Microsoft Power App vs Custom Web App: Which Is Right For You?

Microsoft Power App vs Custom Web App: Which Is Right For You?

Posted by Kristina Rosario | April 17, 2019 | Blog, Office 365

A Custom Web Application is exactly what it says: an application built specifically for your needs, either by an external company, or by your IT department. But, because custom web apps are designed to capture, process, and store data, they’re very complex and not easily available. For instance, if you’re a Restaurant business and want to sell meals through your website, you’d need a custom web application to do so, which means designing and coding, or pay to outsource it.

Power Apps is a software from Microsoft that lets you build custom business applications without needing to know app development or coding. It’s also included with most Office 365 Subscriptions—from Business Essentials, to Education, to Enterprise, but can be purchased separately as well.

What does Power Apps REALLY do?

Whereas with Custom Apps, you need to prepare for each operating system and browser, PowerApps lets you create mobile apps that run on Android, iOS, Windows, and almost any Internet browser without any added cost. Since all the applications you create with Power App run on that very same platform, it takes care of the differences between operating systems all on its own. Same goes for the web version of PowerApps.

All this is done through a drag-and-drop interface. Through it, you can customize colors of text and fields, add media, forms, and screens. You can also connect to external data sources or store data directly in the app. One it’s created, just publish and share your new app with your entire organization.

What DOESN’T Power Apps do?

There has to be a catch to all of this, right? And yes, there is.

Power Apps exists within the business context, and as such, are meant for internal use. Therefore, you can’t create a PowerApp and share it outside your organization. This has to do with the licensing model, as well as technical limitations when it comes to sharing them with external users.

Another shortcoming is directly tied with the “no-code” ease-of-use. This means your in-house developers won’t be able to add custom code outside of what Power Apps allows or do anything to the underlying device. When it comes to external objects, if PowerApps can’t access them, neither can your users or developers. Which can also be good! Restricting code keeps the platform stable and easy to use on the long term.

There is, however, somewhat of a workaround for this. If you need more logic than what Power Apps allows, you can connect to any custom REST API.

Even though you won’t need to know JavaScript, HTML, or C# to make these apps, you still need knowledge of formulas to implement them. PowerApps uses the same formulas as Excel, so while the system isn’t devoid of flaws, it’s surprisingly easy to learn how to use.

Another problem you might come across is not finding the functionality you need in Power Apps, or the ones you do find don’t meet your exact requirements. However, since it’s a cloud-based service, Microsoft is constantly releasing new updates and features—so if you think there’s something missing, get in touch with Microsoft because they are listening!

Is PowerApps included in my Office subscription?

Like we said above, if you have an Education subscription, Business Essentials (either of them) or any Enterprise plan, you have Power Apps. As for what’s included exactly in each plan, you’ll have to look to the licensing page. It’s also possible to get a license without Office 365, and it costs between $7 and $40.

So Custom Apps, or Power Apps?

As always, it depends on your needs.

In terms of the effort it takes to develop, Custom Apps require specialized development skills, whereas Power Apps lets you create apps without extensive coding. So for simple development and apps, Power Apps is the way to go, but for more elaborate needs, you’ll need Custom Apps.

In terms of customization, if everything you need is in Power Apps, then it’s the way to go, as commonly used controls are customizable, and new controls are added regularly. For more in-depth customization, more granular control on design, user experience and a bigger controls library, you need to go with Custom.

Responsive Design is very easy to handle with Power Apps, since it natively supports mobile devices across all platforms. For Custom Apps, you’ll need additional framework support—and you’re likely to need a separate app for mobile.

When it comes to Integration, Microsoft has many Out-Of-The-Box connectors ready to go on Power Apps. Custom Apps will require more effort, and third-party connectors may be needed as well.

Extensibility is where Custom Apps clearly win, as their frameworks provide complete flexibility. With Apps, you’ll need custom logic with REST APIs, but it’s possible to interact with external content while maintaining your app’s context.

In terms of automating tasks, Power Apps will give you notifications, collect data, and automate approvals—which you can also get with your Custom Apps, so long as you implement it. Custom apps also won’t have native out-of-box integration with workflow engines, which PowerApps does.

Finally, Power Apps will give you great reports and dashboards, giving you beautiful data visualizations and insights through PowerBI.

Ultimately, unless you’re looking for complex apps, PowerApps is bound to make your life much easier. Here’s how to build your first PowerApp, and you can learn more about PowerApps here.

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