Have you ever wanted a custom app for your business? Claris FileMaker may be the tool for you?
What is FileMaker?
Apple old timers might remember Claris, its office software wing, spun off as a subsidiary in 1987. During the late 90s, when Apple nearly went kaput, Claris changed its name to FileMaker Inc and focused all its efforts on its scrappy little database management system (the company has since changed its name back to Claris). It was a good move. FileMaker evolved to become a powerful “low code” custom application platform, and people today use it all over the world and in nearly any industry you can think of.
Pro #1 – FileMaker is Nimble
The reason you find FileMaker everywhere is that there is almost nothing a halfway decent developer cannot make it do. FileMaker comes preloaded with solutions for typical cases (e.g. contacts, inventories, etc.), but idiosyncratic challenges are where it really shines. For instance, we once built a solution that helped a summer camp place kids in room by proximity to their assigned counselor. There was not an app that could do that for them, so we made it.
Pro #2 – FileMaker Empowers Individuals
Salesforce is a competitor to FileMaker with a lot of upsides to it, but ease of use is not one of them. (See Pros and Cons of Salesforce). You may end up having to pay a developer to make even minor changes. FileMaker’s graphic interface can be more intuitive for a lot of users. Just drag, drop, and follow the prompts. FileMaker is easier to self-teach. This can help you build a custom app for your businesses that a reasonably tech savvy employee can help maintain and adjust as needed.
Pro #3 – FileMaker Can Be Cheap
Speaking of Salesforce, by comparison, FileMaker can be significantly cheaper. A decent Salesforce license can run between $25 and $75 per user per month; with FileMaker, its between $19 and $39. As with most things, it depends on the situation. It also depends on how much you might need a developer to help build and manage the system. Salesforce definitely has more pre-packaged use cases you can install. But again, FileMaker is best for custom solutions.
Pro #4 – FileMaker Has a Community
Whether you need to source a developer or make a tiny layout change, there are a lot of resources for you to call upon. Claris keeps a list of “partners” who can help develop your solution. There are a number of smaller firms not on that list (*raises hand*), or you could source a developer through Upwork. If your team has a quasi-tech person, someone who does tech but is not officially “IT,” they will find a lot of free functions and sample files out there. The Claris Community is another place where expert and novice users share work and answer questions.
Con #1 – FileMaker’s Community is Becoming Less Accessible
Claris rejiggered their community a couple of years ago, and since then it has become a lot more difficult to search. So, while the actual FileMaker community is generous, the literal FileMaker Community may require a lot of click-throughs in order to find the answer you need. This sort of takes away from the whole ease-of-use thing. Learning how to modify the system for your unique needs could be easier if Claris could get its act together with how it indexes its internal social network.
Con #2 – FileMaker is Getting Harder
There has been a major shift in the marketplace from software that ran on single computers to software that runs in the cloud. Today, everything is about interconnectivity. That means the main improvements to FileMaker over the past few years will not be as accessible to novice users. If you want to make FileMaker talk to another service, you are either going to need to learn about APIs, cURL, and JSON. Or you could pay extra for Claris Connect.
Con #3 – FileMaker Can Be Expensive
If you are a single user who needs to run FileMaker only on your machine, expect to cough up $540. You will not have cloud connectivity for that either. There is a five-user minimum for the Claris Cloud. That means that if you have a micro-business of three people, you still have to pay the licensing fees for five users. There are third-party vendors that may be able to cloud-host for you at a lower cost, like dbservices or fmphost. You will have to do a good bit of research to find the best cost for you.
FileMaker should be used to build a custom app for your business if you have a hard time sourcing other solutions to your needs. Avoid settling for something that “sorta works.” That’s a bit like settling for a car that “sorta runs.” The longterm costs (and headaches) are not with the upfront savings. If you just need to manage contacts or inventory, there are cheaper solutions, but if you need to…
- auto-process 1500 ranked-choice course registrations;
- add a single contact to multiple accounts;
- parse email text into a new database contact;
- track mileage with the push of a button;
- get a notification when someone has missed their meds;
FileMaker might be just the thing.