Apps have become extremely popular in the third decade of the 21st century. Not only just in the IT world but throughout various industries. Apps offer infinite use cases, starting from marketing to training. Several tech giants, such as Tiktok and Netflix, even have their business models centered on apps.
Formerly, suppose you want to build in-house apps for your business. You will need to hire full-time app developers or freelancers to create them from scratch and conduct continuing maintenance. The latter could cost 15-20 percent of the original development costs.
Because of this, a fully functional app could cost tens of thousands of dollars or even more, making it out of reach for most SMBs.
However, things have been changing in recent years. A big trend in the app industry is a shift towards no code. This means that businesses or individual users can build their mobile apps without writing a single line of code.
In other words, there are new tools or “no-code app builders” that not only smoothen the app development process but also cut app expenses (including maintenance) by 80% or even higher.
Thus, every individual and SMB can have fully functional apps of their own without paying those hefty fees.
Still, some of these app builders are easy to work with, while others are not. This blog post will assist in your selection by featuring only the best no-code app builders and pointing out the pros and cons of each. You can select the one that suits your preferences and budget and start creating mobile apps right away.
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Nevertheless, we always value integrity and prioritize our audience’s interests. You can rest assured that we will present each no-code app builder truthfully.
Things You Should Know
Web Apps vs. Native Apps
No-code platforms can be separated into two groups. Both of which will function very differently.
The first group assists users in developing web applications (or web apps.) These apps are accessible through the browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.). Thus, users can access it from any device without downloading and installing any software.
The second group allows users to create native apps (mobile apps downloadable from Apple App Store or Play Store). Therefore, users will need a mobile or tablet device to access and use them.
Web apps and mobile apps have their pros & cons. You need to conduct research to determine which is best for your business. If you are still unsure, I suggest reading this concise article to learn more about the concepts.
Below are the criteria for the best no-code app builders.
1. Bubble.io (Web Apps Only)
Bubble is a market leader among all other no-code platforms. With Bubble, you can create interactive, multi-purpose web apps for your business in no time.
Getting started with Bubble is straightforward. Once you log in, Bubble will provide you with the sets of tutorials.
All the lessons are easy-to-follow and interactive but contain all crucial information. Thus, you can grasp the basics of building apps with Bubble within minutes.
Alternatively, you can enroll in Jumpstart bootcamps, which costs $349 one-time. However, I think this is unnecessary since the tutorials are adequately informative.
You may skip the tutorial. However, this is not recommended, especially if you have no technical knowledge, since the visual app builder will refer to some technical terms that can be highly confusing. I thus suggest that everyone complete the entire tutorial.
The next step is to outline the app structure. You need to elaborate on the purpose of your app (landing pages, marketplace, social network, etc.) and other goals.
Within a few seconds, Bubble will put forward a blueprint for your mobile app, along with a New Application Assistant and a UI tour that will provide additional recommendations to help you get started.
The blueprint is indeed professional-looking and modern. However, if you are unsatisfied with it, you can go back to the previous step to repeat the process or select one from 800+ pre-build app templates, or even start with a blank page.
Below are some of the ready-made templates that you can use at will.
Subsequently, this is where the fun begins. You will edit the app appearance through the visual builder. You can add, upload, or remove the content, along with changing the color & font and modifying other design elements with ease.
Furthermore, you can also add more features to your web app. This will be done by installing plugins (in a similar manner to WordPress.)
Just select the plugin that offers functionalities you need (such as payment, SEO, email) and click “Done” to install. Currently, Bubble has more than 800 plugins. Thus, I think you can add every feature you need.
It is crucial to note that not all plugins are free. Prepare to pay a recurring or a one-time fee for some plugins. However, I found out that most are inexpensive ($50 one-time or $5 per month). Therefore, I don’t think this will be an issue.
Once you have completed the entire process, click “preview” to test the app and finally click “Deploy Current Version to Live” to deploy the app under the selected domain.
Generally speaking, Bubble is an easy-to-use platform to create apps without writing a single line of code. However, its numerous features can be overwhelming for new users initially. You should then complete the tutorial before working on your new app.
Click the button below to view some apps built by Bubble or design your own now (a free account is available.)
Other Key Features and Functionalities
Below are some of the additional features and functionalities that Bubble offers to its users:
Responsive Design – Your app can hardly become popular if its appearance is not optimal on mobile devices.
However, all Bubble apps support responsive design, allowing your app to adapt to the user’s screen size automatically. Hence, the user interface will be top-notch across all devices.
User Management – Bubble supports every OAuth2.0 provider. Thus, your app users can log in with Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn. Alternatively, they can create an account and log in with passwords as well.
