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Stories
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Getting started with no-code and building a mobile app
Melissa Tal
Quick Stats

Build time: 17 hours

Cost: $237

WOW

A story from Makerpad

Getting started with no-code and building a mobile app

I first came across nocode tools about eight months ago, and instantly loved the whole concept. As a non-technical founder (I’ve built four companies and sold two of them) I have often felt the restriction of my skills lead me down an expensive (in both time and money) path, so the prospect of being able to build things, lots of different kinds of things, quickly and easily landed instantly for me.

Fast forward to now, The WOW App is my first attempt of building with nocode. I set aside January to learn and build with these tools, and I’m so glad I did.

The basic idea behind my app was a curation tool. As Kevin Kelly says, “in a world of abundant information, what becomes scarce are good questions”.

I had already accumulated a large number of interesting thoughts, quotes and questions from books, podcasts and articles I’ve read/listened to over the last few years in my notes app and thought it would be great to be able to search them in a dynamic way.

What's the WOW app?  https://twitter.com/thewow_app
WOW is an app that lets you search other people’s wisdom based on how you are feeling. You type in how you feel, and up comes a quote, some linked advice and context and three or four questions you can ask yourself.

The basics:
I used:
Adalo to build the app
Airtable + Google sheets for the database
Makerpad for help & tutorials
Stripe for tipping feature
Loom for promo/ video stuff

Costs:
The total cost of the app was:
USD$237 - (for me AUD$350)
Adalo - $50 (per month)
Makerpad – $39 (per month)
Airtable - $free plan
Appstore developer - $99
Googleplay developer - $39
Loom - $10 (per month for pro version)

Time:
It took 17 hours to build the actual app, inc making some brand elements (like the background monogram) watching tutorials & the data entry. It then took another 10 hours to set-up and publish the apps on both stores. I found google play & Appstore harder than making the app itself. (might be just me??) and I'm still waiting on their review to come back and let me know if my ""tips"" section will be allowed.

Details of the app build:
Airtable/ Database –
I’m a fan of Airtable, the hybrid between database & work sheet works for me. The plugin to Adalo was actually really easy thanks to Tom Osman (@tomosman) tutorial on Makerpad

- The data entry itself is not as simple.
Linked sheets don’t translate into Adalo so even if your sheet is all linked and awesome, it won’t mean it will be in the app. In the end, to achieve the search function I wanted I needed to move my data to a .csv and upload it into Adalo . My conclusion is that if you have an app that has user generated data, use Airtable, it’s an awesome instant database. If not – just use google sheets or excel it’s easier.

Tom helped me figure out the search function. Once I got it, I then realised that the “search” box can be used as any kind of call to action type function. So, I tested that theory out by creating a “tips” page.

WOW Tips –
I’m a big fan of creating ways to monetise without any need to create a subscription/ hand over personal info. I think tips are a fun way to interact with an audience. I figured that I could use the search field & convert it + link it to the strip plugin inside Adalo to build this.

To my surprise – it actually worked!
I’m going to do a tutorial for the search function setup and using it as a tips setup inside your app and post it to Makerpad later in the week.

You can check out a preview version of the app, plus test my tip function (yes, that means paying me a tip!!) via this link. https://previewer.adalo.com/9d62843c-fd2c-4796-9a88-f7a5bcb7a86e

On the search page, hit experts in the bottom then “wow tips”! Now it’s up to both apple & google to publish the actual app before it goes live!

Formatting & Design
I thought this was super simple to use. I would say, anyone that has basic design program experience (like adobe or even Canva) would get this in a flash. Below are some things I discovered along the way

- If you move an item off a page, it disappears - like the background eats it!!  A hack I used to get around this was to create an extra screen. I made it large in the background and put any items, text blocks etc on this as I was moving things around to get the format right.
- Command Z can be used to ""undo"" - its not in the menu
- The layers can be a bit annoying - you have to reorder things in the way you want them to show up.
- Hot tip from Tom - Duplicate your screens & have a set of test screens (labeled ""test_name_"") to figure out data and list functions.
- Grouping things can mess with the layers function.
- To make the colours/ design more dynamic you can create backgrounds and icons and images in illustrator & import them as .png into Adalo.

Adalo's customer support is good, but a little slow.

Final Thoughts
I created this app just to see if I could do it, because as I said above, I really love the idea of nocode. Creativity is limitless when the cost of entry is so low. The verdict? I think nocode is about to revolutionise what can be built and who can build it.

Makerpad was a huge help, even just having all the tools available to look at and choose from at the start is great. The tutorials are excellent - and not too long (!) and both Ben & Tom were super helpful.

A real standout moment for me was setting up the tips section in the app only took me about 10 minutes, including setting up a strip account. Think about it, if this was a webapp, you could have payments setup and live + shared to your list/ client base  in 15 minutes (including making an instruction video via loom!). In compression I built an online Instagram shop about 2 years ago and it took me hours, over multiple days to get it setup, and linked to Square via facebook/ woo-commerce etc. This advancement alone is a nocode proof of concept.

I’m going to build a couple more apps, with user generated content and I’m super curious about Voiceflow / voice to see how sophisticated these apps can get! Also, Amazons Machine Learning Cloud platform has these new ""plugin & play"" intelligence tools, that make it super easy to do fun things with data, i'm wondering if they would work with nocode apps/sites...

For me, it feels like the beginning of a new wave of amazing things to come!!

Thanks for taking the time to read about my App build. Please reach out to me on twitter @melsreallife or my website https://belikewater.blog/ if you have any questions!!

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