This entire website is about NoCode, the tools used within NoCode, the founders, the communities built around it, the blogs and newsletters which support it, and in a nutshell, everything NoCode. While many of our readers are NoCode savvy, we are also aware that NoCode is a new paradigm for some. These new entrants may not know the entire landscape, might not have a history of NoCode or its origin, and, more importantly, where it is going. This article is a comprehensive attempt to answer the question, "What is NoCode?"
The way we traverse this subject starts with a definition from a NoCode Journal's view, moves towards the history, differentiates NoCode and LowCode, and compares and contrasts NoCode vs. regular code-based software development, benefits of NoCode, NoCode Categories and tools and finally the future of NoCode.
What is NoCode
In this chapter, we will cover the definition of this new creation platform or methodology or movement called NoCode. Mainly, the consensus is developing your software application is a complicated endeavor. It is also a small population of folks who can code. NoCode is an alternative way to build your apps, projects, products, or software without manually writing code or having a specialized knowledge of software development.
As Wikipedia describes this space, the NoCode development platform is closely related to LowCode Development Platforms are designed to expedite the application development process. NoCode allows non-technical makers to build software applications without coding, only using visual and drag-and-drop tools. "NoCode" is often connected with the term "LowCode". Sometimes, these terms are mistakenly interchangeably used. The LowCode platforms have limited amounts of coding needed and require non-technical users to work together with developers. In the next chapter, we will discuss further its definition and how it is different from NoCode.
The fast and easiest way to develop software
When creating a website, our first thinking is," I don't understand how to write code for the website" or "I need to hire a web developer or an IT professional." Many of us would like to build and create solutions, but we don't know how to make it possible without either knowing to code or hiring someone. An enormous gap that NoCode fills in, where individuals are aspiring to build a website or a mobile app, can now do so without having to code or hire someone. NoCode is an alternative way because instead of writing code, you can use easily understandable graphical user interfaces, configurations, and wizards to build software applications. Without writing actual code, you can create and invent new products such as websites or mobile apps. We live in a rapidly changing world that is going digital-first at a fast pace. Every problem humanity faces require technology solutions that have a quick time to market and fast turnaround time of turning an idea into a usable product. NoCode should excite you because they make both of these promises accessible to everyone democratizing the ability to create products.
Features of NoCode
As mentioned above, one of the most common features of NoCode platforms is a visual drag-and-drop interface that lets users create an application from scratch very quickly. Many platforms have pre-built templates customizable to get your product built and executed in a quick time. While other platforms make it easy for you to connect the application with other sources of data, such as Excel, Tables, unstructured data, and SQL databases. NoCode platform also helps you develop apps for smartphones and tablets without having to build for iOS and Android separately.There is a plethora of workflow and automation that are themselves NoCode tools and make the NoCode products seamless talk to each other as well as external applications.Again remembering all of this is being done without the user never even writing a single line of code.
The History of NoCode
Now, you will gain insight into how we arrived at this technology today. In this chapter we will see how software industry transformed over the past 35 years. Here’s the brief history of NoCode.
How did NoCode start?
The book, Application Development Without Programmers, was published by technology visionary James Martin in 1982. James stated that "The number of programmers available per computer is shrinking so fast that most computers in the future must be put to work at least in part without programmers." The demand for technology solutions back then was all high since tools did not support best practices or automation, as it was all done manually. We had the mindset that the traditional IT programmers have the solution to everyday problems, and building applications that would scale was particularly tricky. So, most non-technical builders did not possess the skills to create and deploy applications with appropriate security and governance. Like every other innovation, it started with some tech folks noticing the gap between ideas people have and their ability to realize them. NoCode platform is a culmination of those innovative experiments to create a broader maker community. It gives users the power to create custom designs and functionality without having to worry about coding. Thus, it allows people to build, connect two or more services to work together and everything in between but without writing code.
