A Guide to Zoho Creator No-Code Application Development Platform
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
This article is the fourth article in a series that is meant to serve as the ultimate guide to low-code no-code application development platforms. This series is intended to help technology enthusiasts, makers, citizen developers, or just anyone interested, understand how these platforms work, what they consist of, and to provide an overview of the different products available in the market. If this is the first time your visiting solution Scope, (thanks for stopping by and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date) I highly recommend you start by reading the primer article which provides a good overview of what low-code no-code application development platforms are all about. The other articles in this series are:
This article will outline everything you need to know about Zoho Creator low-code no-code application development platform.
Note that this article contains affiliate links which means that I will earn a commission if you decide to purchase or sign up to use one of the tools or products featured in this article. Note that SolutionScope is an independent blog & that the opinions cited in this post are our own & were not influenced in any way by sponsorships.
What is Zoho Creator?
Zoho Creator is a no-code low-code application development platform that allows users to build apps optimized for use all kinds of devices without needing to write a single line of code. Zoho Creator provides users with a ton of options to get started building apps. First, Zoho Creator features a robust app gallery that has a ton of templates that can be used as the starting point for your app. A template is an app that has already been built to serve a specific purpose. For example, some of the templates available include, an employee management app, an order management app, and a help desk app. The screenshot below outlines some of the additional app templates available in the app gallery. If you decide to start with one of the template apps, Zoho Creator allows you to customize the app to further meet your needs.
Who is Zoho?
Zoho is a private software development company based out of Chennai, India that has been around for over 20 years and employs over 10,000 people worldwide. Their slogan "a product to meet every need" couldn't more true as they have a significant number of different software products not limited to email, CRM, task management, workflow automation, and more.
How Does Zoho Creator Low-Code No-Code App Development Work?
Start Building Your No-Code App with Zoho Creator's Form Builder
When building apps in Zoho Creator, users start by designing the App Forms. Zoho Creator allows users to build their app forms in several different ways.
Users can start with a blank form which allows them to build their forms by dragging and dropping fields anywhere on the app screens. To make things easy for users, Zoho Creator has pre-built fields for common data elements such as name, address, telephone number, email, and more. The video below shows how simple it is to add fields to a form in Zoho Creator.
Zoho Creator also makes it easy for users to customize field attributes through the Field Properties Pane. Here you can change field labels, make fields mandatory or optional, add field descriptions, change the field appearance, and more.
An awesome feature of Zoho Creator's Field Properties Pane is the ability to implement data-security measures. With data security being a critical element of app development, these features are really important and simple to use. Specifically, from the field properties pane users can implement field-level security to restrict who can access the data that will be collected in that field. Additionally, users can also flag fields as having personal data and that they require encryption.
Users can also build app forms by importing data from a spreadsheet. When going this route, users are prompted to select a spreadsheet that includes column headers and at least one row of sample data. Zoho Creator will create fields that match the column headers and will set the field data types to match the type of data in your spreadsheet. For example, if you have a column called "Invoice Date", Zoho Creator will create a field called Invoice Date with a date data type. The video below shows how fast it is to create a form by importing a spreadsheet.
Users can also build app forms from one of the many templates that Zoho Creator provides. Templates are predefined forms that Zoho has developed to address specific use-cases. Some examples include employee satisfaction, performance evaluation, volunteer registration, patient registration, and more. Zoho Creator features over 70 form templates. The video below is a quick browse through the app gallery.
Users can also create forms based on an integration with third-party apps such as QuickBooks, SalesForce, Zoho Recruit, and Zoho CRM. For example, if you want to create a form that maps to a module of SalesForce CRM, you can easily do that by selecting SalesForce, the specific module in SalesForce that you want to connect to, and then creating a connection (i.e. entering your username & password) to your instance of SalesForce.
Add Other Components to Your No-Code App in Zoho Creator
Zoho Creator allows users to easily add other elements such as pages, reports, and workflows. As with forms, Zoho Creator features template reports & workflows to allow users to easily display data in the apps you build and to easily add in some common workflows. Let's look at reports and workflows in more detail.
Add Reports into your No-Code App in Zoho Creator
To add a report in your app, users just need to select the type of report they want to add, select the form that the report should use as source data, and give it a name. As you can see below, Zoho Creator offers users the ability to add lists, pivot charts, pivot tables, Kanban boards, calendars, and even maps right out of the box.
Zoho Creator provides users with the ability to customize and tailor the fine details of the reports being embedded in your app. Specifically, you can easily change the layout of the report using one of the many template layouts or can easily create your own layout. The video below shows how easy it is to change a report in a list format from a standard row-column list to a card view of the records and to create your own custom layouts. The video below provides an overview of how easy it is to change the layout and design of an embedded report in an app.
