During Google I/O 2014, Google proudly announced that Android was now present in over 1 Billion smartphones worldwide. Within a decade, the mobile app building revolution has begun to rival that of website builders of the early 2000s. As in that period, we are now seeing an almost parallel evolution in the mobile application architecture builders. Just as the successful website builders, today’s modern mobile application builders require a highly adaptable, multichannel infrastructure and an incredibly low price point in order to gain global acceptance. The platform to embrace these philosophies will ultimately succeed.
Native App Building Status Quo is Changing
Building a native mobile application today is a complex process. With a small development workforce available, companies or individuals continue to spend large amounts of money to build custom mobile applications. These tend to range in cost but can average anywhere between $8,000-$50,000+ and can take upwards of 12 weeks to build a native application; depending on the application requirements. So far, large corporations, and even entrepreneurs, have had to pay these sums in order to obtain quality apps that will be differentiable in the vast mobile app marketplace.
Mobile App Building is following a Similar Path to Website Builders
It’s difficult to believe it, but there once was a time when developers were fetching very similar sums of money for building quality websites due to their unique set of skills. In an effort to drive down costs, the web became flooded with WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) or DIY website builders that would enable users to build websites from pre-made templates at reduced costs. While these tools were viable alternatives, they did not experience massive adoption due to a number of issues: sites began to look like cookie-cutter copies, functionality appeared to be very limited, and monthly fees for the builder were unattractive to the mainstream consumer. While these tools permeated throughout the space, companies and individuals looking for differentiation in a growing market, still resorted to hiring developers to build their sites. It wasn’t until the emergence of CMS-based systems that this changed. Sites like WordPress, Drupal, or even Joomla succeeded because they provided a website building tool that was fully customizable with a marketplace of pre-programed features and templates that users could integrate with the click of a button.
Surprisingly, the mobile app builders have experienced an almost parallel evolution to the website builders. Apps were first built solely by developers coveting high hourly rates. In 2010, we began to experience the emergence of DYI mobile app builders claiming to make mobile app building easier. Just like the website builders, these DYI app builders sought to solve the affordability and acceptability problems experienced by those seeking to build apps. While they did grow in popularity (over 200,000 apps were made with these systems in 2012 alone), they did not experience the growth many expected. Hindsight suggests that these builders faced many of the same complaints as the website DIY builders: monthly rates for apps that came from a limited number of templates with limited feature integration are not a really attractive value proposition. Consequently, the app building model is once again evolving to its next phase; a BYOA (build your own app) world where feature integration/customization and UI customization is as easy as building a CMS website.
The Future of Mobile Apps (BUILD YOUR OWN APP)
If CMS systems grew because of their ability for customization and easy feature integration, it is possible to believe that the winning mobile app builder will ultimately allow for deep UI customization and feature integration for individuals and corporations alike. Building native applications is not an easy task and the company that can make this happen will undoubtedly have an even greater market than that obtained by the leading CMS systems. One of the companies leading this revolution is Rheti. Currently in Public Beta, Rheti enables users to build their own applications by embracing the lessons learned from the history of website builders. As a result, Rheti enables anyone to build a native application by leveraging the following:
- Custom feature integration through a marketplace of third party app features – These include features like Google login, Facebook login, even hardware features like WeMo integration. All of these features can be customized and tailored to make an app’s behavior unique. Leveraging this marketplace effectively reduces the cost to integrate features into an app (i.e., social media for $500-$2000) to the tap of a button ($0).
- Easy Backend / Feed integration for more complex apps – What used to cost anywhere from $2000-$6000 to integrate with a backend, can now be drastically reduced to a few touch commands. Rheti integrates seamlessly into some of the best data feed services including Google Docs and Parse. With it, corporations can build their own sales apps in minutes. Even individual restaurant owners can manage their own app menus from their Google Docs without ever programming.
- UI customization – Quality applications require a unique UI and Rheti enables its users to customize their native UI screens without programming. By using touch commands, users can move items around the screen, resize them, and expand/shrink them as they wish.
Why Will These Platforms Succeed?
The flexibility and high degree of customization, coupled with a marketplace of ready-made features and templates, effectively decrease all app building costs to nearly 0. This has tremendous implications for markets beyond the 1 Billion consumer sector.
For corporations and enterprises, it means that they can enable any employee to build internal and external-facing native mobile apps that can seamlessly integrate with internal/third party middleware or app features. With these tools, employees (sales, marketing, management, even accountants) can build useful tools (apps) to solve their unique needs without having to go through the typical backlog in their IT departments. Imagine a world where an employee can come up and implement a unique solution (like an excel macro) in minutes? Not only will it create a more effective workforce but it could theoretically save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) in the the time and effort it would have taken for an IT department to develop that unique solution.
For developers, the BYOA movement enables them to focus their energy on the exciting parts of development; creative solutions. As development time with third party feature integration, UI customization, even bug testing is reduced, developers are likely to apply their skills to building even better solutions for the interconnected world rather than focusing their time on another app iteration with the same functionality. The creative solution can then be shared as an app or as a feature in the marketplace for others to integrate into their own apps.
Ultimately, the BYOA movement is here to stay and if we take the web builders’ evolutionary path as a basis for what is already occurring in the mobile space, the BYOA platforms (like Rheti) are likely to change the landscape of mobile app building once again. The reductions in cost over the WYSIWYG builders, coupled with the high levels of customization and feature integration, will catapult these builders to a market penetration that is even greater than those achieved by popular CMS platforms like WordPress.