NoCode is NOT A NEW THING
From the definition of Wikipedia, we have platforms that sound similar to NoCode that we've been using for a long time. It is not a new way to develop software, for the longest time we used these known tools such as WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix that let us create websites without dealing with any codes. People see these tools but don't think of it as "NoCode" as they are limited to just doing the basics of Web Development. NoCode's popularity is rising now, primarily because of the large number of tools available and also the maturity and complexity build these tools can accomplish.
Both developers and non-developers could build an application fast and easily using visual tools. NoCode Journal featured an article about why NoCode Gaining Traction, which delves into why NoCode is gaining traction within Enterprises and Maker Community. This phenomenon is not new, but as many have stated, it has just picked up pace in recent years. As good developers are hard to find, more companies either outsource their development to other countries or use Citizen Developers (enabling their non-IT workforce to build using NoCode). The design of NoCode tools usually has a line of business users in mind instead of traditional IT. The shift from conventional enterprise software to a lean development methodology is also changing the role of conventional IT leaders and departments. Whereas IT once provided not only approval of new technology but procurement and development of new tools, IT's role is now increasingly one of governance.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that software developers' requirements would rise by over 57% from 2010to 2020. At the same time, Forrester predicts that the market will grow from $3.8 billion in 2017 to $21.2 billion in 2022. The NoCode and LowCode industry opens new opportunities and rapidly increases. For the next chapter, let us identify the difference between NoCode and LowCode.
NoCode vs LowCode
Reading the history of NoCode,we have encountered the term “LowCode”. In this chapter, let us dig further what does LowCode and how is it related to NoCode. Now, let’s define LowCode!
LowCode development is the creation of software, applications, or databases primarily(but not always) through a graphical user interface (GUI), minimizing the amount of necessary programming knowledge. LowCode platforms allow users to view and edit source code, but they do not necessarily require users to access all parts of the system itself to create applications or databases. Don't be discouraged because, with minimum hand coding, you can still produce design applications quickly. According to Gartner, the LowCode market will be responsible for more than 65% of the application development activity by 2024.
A Brief History of LowCode
In 2014, Forrester coined the term "Low-code" to classify development platforms that focused on development simplicity and ease of use. These platforms allowed developers and users of all skill levels to code applications without needing to know to code. From the early days of programming, all the way from COBOL in the 1980's to React Native today; the evolution has always been better abstraction layers. LowCode is no different, its the ultimate abstraction layer where most things happen with drag and drop and then have some code to polish the product or application.
As Gartner defines LowCode, as a Low-code application platform (LCAP) that provides rapid application development and deployment using low-code techniques such as declarative, model-driven application design and development together with the simplified one-button deployment of applications. Another definition of LowCode we like comes from Appian. Appian defines LowCode as "A new approach to building unique business applications – fast. With a low-code development platform, you don't code an application line-by-line, you draw it -- like a flowchart. This mindset makes developing powerful new applications quick and intuitive.
NoCode and LowCode
LowCode and NoCode strategies give app developers a quicker, more comfortable road to making an app for their businesses. It may sound the same, but it has several very significant differences between these platforms.
The first difference is that LowCode lets users have the option to write code if needed, tweaking whatever they need to get the results they want. It serves users that create useful apps and folks with a more technical bent of mind than say a NoCode professional.
LowCode developers trade in the end to visual drag and drop for some code interface to achieve high customization and control over their product.
LowCode practitioners also have higher productivity than the regular developers. They are only writing new lines of code where needed and use drag and drop features for other places.
Citizen Developers in Enterprises, who are LowCode makers, can prototype, experiment, and analyze new product features and functions quickly. This ability provides them validation before embarking on a costly and time-consuming effort to build it using the IT department.
Overall LowCode makers still need to understand coding to create the final product, whereas NoCode opens up the product development to all non-technical makers.
NoCode vs Coding
What happens to the traditional programmers? Is NoCde a threat to developers in the long run, or is it an additional tool in their arsenal, helping them build better, more significant, and innovative products.
Should Developers be worried?