Add Workflows to Your No-Code Apps in Zoho Creator
A big part of evaluating no-code application development platforms involves getting a feel for how easy it is to build and implement workflows. Personally, while I like to build forms and reports, adding workflows to apps is my favorite thing to do. Workflows are what bring apps to life. Think about it, forms and reports are mostly static while workflows are dynamic. Implementing workflows in the context of no-code tools is awesome because it allows us to add functionality to an app without coding! Zoho Creator makes adding and implementing workflows to your apps a breeze. As expected, in Zoho Creator, you start with defining your workflow trigger which can be on a scheduled date, based on an event happing on your form (for example, trigger when a user populates a field with a value), or on an approval or payment activity.
After defining your trigger, Zoho Creator allows you to specify the desired workflow behavior. When using form events as your workflow trigger, users can decide whether the workflow should run before form submission, on-submission, or after submission. If using on-form submission, Zoho Creator allows users to implement field-level rules. This would allow you to implement behavior such as "if yes at field A, then show field B" which from my experience is a common use-case across industry and organizations. In this example, we have defined our workflow to run when a new record is created which will through the submission of a form. Check out the video below to see how easy it is use to add workflows to apps in Zoho Creator.
Zoho Creator's workflow action interface is simple and clean making it easy to add actions to your workflow. You can add notification actions, data actions, custom scripts, or even invoke actions in third-party apps or services. In the video below, I add an action to send an email notification however, I could have opted to send an SMS message, or even display an in-app pop-up message.
Zoho Creator Takes No-Code to the Next Level With Deluge
While Zoho Creator enables users to build complex apps with absolutely no-code required, it also has a module that takes no-code to the next level through its drag and drop script builder. This module is called Deluge Script Builder. Deluge is the name of Zoho's proprietary scripting language that allows users to extend the out-of-the-box functionality with custom scripts. Deluge stands for Data Enriched Language for the Universal Grid Environment. The Deluge Script Builder eliminates the need to remember any syntax to implement any custom code if required. The Deluge Script Builder allows you to drag and drop syntax and conditions and allows you to easily incorporate field data from app forms directly into the syntax. The Deluge Script Builder is one of the best pro-code modules that I've seen in a no-code platform. The video below outlines how Deluge Script Builder takes no-code to the next level.
What Kinds of Apps Can You Build in Zoho Creator?
Zoho Creator allows users to develop apps for web access via a computer, mobile devices, and even tablets. One of my favorite features of Zoho Creator is the ability to easily toggle between the app view in the app designer. This allows you to see in real-time how your app will look on the different devices. You can also customize the layout, color themes, and more across for each device type without impacting the other device layouts. Zoho Creator also supports the creation of Portals. Portals allow customers to login and access your apps via a browser. This is typically used for business-to-consumer environments where apps are built for customer access. The video below outlines how you can preview your app user experience from within the app builder in Zoho Creator.
How Much Does Zoho Creator Cost?
Zoho Creator is a subscription-based software-as-a-service that requires users to have a licence to the software to use it and the apps developed in it. Zoho Creator has four different pricing plans:
Free: Zoho Creator has a free tier that entitles users to build and use up to 1 app.
Basic: The basic tier costs $120 per user per year or $15 per user per month. This plan entitles users to build and use up to 3 apps. This plan also caps the number of records that can be stored to 25,000 per app.
Premium: The premium tier costs $240 per user per year or $30 per user per month. This plan entitles users to build and use up to 50 apps. This plan entitles users to an unlimited number of records.
Ultimate: The ultimate tier costs $420 per user per year with a minimum of 10 users. This plan entitles users to build and use an unlimited number of apps. This plan entitles users to an unlimited number of records.
For more information on pricing check out Zoho's pricing plans.
What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Zoho Creator?
Zoho Creator Strengths
Easy to use: Zoho Creator is one of the easiest to use no-code application development platforms on the market. The user-interface is incredibly simple to navigate and building apps in Zoho Creator truly resembles putting together a slideshow document.
Tons of pre-built components: One of the best features of Zoho Creator is that it features a ton of pre-built components. Zoho Creator has pre-built apps that you can start with and customize as needed, pre-built forms, reports, and much more.
Zoho Creator Weaknesses
Limited out-of-the-box integrations: While Zoho features a separate product to manage workflow automation, Zoho Creator features limited out-of-the-box integrations to other third-party apps and services.
Do You Want to Get $100 Toward the Purchase of Zoho Creator Absolutely Free?
If you're interested in trying Zoho Creator, simply create an account using this link and you will get $100 worth of Zoho Credits absolutely free. That's right, just signing up for an account using this link will get you $100 in credits that can be used toward the purchase of any Zoho Creator product tier!