I've been hit up recently for a lot of freelance work for mobile app development. Most are simple apps, needing a quick turn around and a cross-platform solution. I told a friend of mine a few months ago who was relaying one of these freelance gigs "It used to be that you had to hire a developer if you wanted to make even a simple website. Now there are a ton of tools that let people make their own sites. It seems like whomever figures that same thing out for mobile apps is going to make a pretty penny." I even contemplated and sketched out what a simple drag-and-drop jQueryMobile-based (with the new jQueryMobile Theme Roller) tool might look like. Well, I'm glad I didn't invest too much time in to that, because other people saw the exact same thing and went for it. Here are 4 mobile app building sites that I've come across just in the last month. Feel free to add more if you come across them.

 

UPDATE 11/9/2011: I've added Mobjectify to the list having been introduced to it by the creator.

iBuildApp - The first I came across but probably the most constrained to a template. They offer their service for free actually and seems like they make money if you need the assistance getting the app on to the iTunes store, of if it is a mobile web app they charge for hosting. Some how they are also able to build out native apps, again, you have to do the leg work getting your app on to the app store

 

Application Craft - They have an interesting take on this space by trying to be the simplest, all-in-one application development tool. The apps created in Application Craft are designed to work on all screens, desktop, tablet, and mobile using what I assume is CSS progressive enhancement techniques. In addition, they also let developers get in there and modify the underlying web code. The thing is, I think in an attempt to completely simplify, they sacrifice the UI experience on mobile, which is the hard to reach itch that most people have. I'm not really a fan of jQueryMobile on desktop screens, the UI feels wrong. The development tool reminds me of Visual Studio or Dreamweaver, which are not particularly inviting to non programmers. That being said, I'd consider using it and just design for the mobile and possibly tabled screens only.

 

 

Tiggr is another web-based IDE app obviously constructing a UI using jQueryMobile. They seem to be trying to tackle the whole app development experience even trying to tackle data service consumption. So often when people ask about creating an app, they are really asking for an app that connects to a web service of some kind. That's the same evolution that "websites" went through. First it was a company needing a 5-page, static content site, then everyone seemed to want rich data-driven capabilities. Tiggr is trying to pounce on that space first.

 

 

Proto.io - Ironically, it would seem like some of their UI controls are the most polished / most native-looking of the bunch. Yet, they are calling their finished products "prototypes". Go figure. From what I can tell, it's  a really polished experience from start to finish designing and testing an app.

Mobjectify is another tool aimed at the prototype space and provides a hosted space for a prototype to be edited by multiple people and shared via link. I followed the tutorial and also played with the tool free form and found it to be intuitive for someone like me, who knows about jQueryMobile and how that all works. I think a non-techy could build a prototype, but to accomplish the demo tutorial the user is getting their hands dirty with links, HTML5 storage, JSON stringification, and form tag posting. At that point, I don't see the user who could deal with that needing a web-based tool for the easy stuff, so I'd suggest Mobjectify try to either make those tasks easier for normal users, or emphasize the drag-n-drop capabilities more to the target audience (non-programmers or people collaborating with programmers).

On a side note, they did take the initiative to create a custom theme tool before jQueryMobile rolled out their own that looks great and is no more complicated than it needs to be.

Any others I missed worth taking a look at? What do you think of do-it-yourself app creator tools for consumers?