No, because that was not the reason NoCode platforms came into being. NoCode platforms came into being to bring a larger cohort of people with ideas and teach them how to execute them. The software developers were the ones who created NoCode. Usually, all software engineers coming out of college have a dream of either creating the next innovative startup or working on bleeding edge technology innovation at a large company. In reality, they end up writing the same type of mundane, repetitive, and uninspiring code, like creating logins, building marketing landing pages, or reading data from an API call. In any project, maybe less than 10% of the code will be something that would be a highlight or a learning experience. These mundane and uninspiring functions are what NoCode tools are automating, leaving the developer to still work on the innovative areas within a company where real development work is needed. As NoCode tools mature, it will be useful in bringing a lot more of the organization-wide IT work within its fold. However, you will still need that rock star developer to create that propriety function, which makes the organization successful.
The promise of NoCode
The barrier of building something is getting lower, as many are shifting to using NoCode tools. Today, technology means it helps us to make life easier. It changed how companies test ideas and how products get built, transform product management and design, and open the gates to a new, more diverse wave of product creators. It makes developing a new product fast and accessible not only to the non-coders but also to the program developers. As reality comes, many of the companies don't have enough budget to hire many developers. The challenges are an inaccurate estimation, software coding errors, infrastructure delays, or testing challenges from the traditional development approach. Tools to build full-stack complex products without coding are becoming robust enough to replace custom code and reach a critical mass in their community of users.
They are called "Builders," not developers.
When using these NoCode tools, it doesn't let you do or write any codes. The limitation of NoCode depends on what is the purpose of what you are building. For example, in business, you need to create a website for your product. As a startup, if you don't have any budget, you wouldn't worry about hiring and paying for a developer. You can use these NoCode tools to build your website. When you want to develop that sophisticated algorithm with the customized calculation for your product, you still need the developer to step up and create that for you from scratch that differentiates you from everyone else.
NoCode - Startups
As with most things, innovative and technology-heavy leaps of NoCode came into the limelight within the Startup community. There have always been more ideas within the startup community than available software engineers (or to put it bluntly quality software engineers). NoCode platforms were the pathway to level the playing field for teams and founders without technical chops to build and execute. In this chapter, let us identify the use of NoCode platforms for startups and go through the pros and cons of the same.
How can NoCode help startups?
One of the goals of NoCode is to offer a library of functional components that is lego blocked together using visual flow to build a software product. One of the startup world tenants is the often-used acronym of MVP (Minimum Viable Product), how minimum or how viable that's always up for debate. Before NoCode, if a Startup Founder had an idea, he necessarily needed to either hire an outsourced technology team or find a technical co-founder to partner to build the MVP. Building MVP in this manner was fraught with increasing cost risk (outsourced team) or opportunity risk (bringing in a technical founder too early). NoCode tools and platforms help founders and makers build an MVP by themselves get some market validation to come up with long term product roadmap as well as getting validation of the idea. Progressing in this manner enables the founder to have a greater appreciation of the cost and the functionality of the startup and then decide to proceed either using NoCode tools or get a technology co-founder.
Pros Of NoCode for Startups
We at the NoCode Journal firmly believe that there are multiple advantages for a startup founder to start with NoCode platforms, but here we will list some of the main ones.
With NoCode, non-developers or non-technical users are the primary customer persona while designing the platform. As a result, anyone who comes into a new platform, the learning curve is far lesser, and any founder with good logical chops and an understanding of what they want their product to look like can start building.Like in life also in the startup world, the only constant thing is change.
As a startup founder starts their journey and gains knowledge from customer interviews and industry stakeholders, the product requirements will change. Whether the changes result in a small shift or a massive pivot, it is easier to make these variations on a NoCode platform-based product rather than on a code-based product.Without hiring a team of outsourced developers or pulling in a technical founder too early before some market validation, the startup founder will save money, equity dilution, or both.
