When you are a developer newbie, the realistic start may seem more like a bumpy ride to build the next great app which is still far from a Silicon Valley story. What do you do then?
There are now tons of great low code or no-code development tools like drag and drop app builders that empower experts and people with little to no technical background to enter the digital market and transform it entirely.
What Are App-Builders?
An app builder (or app maker) is a digital product development platform used for creating screens or entire applications without coding or having to master specific programming skills. These tools are packed with a set of functionalities, eliminating the complexity behind building user interfaces and great UX.
Usually, they rely on a shared codebase and built-in development, testing, debugging, and deployment capabilities. Which can further reduce app development time by 80%, making the entire process faster, smoother, and more simplified, especially for industry newcomers.
What Is a Drag and Drop App-Builder?
The drag and drop app builder is a tool that enables rapid application development (RAD) of apps with the use of pre-built UI controls and pre-coded elements. They are easily dragged and positioned on a design canvas.
If you wanted to build an app 10 years ago, you either had to outsource your project and hire a costly dedicated development team or devote years to learning how to code. Luckily, the rising digital transformation results in progressive solutions like drag and drop app builders that allow pretty much anyone to create their own apps in a matter of minutes.
Such drag and drop UI Builders are ideal for:
- Power-users in a team like sales, marketing or IT need to build non-mission-critical apps for internal or external use.
- Development teams of any size that need to accelerate app delivery by removing the complexity of UI screen building with a drag & drop tool.
- Design teams that have completed UX designs that need to be turned into real app screens with app builders by importing vector designs.
- Start-ups that are churning a lot of code to deliver minimum viable product (MVP) and can’t spend the time and money on a long dev cycle and that need to quickly deliver completed app experiences.
It comes as no surprise that the adoption and introduction of new development tools fuel the demand for robust and quickly delivered software solutions. So, the market for automation software solutions is booming. According to the most recent “Drag & Drop App Builder Software Market Forecast to 2027 – COVID-19 Impact and Global Analysis by Type and Application, and Geography”, back in 2019, the global drag and drop app builder software market was estimated at US$ 790.39 million. Whereas now, it is expected to reach US$ 1.3 billion by 2027 and grow at a CAGR of 4.6% from 2020 to 2027. To put this into perspective, Gartner reports that 70% of application development activity will use a low-code tool by 2025.
With such a dramatic rise, drag and drop app builders are rapidly evolving. Today, the most sophisticated ones deliver a comprehensive set of functionalities on top of their basic options for reporting, testing, or debugging.
And here are the features that make drag and drop apps so great:
- Intuitive interface, rich layout system, and complete toolbox of UI components.
- WYSIWYG with drag and drop app design and construction.
- Complete iterative design, prototyping, user testing, and analytics.
- Point and click configurators for components.
- Multiple data source connection options including REST data sources.
- Limitless themes, pre-built typography, and color schemes.
- Single working environment, team communication, and co-editing.
- Push notifications and additional customization options.
- Real-time code preview and code generation.
- Import designs from popular vector design tools like Sketch and Adobe XD.
What Are the Advantages of a Drag and Drop App-Builder?
App UI Development Takes Minutes
With the ability to simply drag and drop UI controls, app builders make development 10x faster. You don’t have to write code for each component separately. Advanced products streamline the process further by delivering a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) experience in which the screen you create reflects the final result.
They Have an Easy-to-Learn User Interface
Most drag and drop app builders do not require a deep technical background or advanced programming skills in CSS or HTML to use them. They have an intuitive user interface, and every UI control is crafted in a way that makes the use straightforward.
Your Team Gets the Freedom to Experiment
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the drag and drop app builder development process is that you can try out different layouts, experiment with UI controls, and plan different user flow scenarios. There is no limit on the app logic or code changes. Everything you create remains synchronized.
You Can Get Feedback Sooner from Business and User-Testing
Once you’re done with your prototype, you can see how users interact with it. With some app builders, you can initiate user and usability testing, record the entire process, monitor the actual steps users take, get insights and analysis based on user data and user journeys.
From a business perspective, app makers lower app development costs by democratizing the app dev process, they help avoid technology churns, save time in the design and development phase, and can very quickly automate business workflows. Since most app builders are cloud-based, they promote scalability, data encryption, and broad accessibility.
What Are the Disadvantages?
So far so good, but there are certain drawbacks when it comes to developing an app or a website using drag and drop app builders.
There’s Little Room for Customization
If you want to impress end-users with a specific and unique feel and look, you might not be able to achieve it with some app makers. The components and styles are preset and most of them have a fit-them-all nature, do not support CSS or custom style properties.
They May Not Come With All the Features You Need
Another disadvantage is that some drag and drop tools have incomplete kits. They may include plenty of components, but not all tools supply you with exactly what you need.
Monthly Subscriptions Can Get Expensive
Some app builders have it all, from customizable features to functional layouts and instant code generation. But this comes at a certain price, which, for a newbie or a startup company, might be unaffordable.
What to Look For When Choosing an App-Builder for Your Project
Not all app builders are created the same, so be careful when choosing one. Before making your decision, consider the following key factors and questions:
- Analyze the learning curve and how your skills and know-how will let you adapt to the software.
- Look for a tool that fits your workflow and research how you can use it, what it is most suitable for, what problems it solves, and whether it has customer support.
- Check out the included features and customization options.
- Carefully check out the pricing plans and compare them to the capabilities the tool has.
Are App-Builders the Future of Line-of-Business Web and Mobile Development?
The future of app builders is more than promising. But don’t worry, they won’t wipe out the existence and the role of professional software engineers in web and mobile development. App Builders complement dev teams, accelerate app delivery, and help them tackle the never-ending backlog of apps they are tasked with delivering.
With the constantly changing digital and development landscape, these tools have no choice but to progress further and deliver more value to power users, software developers, and digital product teams. They will grow more complex, feature-rich, and competitive, and eventually will reduce the discussions on the amount of “real code” that often must be written afterward. Adopting these tools and technologies today will give you a leg up in the years to come as they become more mainstream in product teams of every size.