Microsoft’s Power Apps is a facility enabling businesses and other users to build their own, bespoke apps to cover a wide variety of functions using ‘low code’ and simple, graphical ‘drag and drop’ techniques without the need to know complicated coding or other software development tech.
Power Apps work seamlessly with other Microsoft software such as Excel, and they’re designed to work well on desktop PCs and mobile devices alike. Developing a Power App is like the way WordPress enables ‘non-tech’ people without specific web building skills to create websites.
Planning an App
Although Power Apps open the door to simple and intuitive app creation, it’s still vital to plan and implement apps properly to end up with something useful – and it can still be a bit daunting at the ‘blank screen ‘stage when starting on Power App creation. It may be worth talking to experienced app developers to discover how Power Apps can benefit you vs Mobile apps, before getting stuck in.
Important components of your Power App
These are the 6 key components your app will require:
1. Canvas or Model-driven Apps?
The first decision is whether to create a Model-driven Power App or Canvas type.
Canvas – as its name suggests, gives you a ‘blank canvas’ where you can manually lay out each app screen with total control over the elements placed in them. You don’t require a ‘dataverse’ (a collection of data sources such as databases, tables and so on): connectors, currently there are around 600 to choose from, can be used to connect with data sources.
Model-driven – based on a more uniform look and style so providing a ‘standardised’ template-style solution, and needing less creative effort in their development. Model-driven apps require a dataverse and the views and screens are based on your data structure.
Generally speaking, Model-driven is selected unless full customisation is imperative; they enable faster construction since you’re not having to design the interface from the ground up.
Portal app – a third type of app and, as its name suggests, designed to act as a portal for users to interact with you whether customers, prospects or maybe staff.
How you’ll view records and data sets. One screen may show several or all records, one to ‘zone in’ on a specific record and then an editing screen.
Power Apps will give you various screens pre-built and you can simply choose the ones you need.
What type of information you wish to display will inform the visualisations you use, and choosing wisely is important to use something appropriate to the information or reporting you’re aiming for.
A dashboard is a popular option as this gives you scope to use multiple graphic styles to show information: for example, pie charts or bar charts can co-exist and be used as and when appropriate.
To give your apps uniformity in look and use, and to enhance the user interface, theming is important: it’s where you apply certain colours, maybe logos and other visuals to promote your brand.
Your company colours can be used in many ways throughout an app such as: navigation bar colour, default colouring for tables, hover and selected links and titles to name a handful. Your logo can feature of course – and certainly should if you use one.
Theming is particularly important if you have a portal app used by customers as it reinforces your brand and ties your app to you in their minds.
5. User interface (UI)
The elements of the UI you incorporate influence how users will interact with the app. For instance, elements such as column length, width, rows and the options for sorting by certain criteria.
It starts with a site map to show the navigations for the app.
6. Data components
This determines what data model is used, and will inform what the user views in tables, columns and the relationship between datasets.
For Model-driven apps, you’d be using Microsoft’s Dataverse which is the secure storage and management of data used by business applications such as your Power Apps, and stores the data within tables and columns.
Organising your data and adapting it for Power App use is an example of where the help of a software development/ data company can help you get started with Power Apps, so it’s worth talking to a professional tech agency.