Any application owner or admin needs access to an admin panel to provision accounts and set controls over who can access what, track transactions, explore data, create segments, manage user permissions, gauge on user behaviour insights. Anytime you need to manage and monitor data like customer orders, customer details, projects, deliveries, – you would do it through an admin panel.
Admin panels have proven their worth in the workplace be it for a ton of processes like Customer database management, Inventory management, Bug tracking. But what is important, you don’t always have to depend on developers in order to modify changes to your website or app for small modifications. You can easily create e.g. new posts, categories, tags, links and custom post types. It is also where theme files are changed, widgets are added, plugins are activated or updated and settings are changed.
A tailor-made admin panel has the potential to increase productivity, give insight into data, and help you catch bugs; adding up to greater revenue for your business. With an admin panel, you get a tool to run your processes much more efficiently.
What should an Admin Panel have?
While not all admin panels can have all the possible features and capabilities, they support the fundamental operations that address the operational needs, making the key data accessible for you to conduct business effectively. And, thanks to data and API integrations, admin panels today allow stitching disparate data sources together to create one unified admin interface.
And so, for example, when you build an inventory management admin panel, it will need to allow you to monitor inventory levels, and if the inventory, say, it needs replenishing, the panel should have the option to trigger the purchase requisition process flow. You should be able to update the inventory or add notes as you go along.
The role of low-code in admin panel development
Low-code platforms enable users to build internal tools like admin panels and dashboards on top of a data source very quickly by abstracting away the repeating lines of code you need to write. You can focus on the core features of your admin interface and designate simple to complex tasks using the tool.
In this article we’ll look at the top 9 tools to identify the best admin panel builder
Appsmith is an open-source low-code platform to build simple CRUD apps, admin interfaces quickly. Appsmith offers a drag and drop interface for creating admin UI using pre-built components and provides the option to add custom components but only via iframes.
Lots of ready admin panel templates to get your custom tool ready in no time. And ready database integrations for: DynamoDB, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, and more.
- Intuitive drag-and-drop interface
- Connects to range of supported databases
- REST or GraphQL API integration supported
- Collaborative app development and testing
- Host on either the Appsmith cloud or your own Docker instance
- Thorough documentation and video learning materials
- Standard plan with unlimited apps and pages is currently free
- User authentication via Google/GitHub
- No granular permissions for public-facing apps
- Cannot make mobile apps
- Writing code in a small editor is error-prone and a poor experience
- Not enough Documentation
Because Appsmith is an open-source project, you can access the framework source code on GitHub. Appsmith is a free-to-use framework. You can self-host your apps with Docker and also use their cloud service that is free to the public at writing time.
However, if you need to build responsive admin tools, use apps on a mobile, Appsmith is not the tool for you. You also cannot define user based access permissions. It can be difficult to add advanced workflows or automations for frontend events.
DronaHQ is a low-code platform that helps you create beautiful and responsive admin tools on top of an existing database or APIs very fast. DronaHQ guides you from building, designing, deploying, and hosting your apps.
- Unlimited users supported in all pricing plans
- Build solutions for web as well as mobile
- User friendly drag-and-drop UI builder to design UIs with 100+ ready controls
- Ready to use admin panel, CRUD app, dashboard, form templates
- Frontend logic builder with event listeners on own UI controls
- Functions and formulas to write business logic
- Ready API and database connectors to most popular services. Ability to connect to anything with a REST, GraphQL, or gRPC API
- Build your own controls and functions
- ISO 27001 and SOC-II certified, including GDPR compliant
- Doesn’t have a free plan. Only free trial
- Currently available in cloud hosted SaaS model only (on-prem coming soon)
- Custom branding available only with business plan
Admin panels built on DronaHQ run on web as well as mobile apps. The platform provides over 150 drag and drop components that can be used to design custom admin interfaces, such as tables, lists, buttons as well as ready templates and ready connectors.
You can drag and drop buttons on a screen and define custom actionflow to fire API calls, write to the database, send out approval requests, push notifications and lots more. Schedule workflow execution, create good UI apps, generate PDFs.
Here is a quick video tutorial for you to follow along:
- A drag-n-drop UI builder with over 50 ready-made UI components.
- In-built team collaboration on tasks and approval workflows.
- An ability to connect databases, business services, third-party APIs (PostgreSQL, Firebase, etc.)
- Custom SQL or HTTP queries
- Automatic app deployment
- Comprehensive documentation
- Not always vibrant customer support and slow bug fixing
- Custom domain available only within the Pro plan and higher
- App branding available only within the Pro plan and higher
- Custom components available only within the Pro plan and higher
- The necessity to pay for application viewers
Retool is a low-code platform to build web-based interfaces on top of your existing data sources. With Retool, you can connect to any database or app or anything with a REST, GraphQL, or gRPC API.
Pick from a wide variety of components like tables, charts, lists, maps, wizards, forms, to build, design, and host your internal tools in a low amount of time.
