AppMachine unveils do-it-yourself visual app builder beta for beginners

BARCELONA—If you’ve ever thought about diving into the world of mobile app creation, yet lack the development knowhow, then you’ll be intrigued by AppMachine, a public, browser-based, visual content management system (CMS) for building mobile apps, which debuted at Mobile World Congress on Monday. The system is designed for users who have no experience with application programming, and has a similar feel to WordPress or other basic Web building platforms with various layouts and customizable features.

The brand’s founder, Siebrand Dijkstra, decided to launch the AppMachine beta after spending a few years working with an app development company. He worked directly with clients to help them build the apps they envisioned, and was inspired to create a do-it-yourself platform to let interested parties get their feet wet in the app development world.

“We provide the native building blocks for development, then users put them together to create your own app,” Dijkstra said at an MWC press event.

A building block approach lets non-programmers build their own apps.

I have no app building experience whatsoever, and I'm no programmer, but I found creating an app through AppMachine surprisingly simple. First, pick from one of three different packages: Gorgeous, the most basic plan; Designer, which allows more customization of different settings; and Developer, which allows full access to all of AppMachine’s offerings. Next, pick your layout. Gorgeous users have several layout templates to choose from, while Developer users can tweak these or build their own from scratch. Then, pick which key features you’d like your app to have. Dijkstra calls these features building blocks, and some main blocks include camera integration, Facebook, a music player, photo stream, and more.

Of course, some of the more complicated tasks emerge after you’ve picked your blocks, such as customization and more detailed integration. But having the layout and format complete removes from the pain of building the app's actual structure. As you’re building your app, you can designate whether it will run on Android or iOS, and then link your handset to the CMS via the given browser instructions. You can then view the app on your mobile device in real time as you’re building it, so you can get a feel of how it looks and make changes as necessary.

An easy-to-use CMS lets you visually put all the pieces together and test right on your device.

Once your app is ready to go, AppMachine will bill you a one-time fee, and then the app can be sent to the App Store for review or to the Google Play Store for publishing. You can work on the app for as long as you want before having to pay a dime—you’re only charged once it’s submitted to the store. If you want to continue to build the app after it’s live and improve it through changes and updates, you’ll run into another fee: pick between a per-update charge, or an recurring monthly charge that allows you to update as often as you’d like.

AppMachine can be used to built a variety of apps. Some apps displayed at the demo included personal apps for musicians with a complete list of tour dates and integrated tracks to stream, an app for a local hotel with a booking feature and other information for tourists, and an app for a music festival with maps and schedules that the developer could update with changes. You can also view analytical data about your app once it’s live to track its progress.

AppMachine supports apps for smartphones running Android and iOS, with options for tablets and Windows Phone 8 devices coming soon. The program is in beta, but a final version will be launched later this spring, the developer says. Prices start at roughly $525 for a Gorgeous app, $919 for a Designer app, and $1967 for a Developer app. To build for iOS, developers must purchase a license from Apple in addition to the AppMachine fee.

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