How to Build Your Best Custom Mobile App

How To Build Your Best Custom Mobile App

“If you think that mobile apps are solely for big name brands like Walmart and Bank of America, you are wrong. More and more small and midsize businesses are following the mobile trend, understanding that an effective mobile strategy involves more than just a mobile-friendly website.

— Forbes

Creating a powerful mobile app that is customized for your business and clients can be a key part of any successful, forward-thinking business plan. We have had great success working with our clients to build a variety of types of mobile apps that serve a variety of purposes. This article outlines options when building a custom mobile app, as well as a summary of tips if and when you decide to go down this road.

Scrabble tiles with app icons, showing the range of mobile apps available in places like the App Store

Mobile applications frequently serve to connect customers to your business 

How many times have you picked up your phone today? How many apps have you used? On Average, people spend 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phone each day.  This statistic is predicted to keep going up. We have our phones with us at all times, creating a key entryway for companies to build their relationships with customers and improve employee satisfaction. You can create a client-facing mobile app to allow customers to login and view their account, check on payments, review upcoming appointments, for example. In order to improve workplace productivity and insights, you can create mobile apps with dashboards and visualizations based on the user’s role, to allow them to view the data important to their position without being inundated with a wealth of information. For more information about how to get a positive ROI on your customized software, check out our in-depth blog series on that topic. 

What type of mobile app do you want? 

Depending on who will be using your application and the typical operating system that is used, you may wish to consider the following options to create your mobile application.

• You want people to download your app in the iOS App Store

What’s the most efficient way to deploy, update and release your iOS application to the iPhone/iPad? Utilize the FileMaker iOS SDK as your iOS development platform.

There are a variety of different programming environments one can use to write a custom iOS app. When choosing between Objective-C, Swift or HTML5, Claris FileMaker is the obvious choice if you want the fastest and most efficient approach to developing and deploying your app. The low-code platform allows us to easily and quickly mock up a mobile interface and get it into testing.

The combination of FileMaker and the iOS SDK allows us to get your app developed, tested, and deployed quicker than any other development environment when deploying to iPhones and iPads.

• You want a secure, private app accessible only by members of your organization

Do you want to create an app that is geared towards members of your organization, or used by internal staff to access data? This is possible using Apple Business Manager or Apple Developer Enterprise, depending on the qualities of your company. These avenues allow you to transform your customized app built with the FileMaker Go SDK into a private app accessible only to members of your organization. With FileMaker integration capabilities, your iOS app can act as a front end for data stored in a variety of other systems like SalesForce, Dynamics, or Zoho.

• You are happy using FileMaker Go to access your app

Not sure if you need a full-fledged iOS app? FileMaker Go allows your application to be deployed to the iPhone or iPad without requiring any other tool to compile the app. The file will run using the FileMaker Go app on your iOS device. For many applications, this approach is the most efficient. 

You can connect to a hosted file, as well as install a local file on your device. Utilizing FileMaker Go allows us to bypass any deployment processes and iterate much more quickly.

Illustration of FileMaker Go logo among app icons

• You want to deploy for Android devices

While there is not currently a native FileMaker Go app for Android (at the time of this posting)  like there is for iOS, there is the option to use Live Code for FM to deploy on Android devices. Another consideration is to develop a web-friendly interface and dedicated application that will run on an Android mobile web browser.

• Consider an alternative solution – mobile web apps

With a mobile web app, you can leave behind the entire deployment process, whether involving the app store or not. There’s no need to install software on your device and the changes made to your solution appear instantaneously on your device. We can build a solution using FileMaker WebDirect or the FileMaker Data API that will allow your application to be accessed via a web page on any mobile platform, including iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.

Illustration of difference between mobile app and web app

Tips for building a mobile app for the future

So you have found the avenue of your choice, now here’s the time to consider what makes a great app. Enjoy these simple tips to help you create a winning solution.

• Mobile apps have big buttons

The key to a successful app is having a simple and intuitive interface that makes it easy to navigate your data and perform various tasks.

When thinking about the look and feel of your mobile app, remember everything is done with fingers. Small buttons are difficult to click and can easily frustrate users. That is why it is essential to view the application on the mobile device as soon as possible, even before full user interface design has begun. The user experience is very different on a phone or tablet rather than a desktop version.

• Keep your mobile app as simple as possible

Effective mobile applications frequently serve as simple, repeatable processes that can be quickly executed. For better performance and user experience, provide users with a limited function feature set of what you might expect in a full desktop or web app.

• To sync or not to sync

Using FileMaker as our development platform for iOS apps allows us to easily choose between several options for managing the data in the application. 

We can create an app whose data is entirely resident on the local device, completely server based, or that periodically synchronizes to the server. Sometimes there is a need to have the database remain local on the iOS device so that the user is able to use it without internet access. In this case, a syncing process to push and pull that data from the server to the local app can be developed. 

If the application needs to be used offline or in an area where network performance is variable due to poor cellular connection or Wi-Fi, the mobile app needs to be ready for an offline synchronization routine. 

• Get your mobile app onto a mobile device and into testing as soon as possible

The fastest way to get your smartphone app into production is to get it into a mobile environment and get feedback from testers as soon as possible. There are different issues that will arise on a mobile device that will not occur on a standard Windows or macOS environment. Testing can happen very quickly with the free FileMaker Go app, and is an important first step to launching any successful app.

• Design for the future – super apps

As we enter a new age of mobile apps, you want to stay one foot ahead but understand the future of mobile apps. We are pushing new boundaries with what FileMaker is capable of when we integrate and tie together mutual applications to improve and streamline workflows. The same can be done with mobile apps. Today’s apps serve more than one purpose and, with built-in logic, we have the tools to build the super app you are starting to envision. 

Illustration of Super App concept, complete with red superhero cape Link image to


Whether you’re a business owner, developer, or just someone looking for a flexible and easy-to-use custom mobile app, we are here to help. Contact us with your ideas, and we’d be delighted to help bring them to life.

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