- A convenient drag-n-drop editor
- A feature-rich component library (tables, text inputs, etc.) for building internal tools faster
- Reusable blocks of code for manipulating data, as well as the ability to customize the code manually
- Allows for connecting to any databases and nearly any API
- Ready-made templates that can be used in one click
- Ability to deploy Retool on-premises if needed
- A number of apps you can build is unlimited
- Within a free plan, only editing is possible. No ability to use an app outside of the Retool editor’s interface.
- Price is set per end-user (viewer/editor), so it increases dramatically with the growth of the number of your app end-users.
- You don’t get a lot of flexibility when it comes to the UI of your app.
As with most of these frameworks, you control your data, and Retool is not the exception. This framework only connects to your database or API and makes queries to manage and create basic CRUD operations.
5. UI Bakery
UI Bakery is a no-code UI builder for creating internal tools like admin panels and dashboard apps. It provides ready-made templates, predefined widgets, and other UI components you can use to build your application’s UI. In other words, UI Bakery handles only UI development, while you take care of providing data sources and third-party integrations.
- Drag-and-drop UI widgets
- Ready-made templates
- Authentication and user management through UI Bakery’s built-in tool or with Google, Twitter, or Facebook
- Ability to lightly customize the look and feel of your app widgets
- Handles app hosting on a unique URL
- Connect to SQL databases such as Postgres, MySQL, Google Sheets, or Firebase, or use an HTTP API as a data source
- The free tier only allows you to trial the product
- Adding custom components requires their support. Cannot create custom components from scratch at this time
- Technical background needed to add data connections and API integrations
Much like the other low-code tools we talked about, Internal is an easy to use framework to create admin panels. It gives the option to databases as well as other tools using APIs, such as Slack, Zendesk, HubSpot.
- A convenient UI builder
- All the Builder features are available even within a free plan
- Allows for connecting with various data sources like PostgreSQL, MySQL, MongoDB, Stripe, Salesforce, etc
- An ability to combine data from databases and business apps without integrations, coding, SQL
- An ability to plug in complex business logic with custom code
- Customer data protection is ensured
- Onboarding and training is offered only within the most expensive plan
- Limited number of data sources you can connect to
- Only up to 5 users are allowed to work on the project within a free plan, each additional user is charged for
- No ready-made templates
- No ability to deploy your app on a custom domain
If you want to build simple frontend admin tools without too many complex operations, use Internal to start building apps using ready to use UI components, bind them to your data, and share with your users.
Currently it supports a limited number of data sources you can connect to, and business apps you can integrate with. You get to define who uses the app and who gets to edit the apps.
The platform does not give ready templates yet however the interface is easy to use and get started with. They are constantly updating the tool.
Budibase is another open-source and free to use low-code platform known for its developer-friendly features to build internal tools. Budibase offers a lot of ready integrations to platforms like Airtable, Docker, Discord, SendGrid, CSVs, and more. You can only deploy apps using your own infrastructure.
Ideally, you’d like a solution that is fast, reliable, and scales with your growth. If your app requirements are larger than a side project or a one-off task, and is likely to be used by a lot of other users and processes, you need to be looking at low-code internal tool development platforms like DronaHQ, Jet Admin, Retool. These are easy to get started with and are highly flexible to fit a plethora of use cases and you can easily scale the tools as your needs grow.
- Build and test applications offline
- Attractive widgets and style properties help you build beautiful UIs
- Self-host application on your infrastructure or host on the Budibase cloud
- Connect to an external database or use Budibase’s built-in database
- Extensive documentation
- Built-in authentication and user management
- Requires you to download a local client
- No pre-built templates
Like Appsmith, Budibase is built for building web-based internal software, but it requires more work to get started as you need to install their client on your computer. This also means you won’t be able to let one of your non-technical team members make a quick change somewhere in your CRUD app without teaching them to use npm and the terminal.
Glide is a no-code application builder that exclusively uses Google Sheets as a data source. While this is a serious limitation for many use cases, it also makes it very easy for non-technical users to build out prototypes of internal or public-facing web applications.
While Glide integrates with Zapier to allow you to integrate with other services, the automation workflows are still rather limited.
- Convenient drag-and-drop interface builder
- Prebuilt ready-to-use templates and apps to help you get started quickly
- Supports iOS and Android deployments so you can build multi platform apps
- Simple deployment to Glide’s servers and the option to use your own domain
- Straight-forward documentation and an active community forum
- Free tier only supports mobile apps
- Can’t use external data sources or APIs
- Limited integrations and automation options
Ideally, you’d like a solution that is fast, reliable, and scales with your growth. If your app requirements are larger than a side project or a one-off task, and is likely to be used by a lot of other users and processes, you need to be looking at low-code internal tool development platforms like DronaHQ, JetAdmin, Retool. These are easy to get started with and are highly flexible to fit a plethora of use cases and you can easily scale the tools as your needs grow.
Appsmith, UI Bakery are open source platforms. So if you are a developer looking for low commitment and cost effective frameworks at the same time accept the platform limitations of building only web based solutions, check those out.
DronaHQ shines when you’re working with multiple data sources. Say you need to build a unified admin panel connecting disparate data sources like MySQL, Shopify, Zendesk (for example), DronaHQ is the way to go. Integrating multiple data sources with clicks and transforming data over a point and click interface minimizes developer time and maximizes domain-specific knowledge about your own data.