One could argue that the no-code movement has been around since the inception of the computer. Ever since the first program was made, we have strived to make making programs easier, faster and cheaper. These incentives moved us from the command line to the GUI (Graphical User Interface), from MS-DOS to Windows, from writing HTML to using WYSIWYG editors. WordPress falls heavily in this category and continues to make headway in helping its users create websites without explicit programming knowledge. Their newest release, WordPress 5.0, places a huge focus on building via a GUI with drag and drop functionality that will have users up and running in a matter of hours.
The movement has been gaining momentum over the last few years, due to the never ending onslaught of problems we face each day that technology can help ease or even eliminate. Problems that were only solvable by those with the explicit know-how or the pockets deep enough to pay for it.
We are reaching an inflection point in the movement right now where the maturity and adoption of platforms that provide these services, are moving beyond a fad and on to the next big thing, which is of course, is only one step away from mainstream.
Why it matters to makers
It is probably already apparent by now why this might be the next big thing for indie makers. It brings most, if not all, the tools makers need to get them from idea to a MVP.
The true value lies in being able to do this themself, or at the very least, manage, curate and update it themself. There is an old saying which goes: “If you want something done right, do it yourself”. This holds true for most things in life and software development is no exception. Creating an MVP yourself, from scratch, allows for so many benefits. To name a few:
- Know exactly how your platform operates, from start to finish. You are the complete authority on the inner workings. There is no part of the product that you don’t know.
- Become self sufficient. Need that small change made to the site? You can do it. Need to tweak a few settings in the backend? You can do it. Need to add an entirely new feature? You can do it.
- Expertise. By building it yourself, you learn a new skillset that you lacked before and that means that with the next project you build, you will be in a position to build it faster and better than you could before.
- Community. Just like the other existing communities out there that help makers make. This is no different and is bustling with creativity, support, motivation, inspiration and excitement. For example, I strongly suggest joining the Bubble community.
What can you actually make without code?
The most famous example I can provide is notrealtwitter.com. A Twitter clone that was created in 4 days by just one person. Some other examples are:
- Qritiq – A community for designers to share and learn
- ScareHunt – A horror movie recommendation engine
- ValueMyPlace – Find out the value of your property
- Treefort – A simple way to stay focused
The possibilities are so vast and there are many more examples out there.
Pros and cons of no-code development
Perhaps the most significant advantage of no-code development is that any maker can experiment with rapid prototyping, and develop a solution to a problem in days, perhaps even hours. With little cost of development, this means that it is easy to pursue different opportunities and test which one works best before coming to a complete solution. Moreover, no-code development is very cost-effective unlike software development which can cost a lot of money in a professional environment when hiring programmers.
- Own the code.
- Make changes, updates and new features whenever is needed.
- Rapid prototyping. Get something working within days, possibly even hours.
- Very cost effective.
- Accessible to anyone. Very low hurdle to get started.
- Learn to think like a programmer does.
- Learning curve. Although short, requires to learn how to build what is wanted. Which if time is of the essence, will not work.
- Limited. The potential is huge with no-code development platforms, but they still are very limited. They excel in certain areas such as data manipulation and API integrations but lack full functionality for most scenarios.
- Emerging market. Although it is growing substantially, there are still many plugins and templates that may not do what is needed.
- Limited support available when hitting a hurdle. The forums are very active but niche requirements might often not get an answer.
Should makers learn a programming language still?
Learning to code doesn’t just allow to be independent in building software but it brings with it a skillset that is applicable to many different scenarios. Having any previous coding experience will help in learning the way in which no-code platforms operate, which requires the user to think in logical operations, such as IF statements.
As much as I truly believe in the no-code movement, I also strongly believe that it will never replace the need for a skilled programmer.
So if you are already learning to code or thinking about getting started, keep at it. It will only serve to better your overall understanding and further your abilities in creating what you need. It will help you make a leap from no-code to low-code and bring levels of customization that are still yet impossible within the realm of visual programming. There are always going to be limitations when building something in a visual programming environment. It is likely to never be as effective.
You can escape those limitations by learning to code alongside learning no-code. They can be learnt in parallel and it is most likely that each one will help achieve an overarching understanding of both worlds.
This article wouldn’t be much use without some useful links to get you on the path to no-code development! A great no-code “stack” might look something like this.
- Carrd – The quickest way to get content online. Great templates, very customizable.
- Table2site – Turn an airtable database in to a website.
- Airtable – Like Google Spreadsheets but formatted explicitly for website integration via databases and API.
- Bubble – The core of “development”. This platform is the leader in visual programming.
- Webflow – Able to build dynamic sites without code with a design-first approach.
- Moqups – A great prototyping tool to get your design right before moving forward with creating it.
- Crisp – Chat to users directly from your site. Similar to Intercom.
Makers are only as strong as the movements that propel them forward and I believe that the no-code and low-code movements are possibly the single biggest paradigm shifts in independent entrepreneurship that we have seen in a decade. But it will only succeed with us. By spreading the word and participating in the movement yourself, you empower everyone along with it and help our community become more prosperous. Let’s take it to the next level, together.