Collaboration Features – You can invite up to 40 colleagues to work on your app. You can customize permissions, restrict their access rights, view recent changes, and provide feedback in real-time.
Built-in Analytics – Bubble has a built-in Analytics feature to collect all of your data for further analysis. Hence, you don’t need third-party analytics software.
Complex Payment Models – Bubble supports all complex payment models so that you can implement any app monetization strategy, including subscriptions, third-party transactions, and many more.
Hosting Infrastructure – All Bubble apps will be powered by AWS cloud hosting infrastructure, which will ensure that your apps are fast and stable at all times.
Furthermore, you do not need to pay hosting fees or handle technical issues because Bubble’s technical support will be responsible for all the tasks.
Backup & Restore – Bubble provides the backup for the entire app, allowing you to restore your app at any time. Hence, your app will not suffer from data loss if an unfortunate event occurs.
Cloudflare Integration – If you want your apps to be used by people worldwide, your web app must load fast from every continent. This will not be an issue because Bubble offers Cloudflare integration for all apps. Therefore, users from Asia will enjoy the smooth user experience as US users.
Figma Integration – If your app designers have already created their prototypes on Figma, you can import and turn them into a fully functional app.
Currently, Bubble offers four pricing plans as follows:
- Starter – starting at $25 per month
- Growth – starting at $115 per month
- Team – starting at $475 per month
All plans provide access to all tools and features. The main difference thus lies in the allocated server resources (longer log retention, more workload units, etc.)
The Starter plan is unarguably the best plan to start with. It provides you with all key features and essential resources, which are more than enough for new startups and SMBs.
With the Growth plan, you will get more resources, 2FA for better security for your apps, and additional collaboration tools, which is absolutely helpful when you decide to scale up your project.
If your app becomes extremely popular, you can later upgrade to the Team plan or even dedicated solutions to keep up with the growth hassle-free.
Pros & Cons
- 100% No-code: Unarguably the best no-code app builder for web apps
- Offer various tools for users to get started in web app building, including a detailed tutorial, a user interface tour, a virtual assistant
- Modern, user-friendly platform
- 800+ plugins to add various functionalities to your app
- Powered by AWS, one of the best cloud infrastructures
- Cloudflare & Figma Integration + 100+ other native integrations and many more through Zapier
- Provide hands-off technical support
- Low entry price + unlimited apps for all plans
- Free account to try the service (no credit card required)
- High learning curve: its numerous features can be overwhelming for users with no web design/development experience.
- Technical support is only provided through email (no live chat or phone)
2. Glide (Web and Mobile Apps)
Glide functions differently from other counterparts. It is a top-notch platform that business owners can use to create both web and mobile apps from existing spreadsheets.
Therefore, Glide is optimal for creating dashboards, collections, portals, or directories to present data for further usage or analysis. You can then use Glide to develop apps for customer-facing and employee-facing tasks.
Whether it is a web or mobile app you want to create, it all starts with the spreadsheet. You can import the following data sources to Glide:
- Google Sheets
- Excel, CSV
- Redshift, Workday, and custom data sources
In my case, I want to create a mobile app (the process also works similarly for a web app). I first need to connect Glide to my Excel workbook and select a suitable file. Within less than a minute, the prototype will be ready.
The prototype will contain key user interfaces, screens, and menus that match your data. This will form the core structure of your app.
I found that all the imported items are in neat order, saving my time cleaning them.
However, you still need to add elements to the screens if you want your app to be more interactive and visually appealing. Currently, Glide offers dozens to choose from, including maps, images, audio, videos, charts, file & event pickers, and many more.
For instance, I decided to add a donut chart to my app so that it is easier to digest the data.
Once you have added all essential elements, the next step is to customize the user interface. You can change the font, color, and even the theme for the app to reflect your brand.
If you don’t want Glide to create an app from your data, you can also use pre-built templates tailored to specific tasks, such as expenses or directories. This will be beneficial if you don’t want to manually handle all the design stuff.
After completing these tasks, you can test whether the appearance is optimized for different screen sizes. However, this should not be an issue because of Glide’s responsive design.
Generally speaking, Glide is a solid no-code builder that can build both web and mobile apps for various use cases. The data visualization is also compelling and professional-looking. If you plan to build a data-heavy app, I think Glide is undoubtedly worth your consideration.
Regarding ease of use, Glide is easier to use than Bubble. You may not need a tutorial to use the platform. However, watching Glide’s well-made video guides can be extremely useful in smoothening your workflow.
Hosting and Technical Support – Like Bubble, Glide will provide users with hosting (for web apps) and technical support. Hence, you can ensure that your app is in good hands.
