How No-Code Democratizes App Development
The pursuit for automating, simplifying and overall improving services and businesses is what brought us from the first industrial revolution back in early 19th century, through the Digital Revolution and Information Age all the way in the present day of what is called Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Whilst the tech industry evolves exponentially every year, the Covid-19 crisis accelerated everything even more and we’re fast-paced moving to the so-called Imagination Age.
New tech disrupts are just around the corner and sooner or later, we are going to see shifts across many different fields.
The most conspicuous case is the entire Retail sector and how it was forced to make a huge digital leap. The shift from a traditional brick-and-mortar store to e-commerce was inevitable.
Thousands of businesses found themselves, overnight, in desperate need to switch to online stores, handling orders, building a delivery infrastructure, digital marketing and everything else that goes into an online business.
For many of these business owners, this was a significant change with a steep learning curve. The demand for skilled professionals, such as developers, designers, marketers, is growing ever since.
This brings us to the No-Code revolution.
Let’s define things
Often times, no-code is confused with low-code, but these are two different concepts meant to help different types of users.
The concept of No-Code has been around for a very long time, with tools designed to help those who might not have any technical skills to build something. The usual no-code platform relies on visual configurations and workflows using drag-n-drop functionality to take place of coding.
Low-Code platforms are more developer-oriented, enabling accelerated app delivery for more complex applications, processes and integrations, by minimising the development time of certain components from hours to minutes. These particular platforms, despite they offer a user interface for configuration, a certain degree of coding skills is required.
A few scrolls down, we show a list of these platforms, some of which are low-code vendors, but the main focus of this article is the no-code concept.
Trend versus movement
In times when software is becoming a vital component of numerous businesses across all industries and everything must “go digital”, the demand for software developers far exceeds the supply of qualified developers which makes business innovation harder.
To overcome this software developer drought, but still migrate to software-driven businesses, many entrepreneurs are starting to look into no-code platforms to automate manual processes and increase business agility.
The main appeal that contributed to the market growth of these tools over the past 5 years is the accelerated delivery of applications in a flexible and easy way, with a shallow learning curve.
Democratizing app development
“The future of coding is no coding at all.” — Chris Wanstrat, CEO of GitHub.
The modern no-code platforms offer extremely agile workflows and incredible user interfaces with pre-built components to build almost any sort of application, with rich functionality that can meet almost any business need.
Entrepreneurs and business users that do not possess technical skills can finally take innovation and development into their own hands and can be officially referred to as citizen developers.
Of course, it depends on the competitive advantage of each business. But in general, this allows anyone with an idea materializes it into a software-driven business.
We’ve seen it happen a lot lately.
You’ve probably heard of…
- Shopify for creating online stores
- Webflow for building custom websites completely visual
- Thunkable for creating mobile applications
- Voiceflow for creating voice applications for Alexa and Google Assistant
- Zapier for automating workflows between web apps
- Airtable for creating collaborative apps
- Bubble.io for creating complete web apps without code
- Most recent Amazon Honeycode still in beta version
…just to name a few of said tools.
How will these impact developers?
This revolution can seem rather daunting for developers of all sorts, mainly because it feels like their skills and jobs are on the line, becoming obsolete.
Yes, there will be a definite impact. Businesses like web agencies offering simple websites and landing pages will probably need to change their approach and adopt these platforms in their toolset.
But, rather than scared, many developers are excited.
I must admit, I was also sceptical until recently. My years worth of development experience and knowledge suddenly felt endangered.
What’s the point of learning a plethora of frameworks, languages, patterns, concepts all the time, when more WordPress-like tools are on the rise?
And then I remembered…
Those time-consuming repetitive tasks, setting up projects, pipelines, doing the same process over and over, which by all means, can be automated to some degree without over-complicating things.
A lot of developers spend over 50% of their time on non-coding, under-challenged and boring tasks.
Heck, this is one of the reasons I’ve quit my job — story for another time.
And then I realized…
These tools are here to help, not only the citizen developers but also professional developers so they can 10x their development speed and make project pushout more prompt. The time saved can be used to improve usability and user experience and make a greater impact on business goals.
Even technical entrepreneurs who do code, but have hundreds of other things on their plate, can push out prototypes and MVPs faster to validate product and market which is critical for a startup.
Pros and traits
One of the main traits offered by no-code solutions is probably the cost reduction when building an app. Cost of both time and money.
Normally, custom-built MVPs can take from 3 to 6 months with costs that can stretch up to 80K $, depending on the required design & functionality.
These tools enable entrepreneurs to push out MVPs and prototypes at a fraction of traditional costs with a faster time-to-market.
Easy build and maintain
No-code tools consist of prebuilt components that help you lay the foundation of your app much easier compared to the traditional way of building applications.
The visual drag&drop interfaces make the UI designing much more appealing to the developer and citizen developer.
Even the integration with 3rd party vendors is much more intuitive and usually in a point-click approach.
Not to mention the changes you can make almost instantly.
Cons and tradeoffs
Rigid templates and prebuilt components
Those prebuilt components and templates that help you lay the foundation, can also become your nail in the coffin. You could get to an edge case where the out-of-the-box components are not enough to implement what could be your competitive advantage.
Soon, you realize that a custom solution well designed around your business needs is more suited than making workarounds on no-code platforms that can be rigid and become more costly over time.
You don’t own the underlying code
Should you decide to switch from a no-code platform to another, or completely move away from no-code, your application, in many cases the main driver of your business, is locked on that specific vendor.
Some vendors give you access to the source code, but you’ll be surprised to discover what’s going on under the hood. You’ll be given a tangled piece of application that it‘s just that…a piece of application.
Most often you’ll lose core functionalities if should you choose to exit a no-code platform.
Another thing to consider is the dependency your business would have on another business strategic choices.
If someday that no-code vendor chooses to exit or pull the plug, your business could significantly suffer.
It’s clear how no-code empowers and simplifies digital transformation across industries and businesses.
As it brings application development to people with no technical skills, it’s hard to beat that value proposition, especially these days when it went from simple website builders to end-to-end application building tools.
For worried developers out there, embrace no-code. The time these platforms save you can be well invested in developing other skills in other fields such as AI & Machine Learning, VR&AR, Cloud & edge computing, IoT or Blockchain.
That being said, no-code isn’t always a viable solution as an alternative to custom software development. The associated trade-offs that come with these platforms can ultimately cost your business.
It all comes down to the business needs.
Personally, I think it’s perfect for building quick MVPs and prototypes to validate markets if the business’s competitive advantage is not strictly bound to the implementation of complex processes.
I will always recommend a custom solution over a prebuilt one, but what matters, in the end, is the value your product provides to your customer.
At Haktos, we’ve seen the positive usage of no-code and will continue to embrace and use if a project sees fit.