What is No-Code and why should entrepreneurs and product people care?



 

Creating products with #NoCode - the mobile spoon


What's no-code? Who is it for? How far can you go with it? And Why is there such a hype around it lately? I've tried to answer those questions by talking to one of the best no-code hands-on experts out there: Zoe Chew. 


When I was a student (without getting into embarrassing dates), I created a code-free gym management system using MS Access

Access was a decent database that came with a powerful WYSIWYG UI designer on top. It was pretty good for small local businesses that wanted to manage their records digitally (with lists, lookups, forms, add/update/delete, etc.) and was considered the most widely used desktop database system in 2011.

I'm not sure Access is relevant nowadays (forgive me Microsoft if I'm wrong), but if you're following the tech trends you probably noticed a wide range of new no-code development tools and the huge hype around it. 

I decided to ask the expert and contacted Zoe Chew (Website, Twitter, LinkedIn), a product builder at Product2kit who helps early-stage startups build their MVPs within 24 hours without code.

Zoe was kind enough to provide some first-hand answers to my questions.

Here's what she had to say:


1. What’s no code and why is it so popular lately?

No-code is a type of technology platform or tool created for non-technical people to build websites or mobile apps without programming knowledge. Instead of writing code, you will create apps using drag-and-drop to create the front-end and integrate with third-party technologies to create the backend

I think no-code is becoming popular because it allows non-developers to design, build, and monetize tech products without relying on software engineers or hiring tech teams--at least when you’re just starting out and testing business ideas.


2. What’s the typical user who would need to use no-code tools?

No-code has benefited professionals from all walks of life such as founders, designers, marketers, product managers, freelancers, and even software engineers. 

As a solo founder, maker, and product marketer myself, I've used no-code to create startup MVPs, set up online businesses, and helped my clients to validate product ideas and features ideas using an iterative approach. There are also other no-code use cases that increase business productivity and work effectiveness. For marketers, they can use no-code tools to quickly set up a landing page for product launch without adding workloads to the tech team. For freelancers, they can set up a business website within a few hours, create a quote generator, and automate client invoicing without using any programming.


3. How far can you go with no code? 

Is it the level of a mockup? A prototype? A limited MVP? Maybe even more than that?

The no-code potential increases as you integrate one no-code tool with different no-code technologies to build out the functionality for the frontend, backend, and automation layers. Therefore, no-code allows you to create fully-functional MVPs and, high-fidelity prototypes rather than wireframes and 2D mockups. 


4. Are there real products that started with no code tech?

Makerpad is an educational platform that’s built with no-code tech and it is a profitable online business that monetizes from no-code tutorials and membership subscriptions. Another example is scribly.io - a content marketing service marketplace that operates using no-code tools such as Airtable, Zapier, Webflow, and Slack. As mentioned by the founder, Dani Bell in an interview, she was able to generate $30K MRR with her no-code business.


5. How do you deal with advanced capabilities such as payments, push notifications, server-side logic?

There are lots of payment tools such as Stripe, PayPal, and Gumroad that offer integration with no-code platforms. For example, you can generate a no-code mobile app in Glide, and then you can start adding/expanding app functionality such as add to cart, customer order form, and checkout by connecting Glide with Stripe

For push notifications, you can use Zapier (a popular automation no-code tool) to connect with different apps, set up triggers, and multi-step workflow to send out user notifications, alerts, and monitoring. 

There are other tools that allow you to create server-side logic or the backend workflow without code. For example, you can use Typeform as the frontend to input user details, use Airtable as a database tool to aggregate the user details, and set up triggers in Zapier to send email updates or specific documents via Gmail based on the workflow you created within these tools.

Read more about it here: The 7 myths of no-code platforms destroyed.


6. What about edge-cases? 

Professional apps deal with sophisticated validations, specific workflows, and personalized experience. Can you do any of those without code?

I believe in the world of Product Management, sophisticated validations mean building a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) rather than a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). In MLP, you optimize your product launch by creating the most valuable offering for your users, rather than simply having functional features which is an approach prioritized in building MVP. Let's say if you're trying to build a "Superhuman for Chrome Browser", your product must be able to deliver "fast browsing speed" for your users even at the early stage of product validation because with that kind of product, "speed" is your core offering and it is ideal to use custom engineering solution to craft that personalized experience for your users.

With that said, no-code is great for building platforms that don't require innovative or "never-before-seen" user experience designs or creative user interaction. 

For example, no-code is widely adopted in building online stores, eCommerce, Airbnb-style marketplaces, freelancer platforms, and service marketplaces. 

However, if your product offerings rely on specialized user experience, algorithm, AI technologies, or sophisticated technical excellence, it is still not possible to build it entirely using no-code.

I'd say the best of both worlds is to leverage "no-coding and coding". With no-code, you can build product landing pages, create user survey mechanisms, and automate business workflows—whether or not your product requires sophisticated user experience.


More recommended posts: 


7. For no-code beginners - what tools should they look at?

I'd highly recommend Carrd, a free landing page builder to create fully responsive websites. You can build single-page or multi-page websites. My favorite part about Carrd is that with their Pro version, you can add functionality to your website by creating email opt-in, integrating with Stripe/PayPal, and add embed code to easily link Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel on your Carrd website (classic for checking new product ideas).

For no-code mobile apps, I'd recommend Glide, a tool that converts Google Sheets databases into app-like user experience using PWA (Progressive Web App). It doesn't create native iOS or Android apps, however, it is powerful enough to showcase your app idea with fully functional payment integration with Stripe and workflow automation with Zapier.

Check out this list of no-code platforms to learn more. 


Let's put it to the test! 

After my call with Zoe, I gave Glide a quick try. I wanted to check how it feels to use a no-code tool.

Within 60 minutes I was able to create a simple reading app with daily curated articles (sidebar.io style).

I started with a template, tweaked the Google Sheet a bit, added a sign-up form with email activation, add a chat option, images, and more. I didn't check the payment options but I did notice some built-in check-out buttons so I guess the capabilities are there.

I used the free version so I had some limitations when it comes to editing permissions, so I duplicated my app and created a second version for "admin" use, pointing to the same "database", and acting as the "editor for the daily collections.

I was able to do all of this within an hour, pretty insane.


Developing an app with no-code. Example by the mobile spoon
A simple articles aggregator developed in 60 minutes

BTW, here's the link to the app which is working pretty well.


Summary

Entrepreneurs always face the challenge of validating their idea before getting into a long development journey. There are a few ways to put a product idea to the testinterviewing potential users is important, and creating an MVP is a must to test your hypothesis. 

With no-code, the path to a working concept has never been so short.


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