If a customer engages with your business online, they won’t want to simply passively absorb info about your brand. They want to actively engage with it. One of the best ways to build that into your online offering is by building a web app.
A web app is a piece of software that’s accessed through the user’s web browser instead of being downloaded and running on their operating system. It’s a website, but its capabilities are much broader than a simple static HTML page. Instead, they’re interactive – giving users the ability to sort, filter, create, edit, and delete content on their own. Think of Google Docs, Trello or Canva.
If you’re considering the business use case of building a web app, it’s worth bearing in mind that most of the tools on this list not only create web apps, they are web apps. When you use a tool like Webflow, Bubble, or Adalo, you access its website and use its program to build useful things, all within your own device’s web browser. You pay for those services and engage its product frequently, specifically because its web app is interactive and useful to you.
1. The tools
Bubble - 3 Stars. Best well-established web app builder.
Adalo - 4 Stars. Best for building multi-platform apps.
Sharetribe - 3 Stars. Best for the Web3 interested.
Table2Site - 3 Stars. Best for table-based directories.
Xano - 4 Stars. Best HIPAA-compliant web app builder.
2. Why build a web app for your business with no-code
A web app can expand how your business engages with customers online. It’s more interactive and useful than a static website and more widely accessible than a native app. And thanks to these no-code tools, you can develop one yourself without needing any developers.
Interactive web apps give more value to customers
Making your website interactive ultimately makes it more engaging and useful to customers. A static site only includes a one-way transfer of information; an interactive web app allows your customers to engage with your business more meaningfully by customising your content or creating their own.
A web app can add a lot of functionality to businesses of all sizes. A hair salon could build a booking system. A hair product company could add a community function so customers can share advice with each other. A law firm could add a customer portal so clients can input their information and receive important documents remotely.
They can provide an additional source of revenue
Web apps can bring in cash in a way that static websites can’t – in fact, a web app can even be a product itself. If you make a web app that’s a cloud-based SaaS product, you can bring in revenue with memberships or access fees to use your service.
Companies can pay to post to a job board, users can buy memberships to use a design tool, or sellers can be billed a percentage of sales through your marketplace. All of these are products you can build with no-code web app builders that are useful enough to charge for access to.
Entrepreneurs and startups who have an idea for an online product can build it with a no-code web app builder. Established businesses can also add value to their business by developing additional products such as web apps.
They can’t be replaced by native apps
A native app (e.g. software that’s designed for – and downloaded onto – a specific device) can supplement a web app but it doesn’t replace the need for one. Because a native app is downloaded onto a user’s device, it’s limited to only that specific device. A user will only be able to use a native app on an iPhone, for example, while they can access a mobile-friendly web app on any device and any browser. A web app also never needs updating, unlike a native app where the user will need to install software updates.
Web apps and native apps have distinct advantages and disadvantages that may make one a better fit for your specific business needs. Some tools, like Adalo, will enable you to design a web app and a native app for mobile at the same time.
3. What to consider when choosing a web app builder
Web app builders are challenging to rank because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Some web app builders are tailored for specific use cases, but even then, they may come with other drawbacks or benefits that make it hard to choose the right one for your team.
This means you’ll need to evaluate which tool is best for your business by looking at the nuances of pricing, ease of use, and specific functionalities that are included.
Not all web app builders have the same features and supports. Some may offer a wide range of templates and plugins that extend the functionality of your web app. Some specifically support more complicated-to-build features like selling online. Others may be more limited, with reduced ability to take payments or create secure interfaces.
When you’re building with one of these no-code tools, you’re building both the back-end functionality and the front-end user interface of a web application. Some tools give you a greater level of control over the front-end design of your site, while others are more limiting. A tool like Webflow gives you a high level of design freedom, but it requires some skill and experience to use. Others, like Adalo, simply limit your options for user-interface design and won’t be the best choice for very design-conscious companies.
Ease of Use
No-code tools can be used by non-technical teams, but they can still be complex and challenging to learn. Some web app builders are simple and have user-friendly interfaces. These will be appropriate for most teams. Others are either outdated, challenging to use, or technically complex enough that you’ll need a technologically experienced team to work with them. Choose a tool that suits the level of experience you have on your team.
The pricing of web app builders is less variable than some no-code tools. Generally, for a business, you’ll be looking at plans within the range of $50–$200 per month for a basic subscription. Most teams will want to sign up for plans that include multiple editors, apps, or enterprise-level support.
The tricky part of evaluating the cost of a tool is the additional hidden costs associated with building and publishing web content. Plugins are sometimes paid, and if your web app builder has limited functionality without them, that cost can add up quickly. There might also be added costs depending on how you want to use your web app.
4. The best no-code web app tools
Web apps are one of the most popular use cases for no-code, so expect some big names on this list. We evaluate each tool by the experience of using it for your team – how modern its interface is and how easy the tool is to learn. We also look at what kinds of web apps the tool is capable of creating, which can tell you if a particular tool may be right for your business needs.
Bubble is the current king of no-code web app tools and is usually the one people think of first when talking about web app builders. It has a gigantic ecosystem of plugins, templates, agencies, experts, and tutorials. You can build nearly anything with Bubble, and it can enable you to build most ideas you may have.
The interface is a downside, as it is generally outdated, clunky, and difficult to use. Apps on it tend to run slowly, and it’s a fairly expensive option. When getting started, we recommend simpler web apps first.
Capacity to build many different apps
Lots of plugins, templates, and tutorials
Large community, including agencies
It’s best for…
Users with some web app building experience who need the flexibility and extensive ecosystem Bubble offers.
While we usually talk about Adalo as a mobile app builder, it also allows you to build web apps. The advantage of that is you can link a database between your mobile and web app, creating multi-platform experiences. Adalo packs lots of power and plugins into an interface that is a lot easier to use than Bubbles.