Currently, web apps (Glide Pages) and native mobile apps (Glide Apps) have a different pricing structures.
Below are the pricing plans for Glide Pages:
- Pro Page – $40 per month + $2 for an extra user seat of app developers
- Enterprise – Custom Pricing
The Pro Page plan allows unlimited visitors and data updates. However, this plan does have limits on the following:
- 10 GB of file storage
- 20 user seats of app developers
- 25000 data rows – You cannot import more than 25000 data rows from all data sources
- Unspecified number of signed-in visitors by email address
Since Glide does not specify the maximum monthly signed-in visitors, I recommend asking Glide’s support team before making decisions, especially if your web app requires users to create an account and sign in.
The Enterprise plan offers app resources (file storage, data rows, etc.) tailored to your needs, plus an account manager and enterprise-level technical services. Hence, it fits every business’ large-scale endeavors.
Alternatively, Glide offers three paid plans for native mobile apps as follows:
- Pro App – $32 per month
- Private App – $40 per month + $2 per active private user
- Enterprise App – Custom pricing
The Pro App plan and Private App plans are fundamentally different. The former is for public apps or customer-facing apps that allow visitors to use them with or without signing in.
On the other hand, the latter is for internal, employee-facing apps that always require users to sign in to access sensitive data or other confidential information, etc.
However, both plans share the following app resources and conditions:
- 25000 data rows
- 1000 map pins
- 10 GB file storage
- 2% transaction fees
The only difference is that you can have only 20 active sign-in users for the Private app plan. Suppose you have 21 active users this month. In this case, you need to pay an extra $2. This does not apply to Pro App plan users because they can have unlimited sign-in users.
I believe the allocated resources are sufficient for building astounding mobile apps. You can start with either plan and later upgrade to the Enterprise plan if needed.
Pros & Cons
- Best no-code platform to build apps from existing data sources
- Truly No-code: Using Glide requires no prior coding skills
- Clean and modern user interface
- Responsive Design
- Smooth data transfer from various data sources
- Beautiful, professional-looking data visualization
- Zapier Integration + API Access
- Visitors can create an account to test all features.
- Charge 2% fees for all transactions occurring within the mobile app
- Do not allow advanced customization
3. Adalo (Web and Mobile Apps)
Adalo is an excellent multi-purpose no-code platform. Unlike Bubble, you can use Adalo to create and deploy both web and mobile apps of your choice, providing far higher flexibility than other tools.
The onboarding process is effortless to understand. I could say it is far simpler than Bubble’s.
First, you will need to select the app type you want to create between web and mobile apps. I chose web apps in this case.
The next step is to select a suitable template. You can choose from one of the four templates: Directory, Ordering, Chat, or Coaching. Alternatively, you can start with a blank page as well.
Subsequently, you need to input the app name and customize its primary and secondary colors.
Within seconds, your prototype will be ready. The structure of the app and all the pages (payments, landing pages, signups. etc.) are automatically created by Adalo. Thus, you don’t need to put in any effort to work on them.
What you only need to do is to add, edit, or remove components on each page using a visual editor. In essence, you can fully customize its appearance with this tool. You can then rest assured that your app will resonate with your brand voice.
Suppose you want a new page. Just click “add screen” and add links to existing pages. Your new page will be fully functional within a few clicks.
The database is the most vital part of any app. Managing one can be challenging for beginners. However, this will not be an issue because Adalo allows you to do so through the visual editor. Each spreadsheet is also simple to understand and edit. Therefore, you can quickly identify any errors and resolve them in no time.
The final step is to preview and test your app whether it works seamlessly. Once you are ready, you can deploy your app to a custom domain (for web apps) and Apple App Store/Google Play Store (for native mobile apps).
Adalo Marketplace – This feature allows Adalo users to add multiple functionalities to their apps, such as Stripe payment, QR Code Generator, or Google Maps. Adalo Marketplace works similarly to Bubble’s plugin marketplace, albeit its size is much more compact.
Built-in Analytics – Adalo collects all app data and visualizes them. Thus, you can quickly grasp actionable insights and implement a suitable strategy to improve the results.
Hosting and Technical Support – Adalo provides essential hosting resources (for web apps) and solves any technical issues. Thus, you can focus your effort on business operations or app design.
From an overall perspective, Adalo is far easier to use than Bubble. Everything is self-explanatory, so I don’t even need a tutorial to learn how to use the platform.
Still, if needed, you can watch video tutorials or go over the documentation to understand how each feature works.
Furthermore, the user interface is modern and clean. I have never encountered any glitches while editing and navigating through the menus.
