One aim for any business is to streamline how it operates – using tools and apps specifically designed and built for the exact purpose intended. While it's common to just make do with what's already out there, it's actually a whole lot easier than you think to build the perfect, customised tool for your business. This guide is an easy introduction to the world of no-code business app builders.
You might not always be aware of it, but if you're working at a business you're probably using loads of different software applications in your day-to-day work. Whether that's a marketing platform like Hubspot, a project management tool like Asana or Trello, or a communication platform like Slack. While these tools are designed to make things easier and more effective, sometimes they just aren’t quite right for the specific job at hand. You might have to make manual adjustments every time you do something, or maybe a tool does what you need, but it’s so powerful and complex that it’s overwhelming to learn and easy to make mistakes with.
What if you could build the perfect tool for your business? One that was customised for your specific needs? You know where we're going with this. No-code app builders make that possible. The difficulty is that there are plenty of different no-code tools out there. While building tools with them is easier than coding them from scratch, there can still be a sharp learning curve – and your time, energy and cash are precious. That's where this guide comes in.
When we say business apps, we basically mean any software app a business uses to manage internal processes.Think: customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, customer portals, task management apps or issue tracking software. These all make your work easier by reducing the time you have to spend on tasks, automating tasks and reducing the risk of human error. But they also work best when they're tailored for your needs.
Until recently, building your own version of these tools required experienced developers and a pretty big budget to match. But the rise of no-code development means that's no longer the case. And the benefits are big:
You can customise your business apps to your exact needs
You no longer have to find the perfect pre-built tool out of the box. If you have a way of working that’s hyper-specific for your team, like a specific project tracking and delivery system, there may not be an affordable tool that does exactly what you need and how you need it to while connecting with your database. With a no-code workflow builder, you can make one yourself!
Customised solutions can integrate with the tools and databases you already use. If your team is working with, say, the database platform Airtable to manage your customer data, you can build an app on top of Airtable that supports your workflows while keeping data organised. You also reduce unnecessary features that come with pre-built software. This reduces complexity, makes work simpler for your team, and makes sure you aren’t paying for features you don’t need.
You can learn and build without coding experience
No more relying on an IT department. Many no-code and low-code programs have drag-and-drop interfaces or pre-built components, so it’s easy to pick up. No-code tools require no technical background; low-code tools, on the other hand, are better suited to those with some programming or structured query language (SQL) experience who are looking to save time and effort on the tool-building process.
It'll save you money
No-code is typically much cheaper than hiring programmers or purchasing pre-built software solutions. External developers are expensive and not always the best solution for building business apps. Plus, if you do have specific needs, it can soon add up to purchasing full software solutions for each. With no-code, you invest in just the business app builder and build many software solutions with it rather than purchasing each tool individually.
You'll be able to build faster — with or without engineers
Without the need to rely on engineers for everything, you can build faster and make any needed changes faster. There may be an initial learning curve, but building with no-code will be much faster than code-based development once your team learns the program. Coding tools take time and then require additional time for debugging and testing. If changes need to be made, it can mean a lengthy back-and-forth with engineering to get the tool refined. With no-code, teams simply drag and drop to build to their exact specifications. Even engineers can use no-code to speed up their work.
3. What to consider when investing in a no-code business app builder
Okay, a few things to keep in mind as you weigh up your decision. First and foremost: what are the needs of your business? Do you have a specifically demanding workflow or more straightforward demands? And how about your team – what are their skillsets and experiences working with code? No-code tools have widely different pricing structures, flexibility and learning curves. This is about deciding what the priorities are for your team. Do you want more creative freedom in exchange for a more challenging interface? Or a more limited app that’s easier and faster to build with? Here are some solid criteria to help you evaluate:
Flexibility is how much a tool allows you to execute the functions you need. Having more flexibility may come with a more difficult learning curve, but it'll also allow you to build to more exact specifications.
Questions to ask about your no-code tool to determine its flexibility:
Can you freely add logic (eg, how elements in your app can be arranged)
Can it handle complex decision-making?
Does it support creating native apps (apps developed specifically for an operating system like iOS), web apps, or both?
Will it work with the compliance and regulation needs of your sector?
Does it allow you to integrate with the other tools and data sources you use?
Does it have third-party plugins that enhance your app or add specific functionality?
One useful tip is to look for tools which can work with the data sources your company already uses – such as Airtable, Microsoft Excel, or Google Sheets. Tools with more integrations get more points for flexibility since you’ll be able to create more freely and link your creations with your other business apps.
