No-Code is Eating the World

No-code and low-code tools are dramatically expanding who can build software, and in the process disrupting the typical software development life cycle.

The Makers List

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The Makers List

Published 

May 7, 2022

No-Code is Eating the World

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What are no-code and low-code?
  3. What’s the difference between “low-code” and “no-code”?
  4. Software development life cycle
  5. The breakdown of responsibilities and roles in software development
  6. How low-code and no-code tools are blurring the lines of responsibility
  7. How businesses build software
  8. Typical Request for Proposal (RFP) process for outsourcing
  9. No-code tools re-invigorate Agile development
  10. How low-code and no-code make development faster and cheaper
  11. How businesses can use low-code and no-code
  12. Predictions of a low-code future
  13. No-code and Low-code tools and platforms
  14. Top no-code agencies
  15. Resources and communities for low-code and no-code development

Introduction

Marc Andreessen, the prolific entrepreneur and investor, famously said that “software is eating the world”. He was right, and now that process is starting to accelerate. New tools and platforms that allow non-technical people to build fully functional websites, applications, and automations without software engineers are drastically changing the cost, speed, and approach to software development.  

Imagine a world where anyone who can use software is able to build it. That is the world of low-code and no-code. Anyone who can drag & drop things on a screen and follow basic logic statements could build the next Uber, AirBnB, or Craigslist.

And this isn’t just about early stage startups and entrepreneurs. These days, almost every business is a software company. And to date, building and maintaining software has been slow, expensive, and restricted by the gatekeepers in Product, Design, IT and Engineering departments. The promise of agile software development (more on this later) has yet to be realized, and too many problems are left unsolved. 

No-code and low-code tools are dramatically expanding who can build software, and in the process disrupting the prevailing approach to software development in companies today.

What are no-code and low-code?

software abstracted from 1s and 0s to No-code tools
software abstracted from 1s and 0s to No-code tools

The terms “Low code” and “no code” can be somewhat misleading, as these platforms still rely heavily on code under the hood in order to accomplish the building of apps and websites. The key is that these companies have done the work to hide some or all of the coding from the user, abstracted away behind a user interface that makes building digital tools relatively simple.

Think of it this way. At some point, I imagine you’ve heard about how all software is made up of “1s” and “0s”. But humans aren’t good at reading and interpreting long strings of numbers, so early computer scientists came along and wrote software programs in languages that allowed people to communicate requests to computers. These languages (C++, Java, React) are just a level of abstraction to make software easier to create and manipulate. 

“No-code” and “low-code” platforms just take this one step further. Now instead of having to learn multiple languages to talk to computers, you can just drag and drop things to create the visual part of your software, also called the “front end”, and you can create basic “if/then” logic statements (if I click the button, then go to that new page) to create dynamic websites and fully-functional apps.

What’s the difference between “low-code” and “no-code”?

These terms are generally used interchangeably. There are certain tools and platforms that truly require you to know zero coding languages to build a fully functional piece of software, and others that augment the development process to reduce the amount of bespoke code that must be written, however they still rely on software developers. Hence the proliferation of both the “low” and “no” modifiers.

Generally speaking though, the movement to reduce and remove the need for specialized coding knowledge is what no-code and low-code movement is all about.

Software development life cycle

The process for mass producing goods was a byproduct of the industrial revolution, and manufacturing physical products at scale in the 20th century was done primarily through what has been referred to as a “waterfall” process. 

  • Come up with an idea for a widget
  • Create detailed design specifications (specs)
  • Build millions of widgets
  • Distribute & sell widgets

Waterfall product development process
Waterfall product development process

This “waterfall” approach was adopted for software development in the early days of personal computing. Companies were creating software that was designed, built, and distributed as floppy disks and compact discs (CDs). Then along came the internet, which introduced new opportunities to disrupt this traditional, sequential process. 

