Apps created from templates seem to make sense on the surface. The foundations necessary to build an app are similar no matter what the app is or does.
What is a template app?
These apps are created by filling in predefined fields and answering questions or using a drag-and-drop WYZIWYG. That means anyone without coding experience or a custom app team can visit a template app store and build an app for their business. Template apps are far cheaper and much faster to produce than a custom app. For many small business owners, template apps are a way to create an application with their branding and some essential functions.
While budget and time constraints have some shying away from custom apps, it’s time to rethink that decision.
1. Apple tried to dump template apps.
First, the most significant reason: Apple announced in 2017 that it would ban apps created by a “commercialized template or app generation service.” They said this was part of an effort to clean up the App Store and eradicate spam apps. In their announcement, they said any new template apps submitted after Jan. 1, 2018 would be rejected. TechCrunch reported that this cleanup has resulted in the removal of hundreds of thousands of apps. Of course, many of those were spam, weren’t compatible with today’s devices, or hadn’t been downloaded by anyone in years.
However, the decision to target not just crummy apps, but the way in which they are made affected a far larger group of people than initially thought. ChowNow is an app used by thousands of restaurants to deliver food. The company’s founder said they will be affected by these guidelines and argues they don’t make sense. “There’s only so much you can do with apps that perform the same utility – ordering food,” he was quoted as saying.
In December, Apple acquiesced and agreed template apps are allowed but with restrictions. The most prominent constraint is that you can’t let the template company publish the app. Instead, you must submit it yourself and understand the licensing agreements and app publishing process. Busy business owners probably don’t have time to deal with all that, but a custom app company can help.
2. Customers are more discerning.
Not surprisingly, such apps tend to look similar to each other, meaning they don’t stand out. While that might work out fine for a restaurant — you’re probably more worried about functionality and ease — it’s not going to help your company’s branding if your yoga studio app looks the same as the studio across town. Customers are becoming smarter about apps, and more can tell when yours is generated from a template service.
3. Fewer functions and features.
While template programs may allow you to insert your own images, the app’s features are limited. Every business is different and has different needs for an app. You might find a way to make a template service work for you, but will you be happy with the result?
4. Less control.
No matter how your app is built, it’s not something you “set and forget.” Apps always require updates and maintenance. With a template service, you have far less control over when those updates occur and how they will impact your app. Their code is probably older and more generic, meaning it is prone to problems. In fact, with so many device types and screen sizes out there, a template app may not even work on a small percentage of them. You will also have more control over the security of the data within the app. Finally, read the fine print of that template app. You probably don’t have full intellectual property ownership. If that matters to you, consider a custom app builder instead.
5. Surprise costs.
Many business owners turn to template apps because they are inexpensive. While that’s true, you may be surprised to find the extra costs down the road. For example, your business might outgrow the vendor hosting, or you need to scale, but you can’t do that with the template builder — without spending a fortune. That’s because it’s challenging to build onto an already made app. A (good) custom app company will talk to you about all the fees up front.
Some small businesses will benefit from using a template app to get started, but find, as they grow, that a custom app is going to serve them better in the long run. If you’re ready to create a custom app for your business, talk to us about how to get started.