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The 5 best no-code app builders in 2023

These are the best tools to build apps without coding.

By Miguel Rebelo · January 27, 2023
Hero image with the logos of the best no-code app builders

Remember when you had to know how to code in order to build an app? We've moved on from that world: no-code tools are here to stay, and they're powerful enough to let you build almost anything you can think of without ever typing function().

I've been working with no-code apps for a while, and as a die-hard tinkerer, I have a serious soft spot for them. For this article, I researched and considered about 60 different platforms, exploring each one and conducting extensive testing.

After spending way too much time tinkering with settings and building apps without code, here are my picks for the five best no-code app builders—whether you're looking to flesh out that personal project or create a brand new SaaS product.

The best no-code app builder software

  • Softr for complete beginners

  • Bubble for a balance between power and ease of use

  • Google AppSheet for leveraging AI and automation

  • Glide for creating simple mobile apps

  • Backendless for advanced control over your data and infrastructure

Building an app without code: The requirements

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

Most tools that let you build apps without code divide the process into three parts:

  • Structuring the database, which will hold all the information your users will input and request as they use the app.

  • Composing the user interface, where you'll create the screens, buttons, and input fields that your users will interact with.

  • Building the logic of the app, which, put simply, is determining what happens once an event is triggered; for example, "when the user clicks the 'Open' button… open the pop-up."

The best platforms create a visual programming experience that lets you put together an app exactly the way you want it, without having to code or even deeply understand the way computers think. In addition to making programming more accessible for the non-technical crowd, these app creators also help professional developers save time on building basic features, freeing up their schedule to tackle bigger coding problems.

Here's what I looked for when testing each no-code app builder.

  • It's really no-code. No HTML, no CSS, no JavaScript. For all the tools on this list, you don't have to type a single line of code from beginning to end if you don't want to. 

  • Ease of use. The visual programming concepts need to be easy to understand. The user interface of all these apps is friendly and intuitive, and the platforms work without major performance hiccups or strange errors. Keep in mind: the easier app builders on this list, while able to deliver good results, can't compare with the power of those with a more demanding learning curve. If you're building a unique product, consider investing the extra time and effort to have as much freedom as possible.

  • Help and documentation. Having a good knowledge base is just the beginning. I also prioritized platforms that have good "getting started" articles, interactive guides, videos, and any other resources to speed up your learning and help you solve problems as you build.

  • Flexibility. Personal project? Enterprise app? No matter what you're looking to build, these platforms are flexible enough to let you build the features you want.

  • Community. Documentation only gets you so far, and that's when having an active forum with more experienced builders is useful. These apps have active forums and independent content creators online, so you can kick back in front of YouTube and learn while sipping your coffee.

After signing up for each platform, I opened the suggested "getting started" article and set out to build a very simple CRM app. I created the functionality to add contacts and deals and a simple dashboard to keep it all together. I tinkered a lot, and whenever I got stuck, I Googled the problem and clicked around to find the solution either in forum threads, in the knowledge base, or on YouTube. Finally, I visited each platform's showcase and searched online for apps built with it to gauge how flexible they were and the level of success users were having with it.

One last thing before getting onto the apps: as the founders of Coaching No Code Apps said, "no-code doesn't mean no work." Be prepared to develop new skills and to get in the programmer mindset when you use these no-code app builders.

Just want to build an internal tool based on your spreadsheets? A no-code app builder might be too advanced if you're only looking for a productivity increase. Check out Zapier's list of the best database-powered app builders, where you'll be able to plug in your existing spreadsheets and build the right productivity system for you and your team.

Best no-code app builder for complete beginners


Softr, our pick for the best no-code app builder for complete beginners

Softr pros:

  • Very easy to pick up

  • Plenty of useful templates

Softr cons:

  • Limited advanced logic

Don't be deceived by how simple Softr looks. It may lack the complex vibe we associate with powerful apps, but the range of things you'll be able to build—and the customization options at your disposal—is surprisingly good.

The user interface makes a lot of sense. You won't have to tab out to the documentation to put together the first prototype of your app:

  • On the left part of the screen, you'll find the big app settings, a section to add pages, user management controls, and visual themes.

  • At the center sits the canvas where you'll stack blocks to build your page. These can be either static blocks (containing information that stays the same, useful to create landing pages and feature sections) or dynamic blocks (where you can display data from the database or embed a simple checkout form).

  • Once you click on any block, the block settings open on the right side of the screen. Here you can edit the content, layout, and interactivity of each block.

  • Finally, on the top, you can change the width of the canvas to target desktops, tablets, or smartphones, and access the controls to preview or publish your app.

