Small, Medium & Large: Creating Custom Apps for Businesses of All Sizes

By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

There is no denying the influence mobile apps have on where (and how) consumers spend their time, but deciding whether or not to compete in this environment with a custom application can be difficult at best - and recent data isn't all that encouraging.

Of the top nine apps (by unique visitors), eight of them are owned by Facebook or Google according to 2015 data from comScore. What's more, only four categories represent the top 25 apps, including utilities like maps and weather (which make up nine of the top 25), social like Facebook and Instagram (seven), entertainment like YouTube and Pandora (six), and retail like Amazon and eBay (three). Many brands, however, are not deterred. They are finding apps to be a more accessible channel to reach customers, according to Amir Ghodrati, data analysis manager at App Annie; and often a more rewarding and convenient experience than the mobile Web or Web itself.

"App Annie knows from speaking to several U.S.-based retailers that their mobile app users represent a very loyal segment of their total customer base and also have higher-value baskets than their Web counterparts," said Ghodrati. "We believe that mobile apps are a critical platform for retailers to continue to invest in to engage their most loyal customers, drive stronger sales and deliver a more frictionless experience than the Web."

With a smartphone never too far away from its owner, custom mobile apps present an incredible opportunity for companies to position their brands on a person's home screen but they need to develop their asset first. How are companies building custom apps today? Website Magazine explores a few popular options below:

Small Business Offerings: Appy Pie

With more than 1 million apps created on its platform, Appy Pie is a popular do-it-yourself (DIY) app builder for those without much (or any) technical expertise. Its drag-and-drop functionality is easy to use thanks to pre-created themes and templates; its pricing plans are accessible as well with costs ranging from free (supported by in-app ads) to $50 a month (depending on the operating systems, app store submission, push notifications, etc.).

It's important to note that while Appy Pie provides functionality that modern users expect (social integrations, reviews), it should primarily be used for small-business purposes (e.g., food delivery, churches, lawyers, etc.) as it does not offer enterprise-level features (like workflows or approval processes or customer lifecycle tracking).

+ Other small business DIY options include Como DIY, BuildFire and instappy.

Do It for Me

Beyond some of the DIY options mentioned here, companies may want to consider a marketplace like 99designs or Crew to meet developers or teams that can build their apps. For more do-it-for-me options, visit .

Mid-Sized Companies: Adobe PhoneGap

Free and open source, PhoneGap is an application framework that enables developers to leverage HTML, CSS and JavaScript to produce custom mobile apps. The workflow is designed to get apps built in the quickest way, but eventually companies will need to move out of this testing environment to create, package and distribute the mobile app either with PhoneGap CLI or in the cloud with PhoneGap Build. The latter will take those assets already created and then provide a download URL for all mobile platforms.

+, and Mobile Roadie are other options worth exploring for mid-sized companies.

Enterprise Solutions: Appcelerator (Part of Axway)

With Appcelerator companies can build native mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows, using JavaScript. Its "team" pricing tier is $259 per seat/monthly (with enterprise plans available) and includes pre-built connectors for Salesforce, MS Azure, Box and others. Users will appreciate Appcelerator's robust lifecycle and performance analytics as well as its marketplace to extend app capabilities and reduce the time and costs associated with development. Nearly 3 million apps have been created using Appcelerator, including those for PayPal, Avis and Cisco.

+ Appcelerator competitors include OutSystems, IBM MobileFirst and Verivo.