Building an app empowers you to take control of your business and operations. But, making your own custom app from scratch is no small feat. The full-on code development process, from coding to designing to testing, can take anywhere from a few weeks up to years of hard work.
At least, that’s how long it could take if you didn’t have access to a no-code app-building platform.
These days, you don’t need a degree in computer science — or a massive budget — to create and customize your very own web or mobile app.
In fact, with the right no-code app maker, you can bring your app idea to life in just a few minutes. Best of all, you can do it for free.
In this article, we’ll show you how to make a custom app without spending a single cent.
What's an App Builder?
An app builder is a software or a platform that allows users to create mobile applications with little to no coding knowledge. Typically designed with a user-friendly interface, app builders enable users to develop applications through a drag-and-drop method or by selecting features from a list. These builders are equipped with a wide variety of pre-designed templates, plugins, and interactive features that allow users to customize their apps according to their specific needs.
App builders often provide tools for both the design and functionality aspects of app creation, including layout design, color scheme selection, feature integration, database management, and more. They cater to users who want to create a variety of apps, including e-commerce, educational, fitness, business management, and many more. Glide is an example of an app builder that leverages existing spreadsheet data to create custom apps.
Benefits of App Builders
1. No Coding Required: One of the primary benefits of app builders is that they require little to no coding. This means even those without technical programming skills can create functional and attractive apps. This democratizes the app development process and makes it accessible to anyone.
2. Time and Cost Efficient: Building an app from scratch can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you need to hire a developer. App builders, on the other hand, significantly reduce development time and costs.
3. Customizability: App builders come with a range of templates and customization options, allowing users to create unique, tailored apps that suit their specific business needs and aesthetic preferences.
4. Scalability: As your business grows, your app needs to grow too. App builders often offer scalable solutions, meaning features and capacity can be added as your business expands.
5. Easy Maintenance and Updates: With an app builder, maintaining and updating your app is often straightforward. You can easily tweak features, fix bugs, and add updates as needed.
6. Integrated Functionality: App builders often come with a suite of integrated functionalities, such as push notifications, social media integration, e-commerce features, and more. This saves you from the hassle of building these components individually.
In conclusion, app builders like Glide are powerful tools that can turn your app ideas into reality without the need for significant coding skills or a hefty budget. They provide an accessible, affordable, and efficient route to joining the mobile revolution.
How to Make an App for Free: The Step-By-Step Process
Want to build your own app but the typical app builder cost doesn’t fit into your budget? Here’s how to pull off the no-code app development process for free.
Step 1: Think Through Your App Idea
Define Your Minimum Viable Product
Before you can begin building your app, you should decide exactly what you want your app to do. In other words, clarify what problem your app will solve (or what process will it make easier, faster, etc.).
If you’re not sure where to start, reflect on your motivation for making an app. What inspired you to build an app in the first place? What’s the core function you want it to serve? Who is going to use it? This will help you understand the most basic feature or functionality your app needs to offer to be useful. This is known as the minimum viable product (MVP).
You might find it helpful to make a list of any core features your app needs to offer. If you’re having trouble narrowing down your ideas, create a secondary list of aspirational app features that you’d like to add in the future if possible.
Consider the Perspective of Your End-Users
When designing a new app for your small business, it’s important to think about who your end-users are. After all, they're the ones you’re making your app for.
What do you hope your users can achieve by using your app? Are you designing an app for internal use (perhaps inventory management software or a CRM app for your sales team) or will your app be client-facing (like a messaging app for customer support or an ecommerce app for shoppers)?
Will your users need to access the app on a computer or mobile device? Will they need to access the app offline at times? How tech-savvy are your app users likely to be? This ties back into the core functionality and your primary purpose in creating an app.
These answers will impact everything from your design choices and the content of your app to how you share it with your users (e.g., Do you need your app to be publicly available or accessible only by a private link?).
Plan Out Your App Content
Now that you have a clear understanding of what core features your app will include and who you are designing it for, you should start thinking about your in-app content. What will the app experience look like? What information will your users have access to?
Depending on how complex your app idea is, this step can involve research, wireframes, design mockups, mapping user flows, and more. For example, if you’re creating an app to help your delivery team optimize driving routes, you might start by defining the steps a driver would follow to access relevant information within your app. Where do they tap to find their next drop-off location? How can they access and interact with the route map? Where can they log their gas mileage?
Additionally, you’ll need to create or optimize a database (or spreadsheet) for your app to pull its data from. Whatever database you connect to your app, it’s vital to keep it organized and updated so you have everything you need to power your app.
Step 2: Decide How You Want to Build Your App
There’s more than one way to make an app — but not all of the best options are free or accessible to makers without a technical background or coding skills.