Softr is still working on its own data infrastructure. You need to either connect your Airtable account (free plan available) or your Google Sheets (free) to have it serve as a database. It's easy to integrate either of them, but for some reason, most templates that I tried forced me to go with Airtable. You can change the data source later in the settings, though, so it's not a big problem.

I started out from the existing CRM template, and I was impressed by how complete it was—it didn't take me long at all to implement the features I wanted and build an app without code. There's a range of other templates available, from project management apps to job listing websites, and each offers the basic pages, design, and functionality to put you on the fast track. Still, I advise you to click on the video tutorials section and hop on one of the recorded workshops to start learning the ropes from a blank slate. One or two hours should be enough to give you a big-picture understanding of how everything works top-to-bottom.

Softr's biggest strength is that it has most of the features of an advanced app builder without the difficulty. If this is the first app you're building, Softr will introduce you to all the concepts and still get you a great result at the end.

Softr price: Free plan available; paid plans start at $29/month.

Best no-code app builder for power and ease of use


Bubble, our pick for the best no-code app builder for power and ease of use

Bubble pros:

  • Build nearly anything

  • Great for prototypes and MVPs

Bubble cons:

  • Complex pricing

Bubble has its own visual programming language, making it accessible for beginners to create an app without code, while still providing the freedom and flexibility of a platform on the low-code spectrum. You'll have control over the way your app looks, its data structure, and overall performance. Because of this, Bubble is great for putting together both prototypes and fully-fledged products ready to scale. It's so robust that a few no-code agencies use it exclusively to build apps for their clients.

A normal day in front of the editor involves building the UI with controls similar to Canva, working with data on a screen that looks like Excel, and setting up the logic in a step-by-step way using workflows. The learning curve is steeper than usual, but in a fun way: it's easy to grasp the fundamentals, giving you enough confidence to start building. A few hours in, you'll hit a big roadblock that'll send you over to the forums or YouTube. After experimenting and researching, you'll be able to solve the problem and feel a burst of skill, renewing your confidence and speeding up the building process.

How do I know this? Full disclosure: I've been using Bubble for the past two years, I've written about it in the past, and they're part of my client list. I've built six apps with Bubble, and every time I begin a new one, I do a little better. I wrote a piece for the Zapier blog on how to build a simple to-do list app using Bubble, so you can definitely start there if you'd like.

One of Bubble's greatest advantages is that the community is active, there's a lot of help to get started, and there are plenty of content creators offering thorough step-by-step videos, introductory courses, and written guides. And if you want to learn faster, you can also hire coaching or enroll in one of the development bootcamps.

If you want an app builder that's flexible and will let you set up all the advanced logic you need to bring your digital product to life, Bubble can help. It won't be an entirely smooth journey if you're a complete beginner, but you'll come out on the other side with a strong app and the skills to keep improving it further.

Bubble price: Free plan available; paid plans start at $29/month.

Best no-code app builder for leveraging AI and automation

Google AppSheet

AppSheet, our pick for the best no-code app builder for leveraging AI and automation

Google AppSheet pros:

  • Generates a ready-to-use app from your data

  • Offers machine learning features

Google AppSheet cons:

  • Not very flexible

AppSheet is different from the other app builders on this list. Instead of presenting you with an open canvas where you'll design your app and a spreadsheet to create your data structure, it just requires one of your existing spreadsheets to get started. Once you upload your data, AppSheet's artificial intelligence engine will automatically build an app based on the columns and rows of the file you uploaded, adding the screens to view that data and the input forms to add new entries.

This focuses the building process more on the functionality of the app, not so much on the user interface: AppSheet enforces the user experience that Google has on all its apps. Still, that basic look is excellent and fully responsive, meaning it works great on all devices and screen sizes.

There are more AI features here than just translating your spreadsheet into an app. You can set up a way to train a machine-learning model with your own data to make predictions based on past events. For example, if you have lots of data on project costs, you can feed that data to the model, and it'll start predicting the price tag of future projects. You can then use that data in the app to make calculations, show it on a dashboard, or add it to the main budget.

Once you have your app figured out, you can add automation to the mix too. There's a range of triggers you can choose from, and you can then set what happens next step-by-step. This is great to process data as users interact with your app and to strike out repetitive tasks to increase productivity. And if you want to expand automation to your other apps besides AppSheet, you can do so by connecting it to Zapier.

It may be challenging to create a digital product or a SaaS app with AppSheet, but it's an obvious choice for enterprise use cases. In addition to the features we talked about, there's a range of security and governance features that'll let your IT department set the rules for app building. Then, let your non-technical team members build the solutions they need while the developers focus on the meatier coding problems. All without security holes or hidden risks.

