I wanted to respond to everyone in this thread who shared opinions on this change.
First, let me apologize for the way the change was rolled out. What we needed to do was (a) post something in the community showing what we planned to do, (b) listen to feedback, © incorporate the feedback in what we do. That would have better guided our changes and also helped explain them to all of you.
Learning from this, we are now following this approach and it is already leading to better outcomes. See Long view names
Now, back to the question of why we are doing any of these changes to the UI of the apps. One of the core principles in AppSheet is that you don’t need to be a developer to build a successful app. However, app adoption also depends on UI/UX design. If the design is not good enough, most end-users tend to avoid adoption. They are conditioned by the quality of consumer apps that we all use on our phones and devices everyday. These consumer apps set the UI/UX quality bar. Typically, every successful app in the app stores has one or more UX designers craft every element of the user experience.
Now most of us are not UI/UX design experts. I am not either. However Morgan and Carie on our team are. I have set them an ambitious goal: how do we ensure that all apps built on AppSheet have great UI/UX design without having a UX designer custom-design them. In aggregate, this is likely to maximize adoption for all of the apps all of our customers are building. This can only be achieved by some combination of constraints (some things you cannot do) and guidance (some things the platform advises you to do). AppSheet is five years old now. Some choices we made and UI features we allowed at the start may no longer be the best choices to carry forward. Anytime you constrain a system, you are going to aggravate some people who want flexibility over everything else. However, we have also seen that flexibility on occasion put to poor use resulting in poor outcomes (despite the best intentions of the app creator).
I share this background mostly by way of explanation. I feel if you understand what we are trying to achieve, you will be able to better guide us. We are on this journey together. Whenever I hear strong negative reactions to something we did, I know that those folks are really strong and passionate believers in our platform. They are frustrated or disappointed by something we’ve done, and we need to learn from that.
In this case, we believe that the theming/styling options that were removed are not aligned with UI/UX principles of modern apps. While this is a subjective judgment, there is some good evidence of this. But we need to do more to articulate these principles more clearly. Also, we need to add more elegant ways to establish branding/theming (along the lines of many of the asks in this thread). Sometimes as a practical matter in a large complex software system, we have to clean up old stuff before we can put in new stuff.
@PublicSafetySystems, I do hear you. Within our team, we have had long discussions about how we should have handled this better, and how to ensure that we treat all of you as valuable members of our extended team.