NoCode platforms allow the startup founder not to get pulled into the sunken cost fallacy. When a lot of time and effort has gone in on building a code based MVP, the startup founder may not want to walk away from that project in case of any systemic problems. The founder may just try to keep the startup going further, driving them into more profound costs. With NoCode, the experimentation and walkaway come much more quickly as they haven't spent a fortune to reach that decision-making point.
Cons of NoCode for startups
NoCode is still growing field, and do have gaps in some platforms in use right now in 2020. We at NoCode Journal see a few of these problems cropping up in more mature startups.
The first issue we see is functionally complete. Any platform irrespective of how flexibly it has been architected and built will have limitations. Depending on the use case for your startup, you may hit these limitations pretty early or maybe very late, but you will encounter them. When you encounter these limitations, sometimes you can work with the platform and find a workaround, or in other cases, you may have to move off the platform to a code-based solution.
The next issue we have seen is scalability. Even if the platform supports all the functions, can it handle the growth scale for your company? Is there a tradeoff you are making on the customer user experience cos of your platform choice. That might be another reason to pivot to a code-based platform.
The third issue we have heard a lot in the past few months is costs. The platform costs, storage costs, network transaction costs, etc. are often bundled in the pricing of the platform and not individual line items in an invoice. If an increase in the expenses on any one of the areas increases your total costs exponentially, you may want to move out. You would want to run the code in your infrastructure and manage the costs rather than be dependent on the NoCode platform.
The last and maybe not a big one for us here at NoCode Journal is the sameness of design of your startup landing pages and websites using these platforms as most founders are using pre-built templates.
NoCode - Enterprises
NoCode platform or tools are primarily gaining traction in an Enterprise setting due to a lack of time and resources. The time needed to code new products and applications using the traditional way (a 6-month to 9-month process) and a severe shortage of qualified developers can create these applications.
When you think of Enterprise applications and how IT departments work, it is slow and sluggish in the way it executes. One of the primary bottlenecks is the time to market for innovative products in companies. The majority of the time, this happens to be the technology timelines. NoCode plays an important role here where cos of the visual development and reducing the number of hands in the jar the time to market can be drastically decreased, especially for risky market bets. The NoCode playbook helps businesses experiment more and give them the flexibility to out-innovate their competition.
The second issue within Enterprise IT teams, which you will always hear, is the lack of qualified developers to complete the IT work. NoCode helps here as the advent of these visual development tools has given rise to citizen Developers' concept, thereby vastly increasing the pool of resources who can create new products.
The impact of demand for new applications built quickly, and the need for new developers far, exceeds the current supply paving the way for NoCode and LowCode tools.
Pros of NoCode within Enterprises
We at the NoCode Journal firmly believe that there are multiple advantages for Enterprises to embrace NoCode and LowCode, but here we will list some of the main ones.
The first advantage is increasing the pool of resources that can create with the added Citizen Developers coming in with their NoCode and LowCode platform knowledge.
The second advantage is the ability to pivot quickly and iterate constantly using these platforms. Allowing products and workflows to be created, broken down, and recreated based on the changes in the business environment.
Reduce coding errors while creating custom code by the use of platforms using NoCode and LowCode as well as the increased ability for code reuse across departments due to the minimal amount of customization needed on the base platform.
Cons of NoCode within Enterprises
We at the NoCode Journal do understand there are some drawbacks to using NoCode and LowCode platforms within the enterprise.
Enterprise IT leaders may not like putting all their eggs in one basket or building only one platform without an understanding of the platform's longevity.
The premise and the promise of NoCode begin with the right intentions. Still, without oversight in leadership, it can very soon delve into free for all customization, defeating the entire purpose of these platforms.
Conflict with the existing IT team and the fear of creating a Shadow IT within all the business organizations will be another reason for not propagating these platforms within the enterprise.
NoCode - Tool Categories
Within the NoCode and LowCode tools umbrella, around 350 companies we have analyzed, written about, experimented with, or in general, heard. There are websites, Trello boards, Airtable's, and Google Sheets, which list all the available tools and products. We are trying to go at a higher level, where we want to divide these tools into various categories. We might not have it exactly like everyone else, but this is our take on it.
