It’s hard to miss all of the hype of the no-code/low-code movement. If it hasn’t hit your radar yet, you’re sure to get flooded as this approach to development gains even more popularity.
The no-code approach promises to make development as easy as creating a Google Doc or a presentation. The allure is there – business users overwhelmed or confused by development approaches can take matters into their own hands. This allows projects to get underway while lowering financial and time resource draws typically required by an engineering team.
Low-code platforms require some coding skills and a bit of know-how, but the barrier for entry is significantly lower. These platforms position themselves to accelerate software development times, offering pre-written code components to developers. With this base to start from, development teams can build projects more rapidly, and accurately.
What is No-Code?
According to Forrester, the no-code movement was worth $3.8billion in 2017. This number is expected to rise to a staggering $21.2billion in 2022. What’s driving this massive growth? The answer is largely ease-of-use, making building and design possibilities with the click of a button through no-code platforms.
Even the non-tech-savvy – perhaps especially them – amongst us can see the values driving no-code workflow adoption. While we live in an era where access to information and support is seemingly endless, this also creates a sense of overwhelm. For entrepreneurs with big ideas, taking steps to bring them to life can also get stalled at the how phase.
No-code development allows dreamers and doers to get started on those projects from an approachable platform. Businesses can reduce time, add layers of automation, and reduce burdens on their development teams. Entrepreneurs can take things into their own hands, rather than searching around for the right development team.
Essentially, no-code platforms make it possible for those with little-to-no knowledge of development to build things online. This includes creating your own website, or a web or mobile application.
Using visual builders with drag-and-drop functionality, you can assemble your site or app without code application. All of the coding is done within the framework as you add elements and is automatically generated in the background without clogging your screen (or mind).
What is Low-Code?
The idea of low-code development has been around for a long while, though has only recently been coined with this official term. Low-code approaches are used by “citizen developers” and “power users”, referring to those who can write a basic, functional amount of code. Low-code platforms enable these folks to develop their own tools and applications without going too deep into the full development process.
Not limited simply to these tech-curious business folks, low-code platforms are also bringing value to traditional development teams. The low-code movement aims to accelerate software delivery by shortening hands-on development time. Developers are spared from spending time and manual effort rebuilding common features and components from scratch in order to deliver a product. Low-code platforms provide templates along with prebuilt forms, objects, and elements.
The Low-Code Challenge
Creating tools that appeal to both novice creators and tech-heavy developers is tricky. Day-to-day business users need a simple, intuitive UI with a step-by-step process providing understandable terms and helpful support.
These tools simultaneously need to simplify the development process while giving tech professionals access to customization options, along with the ability to bring in elements of security and compliance, third-party sources, and additional data sources.
Supporting these two disparate audiences with a single approach is tricky, and different platforms have their strengths. In an ideal world, the tool you select will be approachable for both your sales, helpdesk, or marketing teams as well as your IT department or software engineers.
Different Platforms, Different Strengths
With a variety of platforms available, selecting one means narrowing down your options. It’s important to look at your primary business needs and find a platform that appeals to your specific environment and approach.
Some platforms offer a guided, intuitive approach to building a product. These tools ensure the majority of people could quickly orient themselves within the process, and begin building apps that meet business needs. These tools are ideal for business requirements such as project management and process tracking, or form-based apps for tracking shift scheduling and resource requests.
Other platforms appeal more to those with a background in programming, availing more complex functionality to developers. These platforms are more difficult for the average user, but provide an environment where the more technical user could map database projects to workflows, build complex process models, and customize UI design, all without writing code.
There are tools available that have managed to meet the needs of both of these user groups. Platforms such as Salesforce App Cloud, Mendix, and OutSystems have a variety of comprehensive resources and training courses to support users. They each offer a drag-and-drop UI with customizable templates as starting points. These tools also contain enterprise-grade features, providing a library of UI components and database objects to draw from.
When you begin to explore tools for the no-code/low-code approach, you’ll find there is a lot to choose from. Each has its strengths and weaknesses of course, and it depends on your skillset and what you’re looking to accomplish. It’s best to do your research and make sure you find the tool that’s right for you.
We’ll cover a few popular players in the no-code/low-code movement to help get you started.
It would be hard – if not impossible – to find someone connected to the tech space who hasn’t heard of WordPress. Even if you haven’t used it yourself, you’re likely familiar with it as a website-building tool. In fact, it’s the most popular site-building platform available, with more than 41% of websites powered by WordPress. Considering how vast the internet truly is, that’s a good confidence builder for those considering using this tool.
WordPress is a free, open-source website builder. It can be used to build any type of website, from hobbyist blogs to photo galleries to eCommerce shops, and anything else in between.
With more than 55,000 plugins, you can use it to truly customize your site to fit your needs. These free plugins add features and functionality that matter to you, such as shopping carts, contact forms, photo galleries, Google Analytics and SEO features, and more.
There are thousands of themes to serve as a starting point, allowing you to select a design that suits your brand. Drag-and-drop page builders are allowing you to add, move, and remove sections to create your own layout with ease.
While WordPress is available to anyone regardless of software development experience, novice users will need to invest some time into familiarizing themselves with the system. There is a slight learning curve that most users find easy to overcome, but it will take some time. While a site can be built without touching lines of code, WordPress is popular amongst web developers and ambitious tech enthusiasts who wish to partially (or fully) build their site the old-fashioned way.
A visual programming language, Bubble.io allows you to build your own web app without writing a single line of code. This easy-to-use tool takes you through the stages of your web app, enabling you to first build a prototype and then build a fully functional application that’s ready for launch.
Because Bubble is an approachable tool no matter your tech experience, you can grant permission for markups and changes to any role within your company. Bubble is intuitive and fully customizable.
The marketplace of templates helps you get started with visual layouts created by the Bubble community. Plugins and API integrations make your app more feature-rich, with a variety of options available to suit whatever you need, including Google sign-in, Google Maps, Stripe payments, Mailchimp for your mailing lists, and more.
For those who want to take their web app to the next level but don’t have a developer on hand, Bubble has an ecosystem of trusted agencies around the world that you can hire to help bring your vision to life.
Boasting the “power of a database with the familiarity of a spreadsheet”, Airtable allows you to create functional databases without becoming overwhelmed. With functions of both spreadsheets and databases, it’s truly the best of both worlds.
Companies use Airtable for a variety of reasons including content calendars, project calendars, managing marketing campaigns, launching products, planning events, cataloging products, and much more.
As a relational database, you can link records across multiple tables. This means you can use Airtable to connect various roles or departments within your company, linking the relevant information from each to give an in-depth and up-to-date view of business operations.
Through integrations, Airtable syncs with popular apps allowing you to automate repetitive tasks. This is particularly useful when it comes to actions such as sending emails, tracking calendar events, updating database records from information in third-party applications, scheduling tweets, registering payments, amongst others.
Airtable saves you from the costly and tech-heavy world of SQL databases, and the underwhelming (and under-functioning) simplicity of spreadsheets that can’t meet database needs.
Whether you’re dreaming of creating the next big thing, or you’re established but want to keep pace with a rapid-moving market, there are often limitations to what you can accomplish. For many, the availability of funds or manpower ends up being a barrier to launch and growth. Add into the mix the ever-growing number of development languages and an ever-present demand for software developers, and many projects never make it off of the to-do (someday) list.
Thankfully, the tech industry has responded, giving rise to a couple of new titles: the No-Code Developer and the Low-Code Developer. No need to scrape through coding boot camps or scroll through pages of Upwork listings – that role could be yours! The no-code/low-code movement is making it easier than ever to create, launch, and evolve as a company.