Do you know that feeling when you come up with an app idea, getting hyped up about it?
But then you drop it since you either don’t have the time or because you are not a coder. You could hire someone to develop it for you, but that comes with downsides:
- It’s costly. You need money to get started even though you don’t know that it’s an idea worth pursuing
- It takes longer to validate your idea. You need to follow the classic software development process: Define the requirements of what you want and what it should look like, discuss those requirements with your development agency, and develop and test the software before you can finally ship it and show it to potential users
- You’re dependent. Imagine your assumptions have been proven wrong or the economical climate changes. It’s hard to move quickly when everything is set in motion already with your vendor
I have some good news for you.
It is now easier and cheaper than ever to build something on your own
You don’t need a computer science degree or know how to code. Everyone can build and launch an MVP within a few days and start a business making revenue.
In this article, I will show you how I built an app without coding using no-code tools for less than $90/m.
If you like to learn more, we created a hands-on course where I teach step-by-step how to build apps and websites without code.
Coming up with the idea
Some time ago, I forgot to cancel my mobile phone contract. It got renewed automatically for another 12 months, even though I wanted to sign up for a cheaper provider. How annoying…
Too many products and services are subscription-based nowadays, and it is hard to keep track of everything – Phone contract, internet, Netflix, Spotify, Headspace, you name it.
I thought to myself – If there was only a neat product where I could easily manage all my monthly subscriptions and get a reminder when it’s time to cancel before auto-renewal.
I got enthusiastic about it and developed an urge to build this, for multiple reasons:
- Creating something on my own and learning a lot in the process
- Adding another product to my portfolio
- Potentially monetizing it someday
Back in the day, I studied a mix of business and informatics. I learned the basics of developing websites. I also enjoyed creating app designs but never coded one myself. Learning the skills to code an app would have been a very steep learning curve, requiring a lot of time (even though there are new things like SwiftUI to get up to speed quicker). Besides that, I didn’t even know if there was a market for my idea and therefore worth the time investment.
Would other people find this useful?
Since the no-code movement has been growing strong, I decided to give it a try and see which existing tools out there would fit my needs. I played around with dozens of tools and ended up with Adalo, which proved to be exactly what I needed – A visual editor to build mobile and web apps without code.
I built and launched my product within 10 weeks while working full-time as a Product Manager. Here’s how I did it.
Structuring Thoughts and Tasks 🗒️
First I needed to conceptualize, fleshing out the scope of my app. It was easy to get sidetracked as more and more ideas came to mind.
I had to structure my thoughts and prioritize them somehow
I decided to use Notion as my task management tool since I have already been using it to organize my personal life. Notion offers useful templates including a Kanban-style board that I used to organize tasks.
Visualizing the Idea 🎨
Drawing and sketching get my creative juices flowing. This is why I started drawing wireframes early on, first with pen and paper in my notebook.
What should the app look like and what could be the functions?
After my rough paper sketches, I started creating digital wireframes. I used Figma, which is my favorite tool for creating wireframes and even high-fidelity prototypes.
Check out the first mockup of my app here!
Creating a Landing Page 🌍
It’s absolutely crucial to validate an idea as early as possible.
In order to gauge interest, I created a simple landing page with Carrd.
It takes less than an hour to create and publish a landing page
Carrd allows you to integrate with other tools, so you can capture user signups on your website and build a lead database. This is useful to gauge interest in your app and you can let everyone know when you’re about to launch.
I also created a logo with Canva in less than 30 minutes.
Building the App 🔧
- The ability to build Apple apps without coding
- The ability to build Android apps without coding
- Getting up to speed quickly
- Wide selection of templates and components
- A level of flexibility & customization
- Being able to create own database tables
- Zapier integration for no-code automations
- Mixpanel integration for analytics
- Stripe integration for payments
- Responsive and helpful support
I found it easy to learn how to use Adalo, the UX is very intuitive. You visually create screens, add components and add functions to those, e.g. linking from the ‘Welcome’ screen to the ‘Sign Up’ screen.
The tool offers different types of templates and components such as lists. You can then adjust those to your liking and visualize data on a screen.
This gave me a certain degree of customization and individualism which I really liked. Many other no-code tools simply offer out-of-the-box components.
You can also create your own database structure based on Collections which are essentially tables. Those can be linked to each other, like relational databases.
I wanted to allow my app to offer all global currencies. The ability to import data via a CSV file upload saved me a lot of time. I found a CSV online (on Github) with all currencies and simply imported that file as a Collection called ‘Currencies’.
Another thing that proved to be super useful was the preview function for early user feedback.
