So you’ve got that killer idea for a mobile app that the whole World will want, no need to use but you have no programming knowledge. Fear not, as Google have just announced the App Inventor site that allows people to build apps for their android phones using a simple drag-and-drop interface. The builder allows users to work with the GPS location sensor so they can build location aware apps and integrate with sites such as Twitter to build mashup applications.
A quick search on the subject uncovers two main concerns that both users and developers have that may cause Google problems in the long run:
If the tools are made available for everyone to create apps, it is feared that there will be an influx of useless and poorly designed apps that haven’t gone through the rigorous testing processes that professional developers go through. In fact the cynical people amongst you may event think that this is a way for Google to increase the number of apps that they offer to look better in comparison charts with Apple.
The creation of poorly designed apps is a very real concern but I think that it is only problem when looking at one destination for the apps – the app stores. This technology will allow users to create useful apps that they only intend to be used by themselves, allowing them to maximise the devices they own. The app stores will have to rely on the rating systems and the wider community to help ensure the better apps are pushed to the user.
If everyday users can create apps, that means more scammers and spammers can create apps. This is more an issue with Google’s laid-back acceptance of Apps rather than the tools themselves. As with everything online users will need to be vigilant and think before downloading and deciding on passwords and personal details submitted within it.
Despite these concerns, empowering more people to realise their ideas will encourage innovation. Solutions like this will close the digital divide and I think some of the concerns stem from the fact that it looks, on the surface, that developers will be out of a job. It is worth remembering that drag-and-drop solutions can only do so much and they will never satisfy everyone’s needs. Just like the surge of drag-and-drop website creators, for a professional looking and functionally rich product, a team of developers and designers will still be needed.