One of the best things about the web is that anyone can build a website, without much technical prowess or a huge financial investment. But mobile apps? They haven’t been like that at all.
Enter New York startup Kleverbeast. It says that its mission is to let non-geeks create rich, attractive apps in much the same way that blog services such as WordPress and Squarespace make web publishing into a point-and-click process. It’s doing so through a browser-based service which launched this week. At the moment, the service allows for the creation of iPad and Android tablet apps; support for the iPhone, Android phones, Windows and the web is in the works.
Now, services designed to let non-programmers create mobile software are nothing new. Most of the existing options, however, produce crude-looking apps, are limited in scope or basically involve wrapping up a website inside an app. (One of the most impressive contenders, Cabana, was bought by Twitter and discontinued when it was just a fledgling.)
Like a blog platform, Kleverbeast lets users choose templates, including ones designed for particular subjects such as photos, travel, music and fashion. Creators can customize these themes and plop in content — including text, photos, videos and more — which can be dynamically updated over the Internet. Co-founder Dinesh Moorjani told me that the system also supports app-store features such as notifications and in-app purchases.
I checked out two free art-centric iPad apps built with KleverBeast’s tools: Lawrence Schiller’s Marilyn and America in the 1960s (which is exactly what it sounds like) and Zeng Fanzhi (the works of a Chinese artist). They were both slick, fluid and gorgeous, and neither looked like something thrown together with a one-size-fits-all publishing platform.
Pricewise, Kleverbeast isn’t so bloglike. There’s no free option; a basic account is $29 a month, the Pro version is $199 a month and high-end users can strike custom deals with the company based on their needs. If you want to publish apps directly to Apple’s App Store, you’ll also need to spend $99 a year for a developer account. What Kleverbeast is competing with isn’t so much a free web site as a custom-designed app — something which can cost five, six or more figures if you outsource the job to a team of programmers and designers.
It would be cool if the company came up with a pricing tier which would put its platform within reach of casual consumers. (Squarespace doesn’t have a free service either, but it starts at just eight bucks a month.) Even its current incarnation, Kleverbeast is cheap enough — and looks straightforward enough — to appeal to a class of folks who’d never otherwise create their own apps. Klever, indeed.