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Follow 10 Power Apps best practices to build business apps

While Power Apps is part of most Microsoft 365 subscriptions, some users may not know how to take advantage of it. Explore 10 best practices for Power Apps and how to get started.

Power Apps has many options to connect and interact with content through the Microsoft 365 suite, including Microsoft Lists, SharePoint webpages and InfoPath forms. Yet to build in Power Apps, content managers must use best practices to offer the best end-user experience and create cost-effective and efficient ways to interact with enterprise content.

Unlike other software and application development platforms, Power Apps lets business users build mobile apps through its web-based designer with zero lines of code. This no-code app-building capability encourages business users and developers to solve business problems using custom apps.

Users can easily build these apps inside the Power Apps design portal and take full advantage of some hardware capabilities available in mobile devices, tablets and computers, such as cameras, GPS and touch capabilities.

Content managers who build these apps should follow ten best practices to encourage end-user adoption and positively affect their organizations.

10 best practices for Power Apps development

To build an effective and efficient app with Power Apps, content managers can take the following steps:

1. Understand end users and their needs

Content managers must first identify the business challenges the app should solve. After, content managers or app designers must determine the overall interactions the end user expects. Content managers should capture this information in a requirements document and set clear expectations regarding what the app does, the target audience and the desired outcomes.

2. Don't reinvent the wheel

Before developing a new Power Apps service, developers must determine whether an app with similar capabilities already exists in the marketplace. If the Apple or Google stores have a lower-cost app that delivers similar or more functions than the prospective Power Apps service, that potential app becomes superfluous. For example, if an organization looks to design an expense capture app in Power Apps, they will discover the mobile app market is full of popular and free expense apps.

3. Know what Power Apps can and can't do

Power Apps offers a range of functionality for interacting with data. This includes connecting multiple data sources -- such as SQL databases, SharePoint lists and other online data repositories -- to create, read, update and delete data. The platform also lets developers interact with and capture information from the hardware, such as GPS coordinates and photos from the device's camera.

Despite Power Apps' flexibility, it does not support third-party components or the reuse of custom controls, which developers can see when they develop apps on other platforms.

4. Develop Power Apps services using SDLC standards

To build successful apps, the design and development team must follow the best practices and steps outlined in the software development life cycle (SDLC) standards. SDLC includes different processes to ensure successful app design and development:

  • Analysis of business requirements for the app.
  • Planning, testing and deployment.
  • Power Apps architecture, design and development.
A chart highlighting a few features and benefits of low-code application development, such as drag-and-drop operations and reduced costs.
Microsoft Power Apps lets users with little or no coding experience design custom business applications.

5. Determine the licensing requirements ahead of design and implementation

Content managers must consider the Power Apps licensing model. While most Microsoft 365 plans include a Power Apps subscription, connecting to advanced data sources -- such as an on-premises SQL database, Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics -- requires Power Apps' premium plans. The per-app plan costs five dollars per user per app monthly, whereas the per-user plan costs $20 monthly. Organizations can also choose the pay-as-you-go plan, which costs $10 per active user per app monthly.

6. Always monitor the Power Apps roadmap

Given the rate of change seen in many Microsoft online services, the vendor will continue to introduce more features and functionalities to enhance Power Apps over time. These capabilities can offer organizations more opportunities to address challenges within the platform. Developers and content managers can visit the Microsoft 365 roadmap and filter by Power Apps to stay current on upcoming features.

7. Consider integration with other Microsoft services

Additional Microsoft services can further the functionality of the apps and add value to an organization. Power Apps supports integration with several Microsoft services:

  • Power Pages to offer a web-based interface for users to interact with data.
  • Power Automate to trigger automation through additional connectors for business rules, such as approvals.
  • AI Builder to offer access to Microsoft AI services.

8. Consider app templates

Microsoft offers several ready-to-go templates for Power Apps, which users can easily implement and customize directly from the Power Apps Studio. These templates include to-do, new employee onboarding, service request tracker and inspection. Developers and content managers can also reverse engineer these templates to learn how to set up and design them.

9. Choose between canvas and model-driven apps

In some use cases, Power Apps may require developers to use complex underlying data that a canvas app can't support. However, developers can choose the model-driven app option instead. This option lets developers use data stored in Microsoft Dataverse to develop interfaces.

Model-driven apps may include data from Dynamics 365, which organizations can use for finance, operations, sales and marketing. These apps have a similar UI to Dynamics 365. As developers and content managers look to develop an app with Power Apps, they should compare the two development methods and decide which one best fits their particular use case.

10. Consider all hardware and endpoint options

While desktop users can access Power Apps from a browser, organizations should recognize their benefits as users run them on mobile devices like iPads, iPhones and Androids. These apps can interact with GPS and cameras to capture additional data with little effort on the development side.

Mobile usage expands the number of possibilities for Power Apps users because it lets them capture location data, photos and barcodes -- all with a low-code approach.

Benefits and challenges of Power Apps

Power Apps requires little knowledge about coding and offers capabilities for fully functional mobile apps to support business needs. Power Apps can also interact and integrate with all other Microsoft 365 services, including Power Automate, SharePoint, Power BI and Exchange Online.

In addition, Power Apps can support organizations looking to adopt AI components. With AI capabilities, content managers don't need software developers to build, design and deploy their desired apps and services.

Despite the appeal of Power Apps, developers and content managers may have concerns about security and appropriate design best practices. This can result in potential long-term issues, risks for data leaks and nonstandardized UI design practices. A successful Power Apps project requires content managers to evaluate and vet all Power Apps best practices.

Editor's note: This article was updated to improve the reader experience.

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