Building Native Mobile Apps for iOS and Android Without Code

Most businesses have had websites for years if not decades. Designs and content changes all the time. Web Standards, Accessibility, foreign languages or multi-lingual sites. The work never stops. For last decade, mobile apps have added yet another channel by which to serve your customers.

Apple’s App Store started that movement in 2007 with the first iPhone and iOS apps are known to find a loyal following of customers. Google’s Play Store for Android apps have quickly become the leading (in numbers) platform but not for revenue generation. The fragmented Android landscape (the different versions that co-exist for customers and phone makers) makes it very difficult for developers to create stable apps that work for most if not all users and their mobile phones.

App generation, machine coded native iOS and Android apps, from a visual creator platform have existed as long as smartphones have. Capabilities vary but the power you get without ever touching a line of code is astonishing! That said, these generators are not suitable for all. A real developer is still needed for interfacing with remote systems, back-office servers or a diversity of applications that may exist in your enterprise.

That said, for 80% of the small business out there, these platforms for building mobile native iOS and Android apps serve a real purpose for an owner or general manager who’s tech-savvy enough not to require an administrator or developer and still reach his customer base.

User Interface in AppMachine
Creating an app in AppMachine

I have recently played around with 2 apps for some local customers here in Sint Maarten that each have unique needs and goals. I was impressed with the tools offered by AppMachine to scan an existing website. It creates a set of artifacts or “portfolio” of content that you can include in the default app or edit out (or adapt to suit your needs). Social media links, YouTube channels, contact information, these things are already crawled into the App for nothing right from the start.

Add a Product block with the top 10 selling items from a store or restaurant, a default delivery fee, include a CheckOut block with PayPal integration, et voila… you have an app that lets customers order your best selling products without a need for a phone call, order form or menu and payment integration means the order is already paid before it even leaves your venue.

Next, I’ll see how some other platforms for building mobile apps compare top AppMachine. I found a great description of the best platforms for building mobile apps on Mashable.

ChrisTonite demo AppMachine app

Redesigned BY AMI restaurant website

by ami rotterdam

Over Christmas I recreated a website for my friend Ahmed. His popular restaurant needed a better style online to match the cool and colorful physical appearance of BY AMI in Rotterdam on the Kop van Zuid.

His designer had picked a couple of uncommon colors (mauve, ocean blue and gold) and finding a WordPress theme that allowed me to use those colors in a meaningful way was not as easy as that sounds.

by ami rotterdam
BY AMI – Urban Bistro

But I found one and Ahmed is really happy with the new site. Customers are also giving him compliments over the new website, so I guess I did a good job!

The new site gave an opportunity to present and group all the different services BY AMI has in a clearer way. The menus are recreated from PDF as JPG to limit compatibility issues we’ve had with iOS 😦 and the many group arrangements are now also clearly presented in the main menu. I used the colors to highlight certain aspects of the pages to keep it a little less static and black&white. A splash of mauve or gold here and there breaks the monotony nicely.

Seaside Nature Park St Maarten has a new website

Complete overhaul of an outdated Drupal website. Tracked down the host (TCOhost in UK) through whois and contacted them. Hosting packaged was paid up for three years, so they assisted me promptly.

Created a new site online in WordPress.com and reorganized the site in accordance to the in-take discussion with the client. Main activities are horse riding tours for cruise ship day tourists, riding lessons for locals, inhabitants and expats and the pet farm for children of all ages.

seaside nature park activities
3 main activities at Seaside Nature Park St Maarten

Main improvement is the streamlining of the order process. All pages are linked to a central booking for where the customer fills out the activity he or she is interested in and the request gets sent to booking office at Seaside Nature Park where it can be followed up.

booking form
Seaside Nature Park central booking form

Should a PayPal for Business be added, this setup can be easily extended to include payments and reservations.

Future improvements are daily or weekly blogging by the staff to showcase their passion for the park and their jobs and improved sales funnel to help guide potential visitors towards their purchase.

https://seasidenaturepark.com/

New St Maarten Nature Foundation site live

st maarten nature foundation

I’m very proud to show you the new website for the Nature Foundation of St Maarten!

st maarten nature foundation
Nature Foundation St Maarten

The old self-hosted WordPress.org site is still live and used but totally reworked. I made an export and imported it into a staging site on WordPress.com. Once satisfied, I exported that, cleaned up the self-hosted site by deleting all pages and importing the export file. Once the same theme was set, all that was left to do was customization.

Three focus areas are highlighted:

  1. Preservation,
  2. Research and
  3. Education.

Pages were put into one of these areas and (blog) posts also categorized into the same. This way, their work is visibly contribution to at least one of their focus areas. By going in and manually tagging blog posts, search engines and AI can (in the future) gain a lot of semantic information from the posts and pages, hopefully resulting in more organic traffic.

Divi theme was removed in favor of a free lightweight theme. Plugins were optimized or removed to make the site load faster. Backups are scheduled weekly and security increased, for self hosted WordPress sites are a common target for automated scans and hijacking. Eventually, I recommend the Nature Foundation move to WordPress.com and avoid having to do maintenance on software at a slightly higher cost. But it saves them from having to find a webmaster and either pay him or ask to do it “pro bono”.

Planned Overhaul for ENIAC Alumni

The alumni association ENIAC of my (Dutch) Alma Mater, University of Twente, wants to redesign its website and focus on its primary services. Many aspects have changed I first moved the website from flexible but labor-intensive WordPress.org over to a hosted (but somewhat restricted) WordPress.com platform. Facebook has become ubiquitous and mobile (smart)phones make it easier for alumni to stay in touch, check content and sign up for events, update their data in the alumni database and post pictures during events.

While the static content, such as official documents for annual member meetings, statutes and the monthly glossy, are still important to maintain, events, sign-up forms, social media and calendars will likely be the center focus of the new site.

Exact requirements and desires are still being discussed by the board, but here is heads-up. The main complication is how to cater to 3 vastly different groups of alumni: < 30, 30-50, > 50

If you are a member of ENIAC and are reading this, feel free to share your ideas for the new site and give your input to me or the board.

Webmaster Support for St Maarten Nature Foundation

nature foundation st maarten

I’m proud to announce that I will be providing my services to the St Maarten Nature Foundation and their hosted WordPress.org site at Bluehost.com. It has not received maintenance since its reconstruction late 2016 and early 2017, could use some speed optimizations using Google PageSpeed tools and I will train its staff in using WordPress on desktop and mobile to update existing content easily.

Posts are already being done regularly, i.e. the blog, but pages itself have hardly been updated, added or edited.

Finally, I will link all social media channels into WordPress and make sure that updates to the site are also reflected in all the channels available so that publicity is maximized.