The quintessential NoCode app allows you to build a Website using drag and drop method and integrating other services needed to make your website fully functional. An example of WebApp will be Webflow. Within our articles we have articles on DappHero, Presto API,
Create a finalized product or application which you are selling to your customers using a NoCode platform. An example of a Business App will be Bubble. We have articles on Jexoy,
Create an iOS or Android mobile application available on the Apple Store or Play Store or available as a PWA. An example of a Mobile App NoCode platform is Draftbit. We have had past articles on Adalo and Murkstom.
Automation and Workflow
All the tools and platforms which help automate, streamline, organize, extract, and operationalize your process and technology flows. An example of automation and workflow NoCode platform is Zapier. Within our articles we have written a comparison article between Notion Vs Coda and articles on Amazon HoneyCode, EasySend and an overall article on Process Automation Tools
All the tools and products that primarily use the graphical user interface to build applications but a small percentage of the app still have to be manually coded. An Enterprise example of a LowCode tool will be Betty Blocks. We also have a separate article on NoCode Tools in AI and ML, Outsystem. and Enterprise LowCode Application Platforms.
These are focussed and domain-specific NoCode platforms that cater to a single industry and are successfully changing these industries to run on NoCode platforms. One of the industry we explored in detail is the legal one with NoCode and Lawyers.
All tools and products that either uses a rules-based engine or AI-based engine interact with your customer on your digital channel come under this heading.
Most marketing tools in the world are mostly NoCode tools hence its hard to list all the tools within our purview. Hence here we list tools that are built with NoCode first mentality and serves primarily the NoCode community. An example of a Marketing NoCode tool is ConvertKit. We have written articles about Unstack,
These NoCode tools create a landing page or a lead capture website or simple one page static and information website for a product launch or other marketing purposes. An example of a landing page builder would be Landen. We have also written articles on Dorik, Pory, Best Landing Pages,
NoCode tools helping streamline your payment gateway and overall customer payment functions within your NoCode applications. An example of a Payment NoCode tool would be Tilly Pay.
Again Design tools like Marketing have a broad cross section of NoCode tools. Here we are focussing on tools tightly integrated with other NoCode tools to create a seamless execution. An example of Design NoCode tool would be Figma. We also have articles on Pastryy.
NoCode tools that allow you to create a membership function for your startup or gates for your premium content comes under this heading. An example of a Membership NoCode tool would be MemberSpace.
NoCode - Community View
NoCode community has been warm and welcoming of any newbies who are engaging in the benefits of NoCode and LowCode. As they explore these tools, they have been responsive to the questions and offer insights into the advantages and disadvantages of various tools. As well as what to improve and what are the future opportunities of it. Note that the below are based on the opinion from the person that we interviewed and their views about the NoCodetoday.
Drew Thomas of No Code List, “Nocode right now is a "movement," but long term, nocode is actually the nextevolution of software development. My favorite way to describe it, though, is away for average humans to augment themselves with software. NoCode's acceptance is growing rapidly, but I'd say it's still largely unknown to the greater business community. Nocode has a great business case- it empowers people without costing additional resources- so it's well accepted in business once people understand what it is.” Drew is from Austin and he was one of the speakers from theNoCode Meetup in Austin Last February. His views about the community are, “NoCode Founders is a really great community. There are so many great people in there, including the founders of a lot of popularnocode software. There's this saying "Good, fast, and cheap. Choose two." It was very relevant to me as an agency owner negotiating client work. With NoCode, though, all the sudden we can have all three. It was never possible before, and it's the ultimate advantage in 2020!” Drew also runs these websites Really Simple Store, Joustlist and Yesterday’s Weather. “Nocode is becoming adopted internally at many businesses.It's also starting to get adopted by agencies that do client work (web and otherwise). If you consider the amount that demand will grow as this continues,it's logical to assume that NoCode software will evolve quickly to meet people's' needs.
