G Suite, Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce offer no-code or low-code tools to help you build your own apps.
While there’s typically a learning curve to get up and running with these tools, it’s nowhere near as long as learning a programming language from scratch. For businesses, it could mean not having to hire a programming specialist or firm.
Here’s a rundown on some of the no-code or low-code tools available.
Google App Maker
Google App Maker is included with G Suite Business, Enterprise and Education editions. It offers a drag-and-drop interface for building apps that use Google-based services and data.
For example, App Maker allows you to build apps that can access files in Google Drive, send emails, create and add content to Google Docs, access and update Google Sheets data, read and write data in Google Calendar, embed web content such as YouTube videos, and more. More advanced features include a scripting language and the ability to leverage Google Cloud Platform SQL databases.
It offers a variety of templates, including apps for project tracking, document approval, travel approval, employee training, and more.
Microsoft PowerApps and flow
Microsoft offers two low-code tools for Office 365 business subscribers: PowerApps and Flow, which allow you to easily build apps and automated workflows.
PowerApps offers a point-and-click approach to app design, and the ability to use Excel-like expressions to add logic. It includes a wide variety of templates and sample apps to get you started, such as expenses tracking, help desk management and cost estimation. It also has more advanced features, such as developer tools and the ability to build artificial intelligence (AI) into your apps.
As you’d expect, PowerApps can use data from Microsoft applications such as Excel, OneDrive and Dynamics 365, but it also offers “connectors” to 200 other data sources, ranging from Slack to Azure cloud services. When completed, you can set up your app to run in a web browser and on iOS, Android and Windows 10.
Alternatively, Microsoft Flow allows you to turn repetitive tasks into automated, multi-step workflows between more than 270 applications and services. For example, Flow will allow you to capture tweets and add them as leads in Dynamics 365, streamline staff leave requests via SharePoint, or receive a weekly summary of Salesforce opportunities. It comes with a wide range of pre-built “flows” to help get you started.
Zoho offers a wide variety of cloud business apps, ranging from email to customer relationship management. Zoho Creator allows you to use data from those apps to build your own custom apps. It also integrates with several third-party applications and services, including Google G Suite, QuickBooks and PayPal.
Zoho Creator’s drag-and-drop interface makes it relatively easy to build dashboards and forms. It also offers over 50 pre-built business apps, including event apps, which allow you to manage event, logistics, sales, business travel and employee leave management tools.
Its apps are mobile-friendly, and you can customise separate layouts, actions and gestures for smartphones and tablets. You can also control what various users see and do based on a hierarchy of permissions or the user’s location. For further customisation, you can use Zoho Creator’s scripting language.
Other low-cost tools
There are plenty of other options, too:
Salesforce Platform: If you use the popular customer relationship management system, Salesforce’s low-code tools allow you to build custom apps that can include AI and connect with the company’s various cloud services.
Independent low-code platforms: The likes of Appian, Mendix, OutSystems and Quick Base allow you to build sophisticated enterprise-grade apps that can connect with a wide range of third-party applications and data sources.
Cloud automation platforms: If your needs are simpler and you don’t need to build a full app, Zapier offers a point-and-click interface that allows you to automate processes. It integrates with more than 1500 cloud apps. IFTTT is possibly even simpler. It lets you create “if this, then that” automated processes that can connect to more than 630 apps and devices, including smart speakers and home automation devices.
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