At any given time, you can create a preview link to your project and share it with someone just like a Google Doc. That’s a great option to share the early version with friends or colleagues.
I used the preview function a lot to get early feedback on my idea and validate assumptions quickly.
Enabling Payments 💸
Adalo offers multiple ways for users to make payments, e.g. via Stripe or native payment methods such as Apple and Google.
I decided to offer Memoly for free in the beginning to bring in users and monetize later.
However, in order to offset my costs for the no-code tools, I gave users the possibility to support me by making a donation.
Therefore, I integrated two options to make a donation payment: Via Stripe credit card payment and Buy me a coffee.
While Stripe is supported out-of-the-box with Adalo, I created an in-app link for Buy me a coffee that redirects to my profile within a web view.
Word of caution: There is a risk that Apple might reject your app. Their app store policies don’t allow for payments for digital services (as opposed to physical products) with payment methods other than their native Apple Pay. Depending on the rigor of the person who reviews your submission to the Apple App Store, they might reject your app.
Bear in mind that when I built my app, Adalo didn’t support Apple Pay. This is available now so you’re better off just using that, even though they take a cut of around 30% of each payment.
Adalo has a direct integration with Mixpanel, a tool that enables product analytics. This helps you to understand user behavior within your app that you can then use to optimize it.
All I had to do is create a Mixpanel account and generate a token. That token needed to be added to Adalo so that Mixpanel receives event data from Adalo.
Once you have everything there, you can set up useful user funnel or cohort-based dashboards. This helps you understand how users interact with your app, and where they drop off.
Setting Up CRM & No-code Automations ⚙️
I’m a huge fan of Airtable, which is basically a database organized like spreadsheets. Users of Google Sheets will be familiar with the tool in no time.
I used Airtable as my CRM, to have one dedicated place to store important user data, such as contact details, lifecycle information, and subscription details that users enter within the app.
Adalo has a direct integration with Zapier, my favorite tool to automate almost anything.
With Zapier, you can connect to almost any other tool and trigger workflows
A workflow in Zapier is called a Zap, and it’s pretty straightforward to set up. Using drag and drop, you can trigger processes with other tools based on your own logic (e.g. time-based or event-based).
But first I had to transfer data from Adalo to Airtable. Within the Zap, I connected both tools. When a new user signed up for my app or entered a new subscription, the workflow automatically created a new record in Airtable.
One challenge that faced was sending an automated email to users when their contract is about to end, based on the end that they put in. This was a key feature of my app.
To achieve this, I had to make some date transformations in Zapier. Basically, the subscription end date minus 7 days (or whatever reminder period a user entered).
I then created a column in Airtable called ‘Reminder date’ with the new date from Zapier. Airtable has the ability to check every day whether there are any reminder dates due today. If that was the case, that entry would go into a new view called ‘Due today’.
If that view had a new entry, a trigger would go back out to Zapier to send a reminder email to the user.
I was sending emails directly out of Zapier with a Zap called SMTP so you don’t even have to integrate with your email provider.
Launching the App 🚀
Launching the app was honestly not as straightforward as I thought. In theory, you just need to create developer accounts for the Apple and Google app stores and then send the build there from Adalo.
Make sure that you create all the necessary assets in advance, such as
- Terms and conditions
- App store screenshots in all sizes (e.g. iPhone 5.5”, 6.5”, iPad)
I got rejected multiple times by the Apple app store committee due to some issues with their guidelines. When I made a change and submitted it again, the review took at least 1-2 business days. It was definitely a learning curve getting acquainted with all the rules.
Breaking Down the Tool Stack and Costs
Here are all the tools that I used to create my app:
- Adalo: $50/month
- Airtable: Free tier
- Apple Developer program membership: $100/year
- Canva: Free tier
- Carrd: $9/year
- Domain & Email (Porkbun): $37/year
- Figma: Free tier
- Google Play Store account: $25 one-off
- Mailchimp: Free tier
- Notion: $5/month
- Zapier: $20/month
Total costs: ~$90 per month + $25 one-off
I launched my native apps without coding on iOS and Android within 10 weeks while working a full-time job. This includes creating visual assets like my logo and app store preview screens.
The cool thing with no-code tools is that you can create simple MVPs in a day and go from there
If you’d like to follow a step-by-step guide on how I built my app, feel free to check out other articles at GrowthLead or our course. It contains hours of hands-on video tutorials covering all the steps above and more.
If you have any questions about no-code and how to build apps without coding, please reach out to me! I hope enjoyed this article 🙌🏼