The Future of Apps is ‘No Code’

Photo by Artem Podrez

There is something daughting about the flashing cursor in a code editor that makes it hard to get started coding. And yet over time, the mysteries of writing code vanish and you begin to feel like a wizard behind the keyboard. The magic and mystery behind why something works is replaced with a deeper understanding of the system you’re working with. Ask any web developer and they will tell you that popular sites like Wix and Squarespace are awesome, but they could make you a better website. And yet the digital divide between developers and regular users is slowly coming down. But is that really a good thing?

Current ‘No Code’ Options

Source Airtable

There are several examples of “No Code” platforms, most are geared towards commercial applications. Here is a list of some of them:

  • Airtable combines a spreadsheet interface with the scalability of a database.
  • Nintex combines management and automation software.
  • Appsheet allows you to create mobile applications with no code.
  • Bubble lets you build web apps.
  • Salesforce has powerful data visualization and CRM tools that require no code.
  • Apple’s Shortcuts app or IFTTT’s home automation app are examples of no code apps.
  • NoCode.tech aggregates no code tools for a price.

With Great Power

With great power comes… tradeoffs. That’s true for most things in life, but especially when you aren’t low to the metal like most of these ‘No Code’ options make you. The reality is that whatever you are trying to do is going to be translated into code and then run. You lose efficiency and maintainability when you do that. In the bigger picture, minor inefficiencies aren’t the end of the world, but at scale, these small problems compound into a much bigger problem. And maybe some of these solutions get so good that the minimize this tradeoff, but it’s a lot harder when you don’t get to see exactly what they are doing under the hood.

My fear is that the next generation learns this lazy way of producing software without understanding the underlying magic that makes it work. And therefore they have no way of debugging when things go wrong or aren’t producing the intended result. I’m not saying that to make a website you should be able to debug a javascript rendering engine, but there is value in being able to debug the code when something goes wrong.

Finally, some of the pricing to build basic web apps is amazingly high. I hope that young entrepreneurs don’t feel like paying for one of these all encompassing “no code” apps is the only way to deliver a good product to their users.

It’s all about the idea

Photo by Kaboompics

If you can’t tell, I’m not excited about any of these “no code” options. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their place. Particularly for prototyping and MVP development, these tools can save time and resources. To me, it comes down to the idea of what you want to make. Your differentiator is no longer a well functioning mobile app. It’s what you can do with the app and how it integrates with your life/business/process of your customer. Tailoring that customer experience is what is important at the end of the day.

There are some really creative people out there that with the power of coding could find new and exciting ways to use this technology. But there is a responsibility that comes with being a software curator and it takes time, practice, and a fundamental understanding of how the thing you’re making is going to work.

If you’re reading this hoping that it would tell you whether you should use one of these “no code” apps or develop something specific for your situation, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I think that question depends on a plethora of factors that it’s impossible to give one blanket answer. At the end of the day, I think the primary question you should be asking yourself is whether or not you want the flexibility and power that comes with creating the thing yourself. Not to mention the satisfaction that comes with building it by yourself.

If you are thinking of using a “no code” option, tweet me which one and why.

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