A closer look into AppSheet

by Heiko Beereboom

October 15th, 2020

At Touchwonders we find it very important to stay informed about the latest developments in our field of work. One of the ways to keep ourselves up-to-date is by organising internal ‘innovation’ days to dive into something new. Here we focus on new tech that we find interesting and want to learn more about. Examples of previous topics are: accessibility on mobile devices part 1 and part 2, voice, low-code and A.I.

No-coding platform AppSheet

The topic for our last innovation day was AppSheet, a no-code platform that looks promising for non-devs to create mobile applications quickly. As we experimented with low-code platform Mendix in a previous innovation day, we thought it would be interesting to see what a no-code platform like AppSheet has to offer.

An image of the development cycle using AppSheet

The goal of AppSheet is to allow people at work to create custom apps that help them to become more productive. Users are enabled to quickly build mobile applications that can be used to collect, update and/or share data more effectively. The platform supports a large range of data sources like Excel and Google Sheets but also will connect with many well-known parties like SalesForce and AWS. The interfaces are built by selecting a sample application or using components that can be selected in the setup process of an application. A nice extra is that all applications are available as a web app too, which allows solutions to be displayed on computers or connected screens anywhere in organisations.

The goal of this blogpost is not to explain how AppSheet works, but to share what type of apps we managed to build in a couple of hours, and what our opinion is about a platform like AppSheet.

Some example apps

During the day, all team members pitched the ideas they wanted to (try) building after an introduction to the platform. After a couple of mini sprints of 90 minutes we managed to build a variety of simple applications.

  1. One of the apps we built allows easy editing of a Google Sheet. This Google Sheet functions as the data input / CMS for a mobile application one of our clients is using. The idea was that our client would be able to easily edit their CMS from anywhere by allowing them to do so through a mobile application. The result was an app that showed the product data after selecting a photo of the product in a list. As product photos are not present in the CMS this makes an interesting combination of 2 data sources which allows app users to quickly identify which product data they want to edit.
  2. Another application was more focussed on making data visible. At Touchwonders we gather a lot of data, for example from our mobile applications and backend solutions. But this also goes for our marketing efforts, of which we collect data over many different channels. Combining this data in a mobile app in which you can quickly scroll through some graphs makes trends visible and eases identifying if any action is needed. For this application it came in handy that AppSheet also can run in the browser which made the data look like a dashboard. Not as sophisticated as our own dashboard (link to case) of course, but let’s not forget we are just experimenting with the tool here to see what it can do. Also, this app was built in just a couple of hours.
  3. For a research application (link) we developed an AppSheet application that does the same as the previous app for marketing statistics; it makes data visible. This time not in a graph, but entry data categorized by anonymized users. The interesting part of this app is that it allows specific user data to be visualized over time for roles within the company that otherwise would not have access to this data. This try-out app sparked a whole new conversation on how to improve our current solution by involving new user roles. For us, triggering new insights and ideas when experimenting with technology makes our innovation exciting every time.
Preview of a marketing statistics app

Conclusion

Although we just scratched the surface of the possibilities of AppSheet, the power of the tool is quite obvious. Making data easily accessible on a mobile application in a very short time, without the help of developers has huge potential for improving processes and effectiveness in any type of organisation. The ease with which data can be turned into an application has really surprised us, and with the variety of data sources that can be connected this is where the power of AppSheet lies.

Image showing a range of data sources for AppSheet

Of course, there are downsides as well. There is very little flexibility in the actual interface and components. During our innovation day most of us quickly set up an application with a data source; but spent the majority of their time ‘polishing’ the interface. As we experimented with a free tier account the distribution of applications was far from ideal. Most importantly there is lot to be mentioned about the user experience of the applications we delivered.

Touchwonders believes that details make all the difference when creating experiences our users love. We have been doing so for our customers for 10 years now, of which the majority of solutions is used internally or in a B2B setting. However, companies can now move from no-app to an app easily and quickly and experience the power of mobile. For some companies AppSheet will be a welcome tool to improve internal processes. For others, it will show the potential mobile has for their business and some of these apps will outgrow the platform and will be taken to the next level by a company like ours.

A list of pros and cons of AppSheet

If you’re wondering if an app can improve your business or if you want to take your mobile app to the next level, contact us