Building your own apps is easier than you think
Anyone can build professional-quality apps that promote business agility and productivity. Examples might include scenarios where HR staff members want to automate a holiday request workflow, sales managers need to collect and visualise pipeline data in a graphical dashboard, plant supervisors want to create an app to find colleagues, or teachers want to capture information about students’ reading levels.
An integral part of digital transformation for any workplace, app building software is part of a movement where citizen developers create the apps they need to solve specific business problems. Low-code development doesn’t require traditional hand-coding, because it employs a graphical user interface instead of programming. For example, you can draw a flow chart and the coding occurs in the background.
And with access to advanced features such as prebuilt AI components, business users can create professional-level apps that were previously the responsibility of IT developers. App building software also offers quick setup and deployment capabilities. Thanks to preloaded templates and simple, plentiful data connectors, application development is drag-and-drop simple.
Why build business apps?
Building your own business apps is a smart way to create tailor-made solutions for your business that do what you need, the way you need it. Creating your own apps can help your business accelerate digital transformation, embrace digital technologies, and get things done more efficiently.
In general, low-code business apps work best when there’s a specific gap that a business user or department experiences for which there’s no existing solution. Because your business users are closest to their unique situations, they have the best ideas about how to fix them.
Common reasons why citizen developers build business apps include needing to:
- Manage data, collect real-time data, or bring data together.
- Help overworked IT staff keep up with development requests.
- Automate manual administrative processes.
- Organise events.
- Manage employee work schedules.
- Empower frontline workers with access to corporate systems and data.
- Track sales stock.
- Streamline employee onboarding.
- Add new features to existing solutions.
- Improve marketing content.
- Generate and manage sales invoices.
- Schedule deliveries.
- Improve fleet management.
As these examples suggest, business processes that are structured and consistent lend themselves well to automation with low-code business apps. These include data-driven apps where users fill out forms or an app that automates a common business process.
Conversely, complex applications that have many different functions with multiple APIs from external entities aren’t desirable choices for low-code app building software.
The business benefits of using app building software
Making your own apps gives your business a smart way to transform, innovate, and stand out among your competition. Benefits that businesses gain when they create their own solutions using app building software include:
- Empowering employees. Increasing the number of employees who can participate in the app building process increases the volume of new business apps, and more apps mean more benefits.
- Speeding app creation. Traditional software development is time-consuming. The traditional IT process of submitting requests, waiting for approval, designing, prototyping, troubleshooting, and deployment can discourage business users from even trying to fix business problems. However, when citizen developers use low-code app building software, they quickly deliver solutions to the business. Low-code development platforms remove many time-consuming steps from the traditional development cycle and replace them with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.
- Boosting business agility. With more business users quickly creating innovative digital apps and solutions, your organisation can adjust to dynamic market conditions faster.
- Accelerating digital transformation. Citizen developers who use low-code app building software often focus on automating their business processes. This plays a huge role in accelerating digital transformation in the workplace.
- Reducing under-the-radar application development. Low-code application development solutions provide an alternative to unsanctioned business app creation, which can be difficult for your company to monitor and can jeopardize data security. With app building software, employees follow best practices and avoid common pitfalls.
- Reducing development costs. Traditional software development requires expensive, highly trained employees. These resources are best used for complex business requirements. Citizen developers use low-code solutions to focus on workday problems with quick fixes at low cost. Developing more applications in-house also eliminates supplier licence costs.
Before getting started, here are a few things to think about:
- Customisation can be more limited when you work with app building software than if you build an app the traditional way. If you have many ideas that you want to implement or hope to combine features in unique ways, low-code application development might not take you as far as you want.
- Never think of security after the fact. Authenticating your application and authorising what users can access is an important part of application security. Make sure that you use a low-code development platform that has built-in application-level security features.
How to build apps
Every good app begins with an idea. Whether you decide to loop in a developer to build your app the traditional way or you opt to use a low-code platform, you should define your app’s purpose before building it. You might be tempted to add lots of features and capabilities to your app, but simpler really is better. Every app should do one thing well—so start small and build from there.
Follow these general guidelines for successful app building:
- Define your app’s target users. Do some research. Ask your colleagues if they have the same problem that you’re experiencing and explore their ideas for solving the issue.
- Describe key features in relation to how they help accomplish your app’s goal. Ask yourself if any features can be removed. Your goal is to launch the minimal viable prototype of your app with only the most crucial features.
- Build your app for the device your target users have. Not all apps work across all form factors, so before you get started, decide whether to create your app for desktop computer, tablet, or mobile phone users.
- Give your app an intuitive, thoughtful name and choose a template—a customisable prebuilt application framework.
- Determine the environment for your app. Developers use an environment to set the stage—they can build, tweak, or test an application without worrying that end users will see it. Choose an environment with features that support writing code fast, troubleshooting, and collaboration between developers.
- Standardise naming conventions for app inputs. Implementing a standard approach to naming helps developers work consistently, and it will save time if they must edit or troubleshoot the app later.
- Choose your data source and decide what data you need and how it will be organised, accessed, and stored. You can also choose to join several different data sources. App building software comes with a data platform that you’ll use to store and model business data.
- Test the app with your intended users. Ask some of your audience to use the app and compile their feedback. Users are key in discovering new ways to improve, expand, or tweak what you’ve built.
- Deploy and refine your app. Listen to your colleagues’ feedback and fine-tune your original ideas.
When you decide it’s time to build your own apps, choosing the right software for your needs is key. Understanding the problems that you want to solve—with some sense of how you want to solve them and who will be solving them—can simplify the decision.
Compare different software and identify which ones offer the kinds of tools you think you’ll need. Consider which solutions fit with the skills that your team already has or could learn quickly and ask yourself which solutions offer the kind of experience that your team needs. There’s plenty of app building software on the market, so make sure you’re investing in one that can help you build the apps that you envision.
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