However, the drawback is that Adalo still offers limited templates and features. Hence, it only suits business owners who want to create a simple app to perform straightforward, miscellaneous tasks without wasting too much time learning new stuff.
If you want to build a large-scale web/mobile app that functions as a core of your business strategy, what Adalo currently offers would be inadequate. I suggest considering Bubble or hiring a web/mobile developer instead.
You can create a free account to try Adalo for free.
As of March 2022, Adalo offers two pricing plans as follows:
- Pro – $50 per month
- Business – $200 per month
Both plans allow you to publish your app on a custom web domain (web apps) or Apple/Google store.
All users should start with the Pro plan because it offers access to all features. The Business plan only adds more user seats, storage, an account manager but no additional features. Hence, I don’t think anyone will need this plan at the beginning.
Pros & Cons
- Super easy to use (A reviewer even mentioned that Adalo is shockingly easy to use.)
- Adalo can facilitate both web app and mobile app creation.
- The app-building platform has a clean and modern user interface.
- Unlimited apps for all plans
- Free account to try all the tools and services
- Zapier and API Integration
- Limited templates and features
- Each plan offers smaller data storage than other competitors.
- Adalo’s responsive design is still not perfect. Some users reported that the app’s appearance is not optimized on some devices.
4. Draftbit (Mobile Apps Only)
Draftbit is an exceptional choice if you want to enjoy the benefits of the no-code development platforms while opening the room for developers to add more features in the future.
Visual Builder – You will first start by selecting one of the Starter Apps, which functions like templates on other platforms. These starter apps will provide a foundational structure for your mobile app.
You can also add the example “Screens” to your app. Screens are more or less an app page that serves specific purposes (settings page, article listing, tables of content, etc.)
Full Customization – The next step is to use a visual builder to add the components you need (such as push notifications) and customize the font, color, and other UI elements.
You can also add navigators and attach actions or interactions to strengthen your app’s interactivity and improve user experience. In other words, you can change everything that a developer can.
Instant Screen Code – Unlike other platforms, Draftbit will automatically create or change the source code every time you edit your app. The source code can be downloaded entirely.
Draftbit is built on React Native, one of the most popular mobile app development software frameworks. Hence, it is effortless to find a developer to further develop your project.
Preview-As-You-Go – Once you start creating a prototype, Draftbit will assign a specific QR code, allowing you to preview every app in your pipeline. Thus, you can make changes accordingly.
Collaboration Features – You can add unlimited collaborators to your workspace to assist in app building.
Custom Domains – If needed, you can deploy your app as a PWA (Progressive web app) on a custom domain.
Regarding the ease of use, I would say Draftbit is not the easiest tool to use. You need to understand some technical terms to use the platform at its full potential. Fortunately, Draftbit provides users with excellent tutorials and a detailed knowledge base that you can rely on.
Draftbit has just revamped its pricing structure. Currently, it has only a single pricing plan, which costs $99 per month. This plan grants you access to all features and chat support.
The drawback of this plan is that it does not include collaboration features. If you want to hire freelance mobile app developers to work on your project, you need to upgrade to an Organization plan.
Note: To try the service, you need to book a demo and discuss your projects with a representative since Draftbit does not grant visitors free access to its platform.
Pros & Cons
- Unarguably one of the best no-code tools to develop iOS and Android apps
- Draftbit will automatically generate and modify the source code when you edit with a visual editor. You can download the entire source code, allowing you to hire a third-party developer to add more features or manage your app.
- Based on React Native and other open-sourced libraries and programming languages
- Allow full customization
- Unlimited apps
- API Access
- No Lock-In: Your app can still be fully-functional, although you have canceled Draftbit’s subscription.
- Real-time Live Chat Support
- High entry price
- Some reviewers noted that self-troubleshooting is extremely difficult. In other words, you can identify what makes the app not function as expected.
- Few pre-built starter apps and components to choose from
Other No-code App Builders?
Appy Pie – Appy Pie is another popular no-code development platform used by businesses worldwide to create mobile apps. However, I encountered many technical issues and found the entire app building process tedious. Its user interface is also subpar compared to other alternatives. Hence, I don’t think I can recommend Appy Pie at this point.
Betty Blocks – Betty Blocks is the ultimate solution for building apps. However, the platform aims toward enterprises. Hence, the price tag makes it out of reach for SMBs.
Progressive Web Apps?
Progressive Web App (PWA) is a type of web app that utilizes multiple enhanced features to provide an excellent user experience on par with native mobile apps. For example, users can view pages on PWA despite being offline.
Several platforms above allow users to create PWAs. For example, Bubble users can create one by installing a plugin, while you can deploy a PWA within 60 seconds with Draftbit. If you are interested, contact the platform’s support to learn more.