AppSheet speeds up development by taking a spreadsheet and turning it into an app. If you want to get a head start and then focus on building advanced functionality, give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

Google AppSheet price: Free to learn; price for launching apps starts at $5/user/month.

Best no-code mobile app builder


Glide, our pick for the best no-code mobile app builder

Glide pros:

  • Easy to create good-looking apps

  • Install apps on your computer or smartphone

Glide cons:

  • Limited advanced logic

Even though Glide works well on desktop, the way it structures the layout and functionality of your apps makes it a much better fit if mobile is your target. And the best part is that you won't have to fine-tune the way it looks—it's pretty right out of the box.

Glide calls each page a tab. These tabs can have one of eight available layouts—for example, swipe, checklist, or cards—which establishes their overall look and functionality. The details layout is the one that lets you fully customize the structure of the tab, letting you add components like date pickers, buttons, and other input fields.

One thing I found particularly useful is the fact that you can install the apps you create on your computer or phone with a couple of clicks. This will place an icon that, when clicked, will start a progressive web app—an app that works via the internet, not natively on your device. This is great for testing, sharing, and distributing your app easily. If you want to add it to the App Store or Google Play, there's a service available that'll help get everything ready for the approval process.

Because Glide does so much for you in terms of design, it may limit you in terms of UI freedom. The same applies to the logic you can build on your app: the range of available actions and triggers is great, but it might be hard to set up advanced functionality. But you can use Zapier to take care of that: Glide integrates with Zapier, letting you trigger workflows directly from the app you're building. Here are some examples:

Log bountyblok tasks from new Zapier actions in Glide

Log bountyblok tasks from new Zapier actions in Glide
  • Glide logo
  • bountyblok logo
Glide + bountyblok

If you're new to creating apps without code, Glide University is one of the best learning resources I encountered in this category, offering a varied collection of high-quality videos with a focus on the "getting started" content. They show how to use the app effectively and also teach some basic concepts about app building, which will help you nail the best practices faster.

From what I've seen in communities, Glide seems best suited to build marketplaces and directories. I especially liked Telesomm, where sommeliers list themselves and their services, so enthusiasts can buy sessions with them. It's optimized for mobile, and you check it out here (all built on Glide).

Glide price: Free plan available for individuals; paid plans start at $25/month.

Best no-code app builder for advanced control over your data and infrastructure


Backendless, our pick for the best no-code app builder for advanced control over your data and infrastructure

Backendless pros:

  • Highly flexible

  • High control over every part of your app

Backendless cons:

  • Steep learning curve

Backendless is for brave, tech-forward folks. It ranks low in ease of use (compared to the other apps that made this list), and it almost failed the "is it really no-code?" test. Why is it on this list, then? Because of its flexibility, documentation, and community.

Let's add some context. The apps we use today can be divided into two main parts: a front end (the user interface, buttons, and input fields we interact with) and the back end (the range of servers and connected services to store data and process the app's logic). Backendless started as a backend-as-a-service platform, helping developers put together all the databases and services to get a website, app, or cloud service up and running.

More recently, Backendless added a UI builder, letting you create an interface you can then connect to your databases. You can do this with code or without it: the platform has a codeless approach, meaning that you don't have to write code, but the logic and the terms are close to actual coding. This makes the logic-building process slightly more accessible while also serving as a stepping stone to picking up some coding skills later on if you want to.

If you want to keep things on the no-code side, you can connect Backendless and Zapier to move data in and out of your app's databases. Here are a few examples:

The learning curve is scary, but Backendless Missions make it interesting. You'll complete a series of tasks that'll explain how the platform works, how to set up the back end, and how to connect things together in the front end. And this is the biggest advantage when you pick up Backendless as a beginner: you'll be closer to the actual structure and terminology of app building, which will be helpful when you need to scale, implement a new user interface, or add additional services to your app.

Backendless took me the most time to get from zero to finishing my simple CRM due to the learning curve, but I walked away with a better understanding of how apps work in general. If you want to build new skills as much as create apps without code, it's the best choice to do both.

Backendless price: Free plan available; pricing information available on request.

Build an app without coding

Creating an app without code should be fun, honestly. And by now, you should have a general idea of which platform is the best for your particular project. All the apps in this list either have a free plan or a "free to learn/pay to launch" model, so you can create your account and start experimenting.

A quick tip before you do so: create two projects when starting out. One for the app you want to build, the other one for testing and learning. Whenever you hit a roadblock on your main app, head over to the testing project to brainstorm possibilities and implement potential solutions. This will build up your skills using the app builder while keeping your main project clean as you learn.

Happy building!

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