They could assemble a costly in-house development team, hire outside help with no guarantee of continued support, or learn how to program code – hopefully obtaining the skills needed to produce a slick and functional app in a reasonable amount of time.
Now, there are many easy-to-use solutions on the market, including Kleverbeast.
Think of it as a WordPress for apps. Before WordPress, creating and maintaining a blog took specialized knowledge. Now users can pick a theme and start blogging in minutes.
Kleverbeast, a New York-based start-up, offers themes geared toward just about everything, including the popular categories of fashion, travel, art, music and food.
Small businesses, such as publishers of niche magazines, stand to benefit from such solutions.
Without an app, those who read online magazines on smartphones have to consume content on clunky mobile websites, where multimedia options are limited. Readers with apps can more easily subscribe, buy back issues and share content on social media without many disturbances to the reading experience.
The cost of hiring a designer and developer to build an app can cost as much as $50,000. Kleverbeast, however, costs $29 a month for basic service and $199 monthly for the pro package. Apps can be maintained by dragging and dropping – no coding skills required. Kleverbeast offers advice on navigating the app stores for iOS, Android and Windows.
The pro-package fee, which adds in-app commerce, might be considered steep for part-time Etsy sellers and musicians.
But the basic version of Kleverbeast is already cheaper than the $99-per-month MobileRoadie, an early entrant in the build-your-own-app game.
MobileRoadie does offer some unique features, however. For a one-time fee of $8,000, MobileRoadie will custom design an app. It also features an array of social media options, going beyond Facebook and Twitter to integrate Instagram, Vimeo, Foursquare and Soundcloud.
Yet another option is Bizness Apps, which can equip restaurant apps with click-to-call and mobile food-ordering, features that can set a business apart from crowded ordering services, such as Seamless and Grubhub. The $59 monthly fee includes a mobile website.
Having an app will soon be the rule for many more kinds of businesses.
According to Cisco, mobile-data traffic grew 70 percent worldwide in 2012 – to levels nearly 12 times the size of all data traffic in 2000.
By 2017, tablets alone are expected to generate more mobile-data traffic than the entire global mobile network of today.
The volume of activity will likely create a fiercely competitive market among app-building programs, driving prices lower and bringing the era of free app-builders well within reach.
Patrick Mauricio is a freelance writer based in New York covering technology and politics.