Drag-and-drop mobile app builders for SMBs

Ken Hardin spotlights several companies that offer cloud-based, drag-and-drop mobile app building tools, including Apps Builder and Applicasa.

There was a time when if a business wanted to create and publish even the most simplistic website, it had to call on those weird guys called developers who understood arcane languages called HTML and JavaScript. But then came Dreamweaver, Blogspot, and WordPress, and ultimately cloud-based website construction and hosting services that enable pretty much anybody to drag-and-drop their way to a credible Web presence.

And wouldn't you know it, it's happening again — this time with mobile apps.

CNET's Roger Cheng offers an extensive overview of a new wave of cloud-based DIY mobile app services, complete with case studies of small businesses and even a church that were able to create scheduling and publishing apps in just a few hours.

Firms like Didmo with its Magmito service, Apps Builder, Conduit Mobile (which was already in the cloud site builder market), and Tiggzi offer the complete suite of app tools, from management to DB layout to Content Management for the publishing layer. These services are the next step in a progression started by cloud backend services such as Applicasa (you can get a nice overview of this service from Jack Wallen on TechRepublic).

HTML5 is often used for Web-top iPhone apps, with export to Android and other platforms as an option. The services rely on jQuery or other drag-and-drop technologies for data mapping and UI creation. Most have a template library, such as the Magmito gallery you see in Figure A. Figure A

Magmito templates

Rates vary, but these services are clearly targeted for small business. Apps Builder, for example, starts at $19 for the most basic service per app, with a $49 option for network advertising support. Volume pricing is available for resellers who want to churn out applications using the toolset, and the services can shepherd an app through the app market approval process — for a fee.

A Didmo exec tells CNET that carriers are interested in distributing that company's app-building platform as part of a service level targeted for small business.

So there's another case where a mouse looks to replace coding. Of course, WordPress has not killed off developers — far from it, in fact; it's just added a new resume line for savvy coders and made it a little tougher to differentiate your work.

How do you think the emergence of cloud-based, drag-and-drop mobile app builders impact the market for truly innovative app designers?

Note: CNET and TechRepublic are CBS Interactive brands.


Ken Hardin is a freelance writer and business analyst with more than two decades in technology media and product development. Before founding his own consultancy, Clarity Answers LLC, Ken was a member of the start-up team and an executive with TechRe...

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