Derek Walter for RedOrbit.com
Just as the popular blogging service WordPress simplified web site creation, building iPhone and Android apps can now be done with no coding skills.
While these online tools do not yet provide the same kind of complexity that one can produce by building a mobile app with code, they have surprising capabilities that let the programming-impaired build strong apps.
One example is Red Foundry Studio. The company recently revamped its app builder to add many advanced features while maintaining a fairly user-friendly interface. Even better, the service is free.
By signing up for an account, users can add images, widgets, maps, text, or pull in content from a web site or blog. The interface does not require any programming language, but it is not for complete novices. Many of the applicationâ€™s elements require some knowledge of working within a visual editor. Yet for those willing to persevere it can create professional apps.
Its most impressive feature is the ability to test the app on your phone. By downloading the Red Foundry VIZ app users can play with the features and tools they have built into their app. It gives a far better experience than just an artificial simulator, which is used by many other services. Users can also send push notifications, and test how they look, using the line app builder.
Those with more technical knowledge can edit their applications using the custom coding language the company has built. It also could serve as a good way for someone who is attempting to learn to code to sharpen their skills before building more complex mobile apps.
Those looking for a less technical option should consider Infinite Monkeys. The companyâ€™s online app builder uses a straightforward drag-and-drop tool in a clever interface. Creating the app is divided into a series of many steps, with each one paired with tutorial videos.
A professional look is pretty easy to achieve by uploading icons and images for the launch screen or background. Those who have more technical knowledge can import their web site or blogâ€™s RSS feed. Infinite Monkeys makes it very simple to link to content from social media: just plug in Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Posterous or other account information.
Users can also monetize the app if they sign up for an AdMob account, which is a large mobile advertising company run by Google. By default Infinite Monkey ads are placed inside with the free version.
Users can build an entire app at no cost, until it is time to decide where to send it. Users can publish it to either the Apple App Store or Google Play (formerly Android Market) for $49. For an additional $5 it will be submitted to both app storefronts.
â€œWe are letting small business owners, musicians, doctors, and schools build their own mobile app,â€ co-founder Jay Shapiro said. â€œItâ€™s all drag-and-drop with no coding.â€
If Android is your thing, consider the App Inventor tool from MIT. This project was originally built by Google, but was then closed as the company shut down a number of projects last year. It was picked up by MIT, which is now converting it for public use.
The interface is very user-friendly, as users just drag the tool they want onto the mockup Android phone screen. It is not as complex as previous tools, but MIT has promised to ramp up development to make it an effective app building platform. As the product is in beta, expect some hiccups while using it.
The beta project is open to anyone with a Google account. Once the app is complete it can be downloaded to your computer and run on your phone. Getting it from there into Google Play takes some additional steps.
While these tools are little to no cost, there are additional fees when it comes to formally submitting an app to Apple or Google. It costs $99 per year to enroll in the iOS developer program. Google charges a one-time fee of $25 to register as a developer for Google Play.
Also, Apple apps may take longer to formally appear in the App Store as they must be tested and approved by the company. While Google reserves the right to pull apps that do not conform to guidelines, they generally will go live very shortly after they are submitted.