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InfoQ Homepage News Shoutem Aims to Be the WordPress of React Native Mobile Apps

Shoutem Aims to Be the WordPress of React Native Mobile Apps

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Shoutem has recently launched its new React Native-based app builder, which is being presented to developers as the WordPress for mobile apps.

Shoutem allows to quickly create React Native-based apps using a visual environment that makes it possible to define the various elements of an app, such as its layout, content sources, and 3rd party module integration. The app layout is designed by choosing a predefined template and then defining the content of each element. For example, you can create grids of icons, a table, etc. The content associated to each layout element, be it text, icons, or rich media, can be described statically, imported using an RSS/XML-based format, or fetched from supported web services such as social networks, Twitter, Eventbrite, etc. Additionally, the visual build environment includes a “live preview” feature to test the app, with the exclusion of the features that require a real device, such as camera, audio streaming etc. More thorough testing is allowed through Shoutem Preview app that allows you to preview and share projects created with the Shoutem platform on your device.

Shoutem Mobile App Creator aims to allow non-developers to create simple apps without a single line of code, while also ensuring developers a full spectrum of customization possibilities thanks to the use of JavaScript and React Native.

InfoQ has spoken with Shoutem's VP of marketing, Robert Sekulić, to know more about their Mobile App Creator.

You suggest to think of Shoutem as the WordPress for mobile apps, which is actually a rather natural comparison given the characteristics of your platform. What led you to think that mobile needed some sort of WordPress?

Robert Sekulić: We’ve been on the market for eight years, with a few different versions of our product. Since the first iteration of our platform, we’ve seen a steady increase in new users and subscribers on our platform–a clear sign that there is a demand for WordPress for mobile apps. These new users were mainly without programming knowledge and wanted to create mobile apps without writing a single line of code.

However, the first few iterations of our platform were limited in customization and even when we attracted users who wanted to go beyond WYSIWYG editor, the platform lock-in was a showstopper. As the number of users with customization requests grew, we knew we needed to revamp our platform. Our old platform allowed some customizations, mainly visual, but with our latest upgrade we’re talking about customizations that include changing the push notification or analytics provider or adding features in the app that aren’t already in the platform, and more.

Where does the comparison between Shoutem and WordPress fall short?

Sekulić: It doesn’t fall short! We created an amazing developer experience with Shoutem, which includes open sourcing all the client code. This means users can build an app on Shoutem, pull the source code locally, and do anything they want with it. The possibilities are endless. You can even connect with another CMS provider if you don’t want to use ours.

The primary goal of our new platform is to provide an efficient way for users to build their app by reusing any open-sourced extension (analogous to a WordPress plugin), either by customizing or creating new. We want users to focus on innovation in their apps, stop re-implementing standard functionalities, and leave the tedious work to us. We’re taking care of drudge work, such as automatic app publishing, auto SDK updates, user & app management, etc. If users ever get stuck in the app-creating process, we provide detailed and extensive documentation of our platform.

What kind of mobile apps are the most indicated to be created using Shoutem? Which ones will still take advantage of being fully native?

Sekulić: The philosophy behind Shoutem is to allow you to build apps efficiently without restricting your use of React Native. Essentially, Shoutem is an architecture on which to build React Native apps. So, this question is really about when you should use React Native. At Shoutem we believe React Native is the technology that should be utilized when building any type of mobile app. It significantly lowers the cost of developing apps when the end result is a native app.

React Native is just an abstraction, based on native code, which allows you to write cross-platform or even use native code when it’s impossible to abstract the concepts from iOS and Android technology. Apps built with React Native are very responsive, scalable apps with complex animations and concurrent logic. How can you know that? Just take a look! Here are the apps already built using React Native: Airbnb, Instagram, Skype, Wix, Tesla….

What comes next in Shoutem’s roadmap?

Sekulić: The migration of current users on React Native apps. We started the migration for limited users as we currently don’t have all the old platform features available on the new version. As we add features to the new platform, we’ll migrate users. We hope to have all users migrated by the end of 2017. Once migration is complete, Shoutem will be the biggest publisher of React Native apps.

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