Design freedom is how much ability a tool gives you to customise its look, feel and function to suit your preferences. Really, you're looking for a tool that balances ease of use with design freedom and control. Templates and drag-and-drop features are helpful because they help you build faster and easier – but they can be limiting.
If you have a team with limited design experience, you might be happier with a tool that relies more on templates. If you just need efficient, functional apps, design freedom may be less important to you. If customers are going to be accessing your tool directly, you might want a customer portal creator that creates more beautiful apps, even if it’s more difficult to use. It may be worth it to invest in a little more training to get your team up to speed on a tool with greater design freedom.
Ease of use
Ease of use is, as you might have guessed, whether your team will be able to make the apps they’re dreaming of in the builder you’ve chosen. Some tools are harder to learn and will require putting in some time to become skilled with them – but they may have advantages in terms of power, customisability, or flexibility. Some tools are more low-code than no-code and will be best for teams with technical experience, while others are incredibly easy for anyone to just pick up and start using.
Find out from your team to see what their level of technical experience is. Evaluate how much time they have to dedicate to learning new tools while considering the business importance of it – and how much time and energy you want your team to devote to the process.
There’s a wide range of costs and pricing structures for no-code tools, but it's always worth keeping in mind that if using something is going to reduce development costs and save your team time and money, it’s probably worth investing in. You also want balance, as there are some powerful tools at the upper end of the pricing range that will be unnecessary for most companies.
The good news is that many tools have free trials so you can try them out. Then you move to different pricing tiers, priced per user or per app. If you have lots of team members who'll be using the program, a per-app pricing plan may be a better option. If you want the freedom to build many tools, a per-user plan will allow you to do that at a lower cost.
Some programs are simply priced too high to be worth it for smaller businesses but are definitely suited for larger enterprises. In that case, you'll find most enterprise plans are custom priced, so you’ll be contacting the company for a quote. Keep in mind: no-code will greatly reduce or entirely eliminate your budget needed for developers, so it may be worth paying for a program that does everything you need it to.
4. The best no-code business app builders
Here at NoCode.Tech, we’ve dedicated untold hours learning and evaluating the many no-code tools on the market right now. Some might say too many hours. Here’s our roundup of the strongest business app builders, including breakdowns that’ll help you evaluate which is the right tool for you.
Stacker is a no-code software platform that allows you to create interactive apps and interfaces for the spreadsheets and databases you use for work. With Stacker, you can make your own secure web applications that let your employees or customers see your data and even update your database with a secure login. You can build customer portals, bespoke CRMs, field worker apps, and pretty much anything else you need to create from a spreadsheet.
Stacker is very simple to use for non-techies, and it comes with advanced permissions and other enterprise-grade features right out of the box. It's also growing fast, with the ability to pull in data from over 60 different places – including Zendesk and Google Drive. Where it lags behind the competition is its ability to create workflows and integrate with external services (like communication platform Twilio or email delivery platform SendGrid).
Full disclosure: NoCode.Tech was bought by Stacker in early 2022. Our editorial independence means that we review Stacker completely impartially – as we do with every other tool in the no-code space.
Easy to learn
Intuitive drag-and-drop interface
Excellent customer portal builder
Enterprise-grade features, including single sign-on, advanced permissions, and white labelling (i.e hiding their branding and designing your own)
Limited workflow options
Less aesthetic user interface (UI)
Who is it best for
Small businesses or enterprise teams that need ease of use and flexibility.
Internal.io is great for super-powering your Google Sheets databases by connecting them to your business apps and managing your customer support data, payment info, and deals. The tight controls also make it great for maintaining security for data changes. It's more tricky to learn than some of the competition (like Stacker), but it can create more complex workflows, access external services, and bring in data from multiple sources.
Pricing can add up quickly per user, but if you’ve got the budget and you’re willing to spend the time learning, Internal.io can build some very impressive business apps. It’s definitely more accessible to those on the more technical side, so it may be less appropriate for a newbie unless you've got a specific use case that requires the customisability levels this tool offers.
Ability to create complex workflows and connect multiple data sources
Advanced security controls, including password protection and column-by-column read & write controls
Betty Blocks is a fully no-code platform that's made for serious and secure large organisations. It lets you build complex apps, draw in data from practically any source or service, and handle regulated or sensitive data sources with ease. Betty Blocks is also partnered with Microsoft, so it’s great for anyone wanting to pair a no-code, free-form builder with MS Power Apps.
Betty Blocks is designed for the largest companies and has a price to match. So if you want to use a free-form builder but don’t want enterprise features or pricing, you should probably consider the other options on this list.