”Jiaqi Pan, theco-founder of Landbot, “I believe that the NoCode movement isn't something new,it's been around for many years. In fact you can think of all types of solutions in the past as a form of no code tools. Think about AWS as a solution to allow engineers to manage server infrastructure without coding. What's making a difference right now is the entry barrier for no code solution islower than ever before. So much that even non-technical users would be able to adopt tools to build and manage software applications. The way I see how nocode will evolve is that it will become more and more robust and remove the complexity of software development that typically is only accessible for technical users. The main benefits will be speed and cost saving when it comes to using no code solutions.” Landbot is a codeless platform that helps you build frictionless conversational interfaces for better CX and more effective lead generation.
Choco Chu, anNoCode advocate in Hong Kong shared that “currently is all about choosing what tools to use and gluing them tgt. There’s no problem with that given the fact that NoCode is just getting started to flourish. But I see the nocodemovement more than just learning different tools and building with them. The development community and industry started with a monolithic approach too, and now the world is changing and we have come to a point that sharing stuff more openly and building open source things are some more preferable practices.NoCode is a layer built on top of an existing coding layer. It should be made just as accessible, or even more accessible than coding since it’s easier to learn.” he is exploring and sharing his opinion about the NoCode tools. “Clutch made a great first step by connecting nocode to the Node JS ecosystem. You can use and make npm packages in it. I am looking forward to seeing someone build bridges between NoCode and the existing development infrastructure like AWS/Netlify.”
Luigi Lacobellis of Solution Scope opinion about NoCode is that “No-code represents an emerging and disruptive technology that allows anyone to build and launch tools and apps without having to write a single line of code. Nocode or low-code tools, allows individuals to develop things such as websites, desktop or mobile apps through drag and drop interfaces and visual workflow modelers.“ Solution Scope is a leading website for information and resources about LowCode, NoCode application development platforms, robotic process automation and digital collaboration tools. “I believe that more and more businesses are adopting LowCode and NoCode technologies for many reasons. Primarily, it will allow them to change their operating models to decrease reliance on scarcely available and costly developers. As technology grows more complex, highly specialized resources such as developers only become more scare and much more expensive to attract and retain. Secondly, it will also allow organizations to build and deploy apps much more rapidly than conventionally developed apps.” As he explore theNoCodeit help him somehow, “gain insights into new and emerging platforms that I had never heard about before, provided me with ideas for use-cases that I had never considered for implementation in a NoCode platform, allowed me to meet and connect with other passionate nocode professionals globally and introduced me to NoCode events, magazines (such as NoCodejournal), and resources that are critical to staying atop the latest developments in this fast growing industry.” while the advantages are “Companies are able to decrease the time required to go-to-market and they should be able to be more agile &respond to business requirements faster. Apps developed through NoCode can be adapted, modified and changed much more easily. Through the support of NoCode,the concept of reuse, where app components can be built & reused across many apps and also enables easy integration with third-party apps &services.” Thus, Luigi sees the growth of these platforms not just to the companies but also to everyone. “NoCode technology is going to continue to evolve and will allow for the development of much more complex apps that can be developed in the technology today. I also believe that AI (Artificial Intelligence) will be a significant component of NoCode in 3 years time. Today, AI components are typically add-ons to NoCode LowCode tech. In the future, NoCode tech will allow for AI elements to be built in NoCode apps out-of-the-box. For example, smart chat-bots that can be trained to respond to questions.”
As a part of our effort to help the NoCode community in general we have various articles like the one you are reading to provide a comprehensive overview but also very focussed items which delve deeper into some of the NoCode areas beginners might be interested in.
The Best NoCode Newsletters
NoCode - Future & Predictions
This chapter will need to await some rationalizing and mergers of some of these platforms to be able to put a better focus on the future of NoCode and LowCode. The trajectory is up we just have to get more data points to determine how steep is the rise going to be and when some plateau will be formed.