Where it falls short is in its lack of user interface (UI) flexibility. It’s challenging to design your web app to look exactly how you want it to. Nevertheless, this is one of the first tools we recommend for web app building.
Easy to use
Multi-platform capability with mobile
Many plugin options
Limited UI control
It’s best for…
Teams that need an easy-to-use multi-platform app builder and don’t mind being constrained on the user interface.
Stacker is a niche web app builder that’s most suited to building internal tools or customer portals (an online place where your customers can log in to see bespoke info tailored for them). It isn’t as flexible as something like Bubble, but it’s a great fit for businesses that want to build web apps to support functions within internal teams. Stacker works by building a front-end on top of an Airtable base, making its interface simple and effective.
The design flexibilities are somewhat limited, as is functionality (though it has recently added a Zapier integration), it doesn’t use plugins, and you can’t use it to take payments through your web app.
Easy to learn
Enterprise-grade features, including single sign-on, advanced permissions, and white labelling
Limited workflow options
Less aesthetic interface
It’s best for…
Small businesses or enterprise teams that need an easy-to-use customer portal or internal app builder.
Before you begin scratching your head, bare with us. What we’re talking about here is a multi-tool approach that produces fully featured web apps. It uses Webflow for the user interface, Airtable for the data, and Zapier for logic to tie the two together. We call this combo the WAMZ stack.* You can add Jetboost.io to make Webflow more web-app-like by adding features like filtering and on-page search.
The upside of this approach is the way it combines the strengths of each tool. You get the UI flexibility of Webflow, the logic flexibility of Zapier, and the serious data storage capabilities of Airtable. You can also swap the tools out to suit your needs, for instance, changing out Zapier for the more powerful Make (formerly Integromat) or using Google Sheets instead of Airtable.
There are some downsides to this approach to web app building. It can be complicated to use if you’re not familiar with how APIs work or how to use Webflow. Webflow on its own has a steep learning curve for anyone new to web design. It also has limitations in areas like plugins and taking payments.
And here’s a little secret: we use this combination of tools to power NoCode.Tech. You can learn how to build a web app this way with our detailed WAMZ stack tutorial.
*The M in WAMZ stack stands for MemberStack for memberships, though that is no longer necessary as Webflow now offers membership support too.
Combines the capabilities of multiple high-quality tools
Builds fully featured web apps
Steep learning curve
Have to pay for multiple tools
Few plugin options
No support for taking payments natively
It’s best for…
Teams with some technical expertise who want customisability and a site with a lot of features.
In the flesh…
For more info, check out our full profiles on Webflow and Jetboost, plus our tutorial on how to get started with WAMZ Stack.
Bildr can build almost any web app and helps you build great user interfaces. Unfortunately, it’s an incredibly difficult tool to use, bordering on low code. Bildr also lacks a supportive ecosystem. There’s little useful information on its website, there aren’t useful templates, and, most importantly, it doesn’t offer integrations. But apart from that(!).
Bildr has also leaned into Web3 features in a way that makes it less accessible to web app newcomers. Pricing plans are offered, as ETH and NFT passes need to be “minted,” and it bills itself as an NFT and meme-builder. This will likely turn off and confuse less technical users, especially for business use.
Sharetribe is quite specific in what it can do, but it’s perfect for anyone looking to build a two-sided marketplace (eg, a web app where users interact as buyers and sellers). It isn’t as customisable as some of the other no-code tools on this list and it’s also a fairly pricey option.
Table2Site is an easy-to-use tool that builds simple directory-style sites. It’s a perfect tool for anyone building a web app with low interactivity where the focus is on displaying information. Think: a job board. It uses an Airtable base as a customer management system (CMS) and allows you to create a simple front-end for your web app.
Easy to use
Builds directories with tables
Limited use case
Very simple web apps
It’s best for…
Anyone building a directory-style web app who has limited needs otherwise.
Xano is another super powerful web app builder like Bildr. It’s similarly challenging to use and has a steep learning curve. It doesn’t build a visual front-end. To do that, you will need to pair it with another tool, such as Webflow.
Xano is the best tool if you need complexity and power, HIPAA compliance, or massive scale for your web app. To help with the challenging interface, Xano’s team provides excellent support and includes a lot of great educational information on integrating Xano with a variety of tools.
Powerful and scalable
Excellent customer support
Good educational materials
Difficult to use
No visual front-end builder
It’s best for…
Those who need a large and powerful web app and have a technically capable team. It’s also the only app appropriate for HIPAA-compliant industries.
After all that reading, there might be a few things you need clearing up. Without further ado...
• How is a web app different from a mobile app, a native app, or a website?
A web app is technically a kind of website. We separate them because a web app has more interactivity and complexity than a standard static content website. Mobile apps are any apps that can be accessed via a mobile device.
A web app for mobile is designed to be used on a mobile web browser. It will usually be able to be accessed via a desktop or tablet web browser as well. A native app is tailored to a device’s OS and downloaded onto the user’s mobile.
• Will I be better off just using a developer?
A no-code web app builder can be a lot more accessible and less expensive than hiring a dedicated developer or agency. Even companies with engineering talent on hand will likely be better off using no-code platforms.
No-code development is faster than traditional development. It even helps 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.
• Are there tools that allow me to build web apps and native apps?
Yes! Adalo does both very well. GoodBarber is another tool that builds very simple web apps and native apps and is best suited for small businesses without overly complex needs. For more information on mobile apps specifically, check out our Starter pack on mobile app builders.
• What can you build with a web app builder?
A web app builder can build almost any type of interactive website. For inspiration, here are just a few of the common web apps businesses build: