Build An App For Your Newsletter Subscribers with Adalo [7 Step NoCode Process]

Newsletters are great for creating a direct relationship with your readers. An email address is worth more than likes and shares.

But the subscriber’s inbox could not be the only way of consuming the content of your newsletter. Especially now, with everyone trying to get into everybody’s inbox, why not look at a different channel?

App builder Adalo makes it easy to create an app without writing a single line of code. That makes the product very interesting to all sorts of content creators.

Why would you create an app for your newsletter?

Creating such an app could be useful to owners of paid newsletters that want to offer an additional way to browse and search their content. Think of “paying subscribers can also use my app”.

Additionally, I think creators of curated newsletters would be a better fit, because the content they feature comes in a more formal structure.

Newsletter archives are hard to browse, often forgotten about, and have a somewhat “old” feel.

To re-find specific content, users usually have to search through their inbox, and the results are often so overwhelming that one just gives up.

An app as a companion to your newsletter tackles these issues.

And last but not least, an app offers additional ways to interact with your subscribers.

For creating such an app in 2020, no coding skills or big budget is needed. Apps representing content can be created with an app builder like Adalo in hours (at least the first prototype of it).

My newsletter is sent via Mailchimp, and by looking at the statistics, I know that many subscribers often browse old editions.

“I am looking for this one link that I can’t remember when you shared it. Can you resend it please? I am unable to find it in my inbox”.

What subscribers send to me via eMail

For all the reasons listed above, I got interested in building an app prototype for my curated newsletter using Adalo.

In this post, I am passing on my learnings. And I show how you, as a creator of a newsletter, can do the same.

Note:

  • You can create your app prototype with Adalo without signing up for a paid plan, and it is irrelevant which tool you currently use for sending your newsletter.
  • Adalo was launched on Producthunt in November 2019, so it’s still a young product and new features get constantly added.

Table of Contents

Step 0: Get a basic understanding of Adalo
Step 1: Define your app features
Step 2: Create a new project and add default settings
Step 3: Create the databases you need
Step 4: Create the design for your app
Step 5: Link your lists and components with your database
Step 6: Test the app
Step 7: Invite friends and fans
What I was not able to do with Adalo
Going beyond this simply app prototype
Conclusion

Step 0: Get a basic understanding of Adalo

It is a NoCode app builder, which means no prior knowledge is needed to get started. For me,  a nerdy/technology marketer, it was easy to build this prototype. But I had some endeavors into the programming world during my career, so this might be different for you.

You would need some basic understanding of how databases work. But let’s put it this way: If you have worked with Google sheets (or Excel files) and linked data between sheets, you will master Adalo very fast.

The best way to get started is to create an account (free to start), take a look at some of the app templates, and watch some intro videos. 

You will realize quickly that the app builder has a well-structured user interface that makes it easy to navigate around and start working on your app right away.

Screenshot of Adalo Homepage

Step 1: Define your app features

Now that you have a basic understanding of the app builder and its possibilities, you can think about the features your newsletter app should have.

For my app prototype, I came up with the following requirements:

  1. Make it possible to browse all newsletter editions
  2. Newsletter editions should be sorted by sent date
  3. Each newsletter edition is structured into categories 
  4. Offer a search function to search my newsletter archive

Simply put, my newsletter subscribers can now also browse my content in a native mobile app.

The screens of the Fresh van Root Newsletter App in Adalo

Apart from that, I have lots of ideas for some advanced features, but will settle with this simple feature set for now.

Step 2: Create a new project and add default settings 

When creating a new project in Adalo, you can choose from templates, and mobile or desktop app. The main difference of course is that a mobile app could also be published as a native app via the app store. But it also works fine as a web app on your mobile.

The first thing you can do is add your brand colors in Adalo. The goal should be to match the newsletter template design.

If you plan to release your app in Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store, you need to add a short description and an app icon (you can add that later).

Step 3: Create the databases you need

It’s tempting to start with the design of your app right away, and you could do that. But I recommend thinking about the content of your newsletter and how you want to present the content in your app.

Think about the structure of your newsletter and how that translates to organizing your content in data tables.

The Fresh van Root newsletter has a very simple structure…

The structure of the Fresh van Root newsletter

  • Categories
    • 1. Hand-picked reading tips
    • 2. App/Tool/Resource recommendations
    • 3. Links for curious minds (the category is called “One more link”)
  • Stories or “Newsletter items” as I call them
    • One item is one featured story in my newsletter
  • And every newsletter has a
    • Sent date
    • A short summary (preview text)

Now, let’s take a detailed look at the database structure in Adalo that represents my newsletter’ content:

The Fresh van Root newsletter organized in Adalo databases

In Adalo, you can create a data source with the content.

The 3 data sources in the image above are connected, and I show you how to link the data sources in a minute.

Let’s look into the specifics of each data source.

Let’s start with the data-table Newsletter Items. This table has the following columns.

One row in this table represents one curated story. Each story has a title, description, and a link.

Adding a curated newsletter story in my Newsletter Item table.

The table columns Newsletter_Editions and Newsletter_Category are relationship properties. So every time I add a curated story in the Newsletter Item table, I have to choose the category and the newsletter it is featured in.

When adding an item to the table, I can choose the category from the dropdown and search the newsletter editions table to choose the right one.

So let’s take a look at the Newsletter_editions table.

The newsletter editions table has the following data properties:

As you can see in the screenshot above, the last property is a relation to the Newsletter Items table.

This is what one specific entry in the Newsletter_Edition Table looks like (after some stories have been added):

As you can see in the screenshot above, linked newsletter stories show up in a newsletter edition database entry.

The last data table in my app is the Newsleter_Categories table.

This is the simplest one of those three, as it represents the categories of my newsletter. Having a separate table for this information will allow you to add and change your categories later on.

Again, there is one relation property connecting to newsletter items.

Last but not least, enter some content in each table and fine-tune your settings if necessary. You might discover some other needs, like having an image for each newsletter edition. 

Adalo supports the following properties:

To quickly summarize the structure of my data tables in Adalo:

TableDescr
Newsletter ItemsHolds the actual newsletter content. All stories with headline, text, link. Each story is linked to one category and one newsletter edition.
Newsletter CategoriesA fixed set of categories. My newsletter has 3 categories. New categories can be added at any time. But this table won’t be changed too often. A category has a relationship with multiple Newsletter Items.
Newsletter EditionsThis table holds all meta-data about the newsletter editions. A short summary, date sent, edition #, and of course a relationship property to newsletter stories. One newsletter edition can have multiple Newsletter Items linked.

In this screen recording, you can see how I add one newsletter story in Adalo. First I add the content, then I choose the newsletter edition it is featured in and the category for the story.

Other features to note:

Also, check the database basics on Adalo’s help page.

Step 4: Create the design for your app

To create your app’s design, you first need to add a screen and place components on that screen.

For example, you might have a welcome screen showing a headline-, text-, button-component.

In Adalo, you can choose from a set of pre-built screens that have already added components, or start with a blank screen.

For presenting a list of content items, there are several options you can choose from. For your newsletter, you will most likely need a screen that represents the list of newsletters sent and one screen that represents the actual content of each newsletter.

The list elements available in Adalo

Apart from these two screens, you will want to add a welcome screen, and maybe a search option.

For my app prototype, I have chosen to go with 4 screens:

  1. Welcome Screen showing the basics about my newsletter
  2. Newsletter list screen: Shows all newsletters sent
  3. Newsletter items screen: Shows all featured stories of one newsletter
  4. Archive Search. Search all newsletter editions
Our app prototype open in Adalo

Step 5: Link your lists and components with your database

Now that you have set up the design of your app and added some real content to your database, it’s time to link your app screens with your data.

The first thing you want to do is connect the list with the table it should show data from.

On my newsletter screen, I want to show all editions of my newsletter in a list.

In Adalo, I select the list, and in the dropdown “What is this a list of?” I select Newsletter_Editions.

I can also change the sorting and add a maximum number of items to be shown.

Linking the newsletter editions list from the newsletter editions screen with the data table.

Now that you have told Adalo which content this list will hold, you can connect the list’s content items to your database.

For example, I want the first text element on the list to show the Newsletter summary, the second text box should show the newsletter # and sent date.

How to link list properties to a field in your data source in Adalo

So you have set the underlying data table for the list and linked specific data properties to your list components.

In the next step, you want to configure what happens if a user selects a specific newsletter edition.

To do this, select one list item. Notice the Add Action option.

With this feature you connect the screens and also send data between the screens. 

In the screenshot below, you can see that if a user clicks on a newsletter item it transfers to the Current Newsletter Item screen, and the data about the (selected) Current Newsletter_Edition is sent along.

So now you linked your main app screens together. On the Newsletter_edition screen, I created a very similar layout. It is a list showing the items that are featured in the selected edition.

To do so, I repeat the steps of telling the list of which database table it should show (Newsletter_Items) and also change the specific components on the list to represent the newsletter content.

The main difference to the newsletter screen is that you want to filter the results only to show the already selected newsletter edition on the list.

In Adalo, you can set a filter property, and you set it to the “Current Newsletter_Edition”. This is the data sent from the Newsletter list.

Now you have implemented the main feature of your app. Users can browse your newsletter editions, select an edition, and view the content.

Now you might want to add additional screens, like a Welcome  or a search screen.

Step 6: Test the app

While creating the app, you can constantly switch between creation mode and preview mode. This way, you can always check out immediately how your changes affect your app.

Apart from the preview option, you can also share a secret link with friends and family to collect feedback on your app.

Step 7: Invite friends and fans 

When you are happy with the results, you can share your app with friends and fans.

You are not required to publish the app to the store yet. You can simply share a URL or QR code to preview the app on your mobile device.

Every Adalo app is also a mobile web app. You can map your domain to your Adalo app.

I have tried that, and app.freshvanroot.com points to my app prototype.

What I was not able to do with Adalo

  • Search two database fields at once (right now, the Adalo search feature seems to only allow searching in one data column).
  • Adalo does not support rich text formatting, or having multiple links in one text property. It is not very convenient for me, as in some cases, I have multiple links in one newsletter item. (A feature request was posted by the community)

Going beyond this simple app prototype

With this tutorial, I have focused on showing how content creators can use the app builder to create their own app. Note that I have only used 5% of the features available in Adalo.

I have explained the basic concept of the NoCode app builder, but here are just some of the advanced features you could use:

  • Create user accounts within the app and show personalized content
  • Add forms and collect data
  • Connect to the app marketplace and upgrade your app with additional functionality
  • And much more

Specifically for my app, I would like to extend it with the following features:

  • How can I add first time users as new email subscribers?
    • I want new users to be added to my Mailchimp list. This seems to be easy.
  • Think about limiting the app for non-subscribers, For example. Show only the most recent edition, or just show the last 5 editions, etc.
  • Comment or rate stories featured
  • Save favorites in a user’s profile
  • Make the app visually appealing, because right now, it’s all text-only and a few colors.
  • Have one interface for entering content (Airtable) that I can use to create both the newsletter in Mailchimp and update the app’s content.

All that should be possible  with Adalo.

Adalo marketplace – install additional components, i.e. a Star Rating our YouTube player component

Conclusion

With this tutorial, I wanted to show how easy it is today for content creators to create a completely different content experience or re-purpose content with a No-code tool like Adalo.

Creating an app that represents your content is no longer a project you need to hire a developer for. App builder Adalo really makes it possible to create your app prototype within hours without writing code.

In the future, we might have only one central interface for creating content that allows us to publish to multiple channels at once with minor modifications easily. To a certain extent, you can already do that today with a service like Airtable (but that’s a topic for another blog post, so stay tuned).

If you are thinking about repurposing content you already create (for your subscribers, readers, listeners), check out Adalo to see if it’s the right tool for the job.

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