Do people need online business application designers

    We create an online designer of accounting and reporting systems, which allows you to create a web application without programming. In addition to our product, there are dozens of designers on the market both from small and medium-sized companies ( Zoho Creator , QuickBase , Caspio , Zengine ), and from giants ( Oracle Application Express , Microsoft PowerApps ).

    In the article I want to share my thoughts about the problems of online business application designers on the Russian market and their possible solutions.

    About Database Designers and Business Applications

    When the company's business processes and the accompanying accounting and reporting forms often change, it is difficult to choose a finished product or service to automate their activities. The finished product may not have the necessary forms, or you will have to constantly order improvements from the developers.

    It is often easier for business to build the whole process on their own than to adapt to the finished system. At the same time, it is desirable that the process is built, launched into use and debugged by business users themselves, without programmers.

    Mainly due to the simplicity, flexibility and lack of need for programming (but at the same time the availability of VBA), in the 90s and 2000s with the help of Excel and Access, millions of accounting and reporting applications were created. The accounting system can begin with a small application of 3 tables and a pair of forms. If the application is in demand by the business, it begins to grow with new functionality. And if it suddenly turns out that the selected platform does not allow you to implement the desired option, you have to redo everything on another platform / language / CMS.

    So Excel and Access are still used, but they are not suitable when you need to add multi-user access with separation of rights and a web interface to the accounting system.
    Due to the fact that web technologies have reached the required level, now you can observe the boom in the development of online database designers and business applications that allow you to automate your tasks without programming. Consumers of such products can be both organizations with a need for automation, and system integrators who can increase the profitability of a business by creating systems for their counterparties without expensive programmers.

    Problem 1: balance of simplicity and functionality

    Despite the apparent obvious advantages of designers over boxed products and custom development in the face of frequent changes in business processes, dozens of such designers are not popular in Russia. Perhaps the reason is the insufficient lighting of the products, but it seems to us that it is more likely in the product: now the designers are either complex and super-functional, or simple, but not flexible enough.

    Problem 2: a difficult transition from an already used solution to a constructor

    Users who are accustomed to Excel and Access already know the structure of their tables, they know the necessary formulas, they don’t want to name the fields manually and configure roles in the system. The transition from familiar and simple tools to constructors most often does not imply the ability to import existing tables and logic into a new tool. Coupled with the complexity of the interface, this problem often becomes blocking.

    What an ideal solution might look like

    It seems that an ideal business application designer should have:

    • Maximum functionality of accounting forms and tables. Moreover, all typical interfaces and accounting forms should be generated automatically - without programming.
    • Super flexible system of rights. Editing and viewing rights must be granted to columns and rows down to the cell in the table.
    • Constructor of data filling processes. For each entry in the database should be able to assign its own process of filling it.
    • The ability to add arbitrary behavior and design to anywhere in the system. You need to be able to add server and client JavaScript to any element of the system, you can write libraries in C # / Java, there is a REST API.
    • The ability to upload old tabular data to a web application while maintaining its structure.

    Such functionality allows you to create accounting systems of almost any complexity. How to make such a constructor simple for the user?

    As an option - with the help of multi-stage interfaces when creating and configuring the application:

    - First step: 2-3 main parameters are visible to the user;
    - Second stage: the user opens all additional settings;
    - Third step: the opportunity opens to write your code if there is no necessary functionality.

    An example of stepwise work with table fields:

    • First step: the user sets the name of the field, the type of field and a sign of uniqueness of values.
    • The second step: the user is presented with the settings for displaying the field in the table and the editing form, the ability to set the mandatory field depending on the state of the record, grouping fields, setting transitions to other tables when clicking on a value in the field.
    • Third step: the ability to independently describe in JavaScript the algorithm for displaying and field behavior.

    This approach allows you not to scare away newcomers, satisfy the demands of advanced business analysts, and not lose a client if he needed something that is not in our constructor.

    I will be glad to discuss the prospects of business application designers in the comments.
    By the way, you can see our service here:

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