Truly no-code interface
Enterprise-level security and data management
Ability to build complex apps
Too complex for the needs of smaller companies; most suited to enterprise
Who is it best for
Large enterprises with complex needs and large budgets.
Glide creates beautiful apps and makes it easy to create some basic, useful tools. Despite what the branding might suggest, Glide becomes much harder to use as you try to build complexity – particularly with the database setup. With that said, the excellent — if limited — workflow builder and the fact that you can have the same app feature on both desktop and mobile are big benefits. Glide is easily in the top three here but falls down on business-ready features like permissions and audit trails. It also has a great customer portal creator if you need a professional look and feel.
Very easy to use
Creates beautiful apps
You can build for desktop and mobile simultaneously
Not suited to building more complex apps
Doesn’t support more business-focused features, like permissions and audit trails
Mobile apps are notnative – creates progressive web apps only
Who is it best for
Small to medium-sized businesses and startups that value aesthetics and ease of use but don’t require a lot of enterprise-level support.
In short, it's got some incredible features and is super powerful. It has lots of integrations and you can build apps quickly. Retool is a great tool for developers who want a lower-code option with great pricing. It has great enterprise support and is equally as useful in smaller businesses.
Fast build speed for those with technical skills
High-quality tutorials and support
Not truly no-code; requires some development skill
Who is it best for
Teams with developers who want a lower-code tool to support building powerful apps.
Bryter is a no-code tool that helps you build automatic workflows to create and handle documents and data. This one is primarily aimed at lawyers, accountants, and other professionals who work in industries where workflows, data input, and document handling are all incredibly important. If these are what you need, Bryter is the best in the market, but don’t expect an app or customer portal like Stacker, Glide, or Internal will build. Bryter apps feel more like a Typeform survey.
Excellent for building tools for data input and document handling
Built-in features to generate documents
Less flexible — mainly focused on data and documents
Who is it best for
Professionals in need of specific data and document workflows.
It won't be a shock to hear that Microsoft Power Apps stands out for its incredibly strong integration with the Microsoft 365 Suite. If you’re building an internal app that works with Microsoft tools, it’s hard to find a better integration than what this platform can do. It also allows some free-form building and will be more familiar to those who’ve worked in Excel. With that said, MS PowerApps is on the border between no-code and low-code, so it has a very steep learning curve, and the apps can be pretty ugly.
Excellent Microsoft suite integration
Familiar interface for those with Excel or Microsoft experience
Apps are not pretty
There's a very steep learning curve: some coding experience will help
Who is it best for
Those already comfortable with the Microsoft 365 suite. Teams that value those integrations and have some development experience.
If you've reached this point, there may be a few questions you need answering. Don't forget, if you need help with where to start, we have an intro course for beginners.
• Will I be better off just using a developer?
No. Even companies with engineering skillsets on hand will likely be better off using no-code platforms. No-code development is faster and helps even engineers to build faster, cheaper, and with more support – especially with integrations. You may be able to engineer solutions from scratch if you have the budget, the talent, and the time, but no-code will always be a benefit to that process.
• What’s the cheapest business app builder?
Glide, Retool, and Stacker has the most affordable starter plans for individuals and small businesses. For affordability at the enterprise level, plans are generally custom-priced and will require a quote based on your exact needs. Keep in mind that the cheapest doesn’t mean spending the least overall. Get a tool that will allow your business to save on developer costs.
• What business app builders should I avoid and why?
Avoid choosing a tool that doesn’t suit your business model, team's experience levels and needs. If you’re considering options not listed here, avoid tools that aren’t specifically focused on business app building and tools that are more consumer-focused rather than business ready. Consumer tools likely won’t have the integrations, security, and professional-grade performance you’ll need.
• What about Bubble/Adalo/Webflow?
These tools are great no-code solutions, but they’re not focused on building internal apps to use within your business. As your team gets comfortable with no-code workflows, it’ll be easier to use all these tools for your business - but initially, we wouldn’t recommend these tools for anything which isn’t customer-facing.
• What should I keep in mind?
Okay, you need to be thinking about:
Data compliance and regulation. Especially for specialised sectors handling customer data or sensitive information, security, regulation, and data compliance should be a big factor in choosing the right tool for your company. Make sure you know where your chosen tool hosts your data.
Pricing per user vs. per app. Make sure you calculate the full cost of a tool based on how they price their product, not just the initial price. This will avoid having to hand around a single log-in if your team is more collaborative or needing to unexpectedly upgrade your plan if you decide you need to build more apps or add more colleagues.
Preferred platform. Does your team work with more native apps or web apps? Not every tool can build both types of apps.