Perhaps the most obvious (or at least, traditional) path to building an app is to hire a programmer. Unfortunately, working with a team of developers is both time- and resource-intensive — and most definitely not free.
Another potential solution would be to go with a low-code online platform (think WordPress) that can be (mostly) customized to your needs. This is generally much cheaper than hiring a developer, but still requires some technical skills and design sense. Since we’re focusing on how to build apps for free today, we’re going to skip over this option for now.
So, what choices are you left with?
When it comes to making an app for free, your two basic options are to code it yourself or use a no-code app creator. If you’re choosing between these solutions, be realistic about the amount of time and effort you’re willing and able to dedicate to building your app.
Think hard about the level of commitment you can make to this project.
For example, if you want to teach yourself how to code so you can build your own app from scratch, you’ll have a steep learning curve to overcome before you can get building. Not only does it take weeks or months of practice to learn a programming language, but app development time for even a basic product can stretch into months and years.
Since you’re looking into how to make an app to solve an existing problem or improve a work process, you likely can’t afford to want to wait that long — especially if you’re a business owner who wants to make an app to save time.
Fortunately, app creation has never been easier for non-programmers. Using a no-code app development platform like Glide allows you to quickly turn your data and ideas into a fully-functional tool for your business. So, if you’re looking into no-code platforms that can support your goals for your app, consider factors like:
What capabilities does the platform offer?
Can I customize my designs and layout?
How easily can I collaborate on designs and share the finished product?
What level of support does the platform offer?
Is it possible to connect with third-party tools and APIs?
Can I test and edit my app on the fly if needed?
Can it build apps compatible with multiple operating systems?
Ideally, the app builder you choose should also provide quick and easy onboarding, along with resources and tutorials to help you create the best app possible. Since Glide’s no-code app maker ticks all of these boxes and more, we’re going to showcase how to complete the third step using Glide’s free app maker.
Step 3: Design Your App with Glide
Glide is a free no-code solution for app makers. You can either choose a template to start with or use Glide to automatically turn your database into an app. In either case, using Glide’s no-code app maker couldn’t be easier.
Here’s an overview of the steps you can follow to turn a spreadsheet or database into your very own app:
Create New Project
Once you’ve set up your free Glide account (no credit card required) you can create your first app. To make a mobile-first Android app or iOS app, click “Create a new project” within the workspace and select Glide App. Or, if you’d rather turn your data into a web app instead, select Glide Page.
Connect Your Data Source
Whether your data lives in Excel, Google Sheets, or Airtable, simply follow the prompts to connect to the data source. Select Glide Tables if you want to input your data into Glide’s Data Editor directly, or don’t have any data to import just yet.
After you connect your spreadsheet or database, sit back and relax while Glide automatically uses your data to build the backend of your fully functional, customizable application. (But don’t get too comfortable — the whole process only takes a few moments.)
Now that Glide has created an app based on your data, you can customize and update everything from right inside Glide! The Data Editor gives you total control over your data. Whether you make changes to your information in the Editor or the original data source, everything will update in real-time to stay perfectly in sync.
And, you can also change your app’s look and layout in just a few clicks. The Layout area of Glide’s app builder lets you customize the layout, color scheme, text, content, and more. You can also customize how users navigate your app, add forms, and choose from pre-built style elements, including checklists, calendars, and tiles.
Preview and Launch
Make sure your app works well and looks awesome on all devices by toggling between screen types within the Glide workspace. This allows you to easily preview what your app will look like on different screen types — including iPhones, Android smartphones, tablets, and more. Simply click on the screen icon at the top of the editing screen.
When you’re happy with everything, it's time to publish and share your app, all from the Publish button inside your editor. Depending on who your app is designed for, you might want to share it privately or publicly. With Glide, you get a web link that makes it easy to share your app with anyone — or you can change privacy settings to make it only available to people within your organization or group.
Make Your App for Free with Glide’s No-Code App Builder
Think you need to be a developer to build a successful app from scratch? Think again!
With Glide, you can simply plug your database into your free account, customize your app, and easily share it with your employees or customers in just a few clicks. Design an app around your data or use a pre-built template. Browse Glide’s library of ready-to-use design elements to customize the user interface along with the user experience.
Glide is ideal for making internal business tools and MVPs of larger mobile app development projects. Whether you want to create web or mobile applications, Glide’s drag-and-drop interface allows you to easily customize your app design, layout, and content.
We believe everyone should have access to the power of no-code technology — which is why Glide’s pricing starts at free for beginner app builders (like you!). Glide’s free version gives you the potential to turn raw data and cumbersome spreadsheets into functional, user-friendly apps.
You can also upgrade to unlock even more cool features for building more complicated apps.
It’s time to bring your app idea to life.