For decades, the best (and usually the only way) to build software applications was to hire a trained software developer. Historically, whether you’re building a website or a new app, developer-level expertise was the only plausible route for bringing your ideas to life.
Over time, as technology advanced, we democratized software development, allowing users with little-to-no technical experience an opportunity to create technical solutions. The platforms that allow citizen developers to make apps and websites are called “no-code” platforms.
Gartner has predicted that by 2025, 70% of applications developed by organizations will use low-code or no-code technologies. A recent survey by KPMG revealed that 100% of enterprises that implemented a low-code development platform saw ROI. The no-code movement is here to stay. What does that mean for software developers?
In this blog post, you’ll learn:
- What the no-code movement is
- The subtle yet significant differences between no-code and low-code tools
- Four benefits of no-code tools and apps to be aware of
- Different types of no-code tools and apps, with examples to try
- What the no-code movement means for software developers and engineers
What is the no-code movement?
The no-code movement emphasizes web development that allows non-developers, or people with very little technical skills, to build things online, such as websites and applications. No-code platforms enable users to develop their ideas and start businesses using graphical user interfaces (GUIs) instead of coding languages. Drag-and-drop functionality empowers and opens the door for non-coders to jump into creating rather than reaching for the nearest programming language textbook.
Is the no-code movement a new concept? Not entirely. When Tim-Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, he intended it to be accessible and universal. However, in its early days, users needed to know HTML to build on the web. In 1994, David Bohnett and John Rezner created a web hosting service called Geocities. It allowed users to create web pages with little-to-no knowledge of coding required. In 2003, Matt Mullenweg launched WordPress, now home to millions of websites. In the years following, other popular builders like Squarespace and Wix launched. The no-code movement expanded to include different types of no-code tools and applications for non-developers (more on that later).
Today, companies like MakerPad, NoCode.Tech and NuCode inform and educate the world about the no-code movement. There are hundreds of no-code tools and apps available, and the movement is growing in popularity. Before we dive into the benefits of no-code tools and various ones to consider trying, let's run through the differences between no-code and low-code platforms.
No-code vs. low-code
People sometimes use the terms ‘no-code’ and ‘low-code’ interchangeably, but there are some significant distinctions between the two.
No-code apps and tools are for non-developers needing an easy-to-use technical solution. These platforms are visual builders that don’t require technical capabilities and instead use drag-and-drop and point-and-click functionality. And they simplify development, often in closed systems where custom code is not permitted.
On the other hand, low-code platforms require some coding knowledge. Low-code platforms are built for developers looking to build quickly and offer the opportunity for skilled developers to work faster. They are generally open-source and allow users to change or add code and modify parts of the underlying code.
Four benefits of no-code platforms
No-code platforms increase speed, broaden accessibility, are cost-friendly, and provide a layer of autonomy for users.
- Speed: Do things quicker and get to market faster
While there is some learning involved when using no-code apps and tools, learning these tools is much faster than learning how to program. You can easily access documentation, online forums, and video tutorials on many no-code platforms. That’s not to say you can bring an idea to fruition in a matter of minutes, but learning programming languages often requires months and years of effort. Overall, the learning curve is minor, and new businesses can enter the market much faster than they would without using no-code tools.
- Accessibility: Removing barriers to entry
No-code platforms are for anybody with a software or application idea they want to bring to life and don’t have any technical skills. No-code platforms are breaking down the barrier to entry to what was previously an exclusive realm for programmers with a technical background and education. Tech novices can access these platforms and put them to use, enabling a broader group of individuals to participate in digital transformation.
- Cost-friendly: Reduce initial costs and maintenance
Complex software development requires trained expertise. For example, it costs a business anywhere from $12,000 to $150,000 on average to build and launch a website utilizing web developers. On top of that, website maintenance can cost up to $60,000 per year, depending on the package and services needed.
Startups and enterprises can reduce initial costs and legacy maintenance with no-code platforms. Some no-code tools offer free versions or, at minimum, free trials. No-code tools cost less than paying software developers with in-depth expertise, even on a paid plan, with the average salary for one software engineer sitting over $119,000. Legacy maintenance is less significant for no-code platforms since there isn’t coding to maintain.
