You run a small business with an ace website. But more and more consumers are accessing the web on mobile devices, so it's critical that your company have an app, as well. The cheapest way to get one: DIY app development. Just as Squarespace and GoDaddy have made it easy to build your own website, there are app builders that don't require a computer science degree or coding know-how. And you'll save a bundle compared with hiring a developer, although there are usually monthly fees and ads within the cheapest apps. Cheapism.com has identified five tools for building an app quickly and easily at very little cost. We made our selections based on price and user-friendliness for the layperson.
Appy Pie (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows 8, BlackBerry).
Appy Pie uses a simple drag-and-drop process. Among the business types you can choose are restaurant, merchant, and veterinarian. Features include social-profile integration, blog and website integration, GPS tracking, photo-gallery integration, appointment schedulers, event listings, shopping cart, menu builder, and live streaming. The cost depends on the desired functions: a simple HTML5 or Android app containing ads is free; $25 a month eliminates the ads and provides support for the Apple platform, real-time revisions and updates, use of most of the features, push notifications, and more; $40 a month additionally integrates with Amazon, Windows, and BlackBerry and removes Appy Pie branding in favor of your own.
Apptive (iOS, Android).
This DIY app maker is aimed exclusively at mobile commerce, drawing on businesses' websites to offer users a catalog of products. You can upload your logo, backgrounds, and other branding elements to make the app consistent with your site. The splash screen and any content can be customized. As with other app builders, a drag-and-drop interface creates the features you want, although Apptive is less feature-rich. Three pricing plans differ primarily in the quantity of products shown in your catalog. The basic plan costs $29 a month for 1,000 items; the standard plan goes for $69 a month with 10,000 items; and the pro version, at $149 a month, allows up to 30,000 items, optimizes the app for iPad, and enables automatic syncing with your website.
Bizness Apps (iOS, Android, HTML5).
A user-friendly content management system is the highlight of this feature-rich app maker. Bizness Apps is suitable for a variety of businesses, including nonprofits, law offices, real estate agents, and bands. Features include GPS, social media integration, reservations, podcasts and other music players, video, photos, newsfeeds, event listings, images, and so on. DIY types can choose between two packages: $29 a month buys a mobile website with maps, click-to-call, and multimedia content; $59 a month offers native apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android and the ability to use food ordering, shopping cart, loyalty program, and push notification features. If the thought of building your own app is too scary, Bizness Apps will take charge for $2,000.
Como (Android, iOS, Amazon).
Como starts with existing content from your website or blog and lets you customize with a wide variety of backgrounds and styles. There are set themes for restaurants, music, photography events, and nonprofits or you can create a theme of your own choosing based on a website or Facebook page. Other features include monetization, content sharing, business promotion, and analytics. Photo and music sharing, as well as video, are also supported. A $39 monthly subscription includes unlimited downloads and assistance submitting the app to Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Dwnld offers the fewest features among the app makers we researched. Essentially, you import content from your blog or website (or YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud, or several other sources), choose a theme, customize to your heart's content, and publish. That's it. Created by the developer of Pinterest, this unique app maker creates an iOS app with your own branding that covers unlimited hosting, submission to app stores, and software updates. The only available package is a basic one that creates native content for iOS phones and tablets; the site states that Android capability is on the way. Use of this app maker will set you back $15 a month.