- Autonomy: Know the tool inside and out
In traditional development, the developers create a website, app, or another tool, then hand it over to the business that requested it. If an organization doesn’t have a team member who can support it, they must hire a new employee to own and learn it. And no matter how much a development team explains about the tool, there can always be aspects of it that the receiver will be less familiar with.
The user has complete autonomy and is the expert rather than an outside source with no-code tools. A user can customize the website, app, or tool to their liking within the tool’s limitations, of course. No one else will know it better than the person designing it, which can be helpful in troubleshooting and updating situations.
Types of no-code apps and tools
The library of no-code apps and tools is growing rapidly. There are countless opportunities available, from creating websites to building apps to automating tasks. Below are some prominent types of no-code tools for businesses and specific ones to try in each category.
In a fast-paced, digital working world, automation allows users to connect their apps, automate workflows, and address their work more efficiently. No-code automation tools make it easy for individual users and businesses to streamline tedious tasks and improve productivity. No-code automation tools include:
Marketing is a crucial component of every business, and there are various no-code tools for specific types of marketing like email and social media marketing. Utilizing no-code platforms allows users to get their names and ideas out in the world faster, without having to worry about design elements. Some no-code marketing tools to try are:
A company's productivity and data organization depend on the systems and business processes. No-code platforms that support better work management practices enable more efficient workstreams and allow teams to collaborate better. No-code tools for project management and data organization include:
No-code payment platforms streamline payment processes and offer quick ways to collect payments without any code. Payment operations are crucial, particularly for e-commerce related business ideas. A few no-code payment platforms in the market are:
Last but not least, no-code website builders allow new startups and businesses to establish a digital presence. Creating nice-looking websites through templates and drag and drop features has never been easier, and users can do it quickly. Some no-code website builders to explore are:
What the no-code movement means for developers
With many types of no-code platforms available for citizen developers to use, what’s in store for software developers? Even though the no-code movement started gaining traction in recent years and might seem more like a trend, industry experts believe it is here to stay.
Vlad Magdalin, CEO of Webflow, told TechRepublic that the no-code movement is in its early stages but expects to see more people building software with no-code platforms in the future. “It’s definitely the early stages, but it’s the early stages of what the web felt like in the late ’90s or the early 2000s. It's early, but there’s so much promise already that you’re seeing a commercial success… Where I would say five years from now, it’s going to become a de facto thing. And I would probably guess that the majority of people who built software are going to be building it with no-code five years from now.”
But software developers don't need to worry about job security or becoming irrelevant in light of the no-code movement. According to TechRepublic, there is still high demand for software developers in the job market. No-code backend development platform, Xano, agrees that software engineering jobs will remain secure and even benefits developers. It doesn’t appear that the no-code movement will make them obsolete any time soon.
Although users can learn and take advantage of no-code platforms without coding knowledge, we need programmers to build, maintain, and improve no-code tools on the backend. And on top of that, no-code platforms, by design, are quick and easy to set up, but they don’t support out-of-the-box solutions and unique use cases that come up due to their rigidity. These solutions don't offer custom capabilities and flexibility that some may need in many instances.
Software developers can reap the benefits of the no-code movement and use it to focus on more complex technical challenges. In an interview with Built In, Airtable engineer Mary Rose Cook emphasized that no-code tools make developers more valuable. The tools and apps can automate parts of developers’ tedious tasks, freeing up some time to dedicate to other programming challenges.
The no-code movement allows non-developers to build software tools and applications without using code. No-code tools are for non-developers, whereas low-code tools are for developers with some programming knowledge. Some of the benefits of no-code tools include speed, accessibility, reduced costs, and autonomy. There are many types of no-code tools and apps available, and industry experts predict the market will continue to grow. In the world of software development, no-code tools and software developers will coexist. Developers can benefit from no-code tools and apps and use them to free up time for more complex technical challenges.