The principles of agile software development were created and quickly adopted by new, fast growing startups who leveraged the speed of development, feedback, and rapid iteration as an advantage against larger, entrenched competitors.

12 Principles of Agile Software Development
  1. Customer satisfaction by early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even in late development.
  3. Deliver working software frequently (weeks rather than months)
  4. Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers
  5. Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  6. Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress
  8. Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  10. Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential
  11. Best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
  12. Regularly, the team reflects on how to become more effective, and adjusts accordingly

Agile software development
The Agile software development process

The freedom and flexibility of the agile process was then commonly paired with the “Scrum” project management framework. This brought the structure and regularity that most businesses want. Scrum introduced:

  • Regular “sprints” (typically 1 or 2 weeks) of work
  • Daily “standups” to ensure communication
  • Sprint planning
  • Regular retrospectives
  • Scrum masters to coordinate the process

The combination of Agile and Scrum can be incredibly effective, and it has quickly become the dominant approach to building software in today’s major tech firms. When well balanced, Scrum processes facilitate the underlying principles of Agile, however there’s always a risk that the structure of Scrum will overpower the fluidity of Agile. 

There will always be a tension between Agile and Scrum, but you can tell when Scrum has suffocated Agile when the structured “output” of the Scrum process becomes more important than the “outcomes” or impact of the actual software.

I believe top software companies are falling victim to this today, and the no-code movement is presenting an opportunity for companies to break out of these unproductive patterns.

Agile vs Waterfall software development process
Agile vs Waterfall software development process

The breakdown of responsibilities and roles in software development

Most modern companies that are building their own software follow a team structure made popular by Spotify, with “pods” or “squads” of cross-functional employees collaborating to ensure what they build not only meets the needs of the business but that they solve real problems for the end user.

Product Managers act as the representative of the business. Sometimes referred to as the CEO of the team, they’re responsible for ensuring that decisions are viable given the constraints of the company.

User Experience (UX) or Product Designers work to understand the needs, motivations, and challenges of the user and design how the digital product will be experienced by the customer. This includes creating blueprints, aka wireframes, and low resolution mockups of the pages needed to bring the tool to life.

User Interface (UI) Designers are responsible for the visual design, ensuring that what’s built is on-brand, accessible, and desirable for the end user. Oftentimes, designers will cover UX and UI responsibilities.

Front-End (FE) Engineers develop the portion of the software that you can see and interact with as a user, ensuring that pages are performant, responsive (fit the screen on mobile, tablet, and desktop), and interact and update the user’s data. 

Back-end (BE) Engineers are responsible for architecting the data schema, ensuring security, reliability, and building APIs (application programming interfaces) to allow different services and applications to speak to each other. 

Full-stack Engineers work on both the Front-end and Back-end of a system.

Squads are often made of 1 Product Manager, 1 Designer, 1 Engineer Lead, and 3-7 additional engineers, with the composition of the team driven by the type of work being done.

Software development squad including Design, Product, and Engineering
Software development squad including Design, Product, and Engineering

How low-code and no-code tools are blurring the lines of responsibility

Now that you can leverage the power of software development without needing to know how to write code, these newly developed norms, structures, and processes are coming into question, and the initial promise of Agile software development has been reinvigorated. 

Business process analysts, Marketers, Designers, and Product Managers are no longer limited or constrained by access to technical talent. Entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need a technical co-founder. UI designers don’t necessarily need a Front-End engineer. Marketers can automate workflows and campaigns through highly intuitive products that connect apps through APIs, all without code.

In a world where one individual can plan, design, and build a software product, the opportunities for value creation have just multiplied. Just like with the introduction of internet-delivered software, once again, the time, cost, and risks associated with delivering software have been drastically reduced.

Think what platforms like Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify have done to Web Developers who primarily write HTML, CSS, and Javascript (coding languages) for basic marketing websites. Those platforms have eaten that entire industry, and the same thing is happening in app development.

Such drastic statements may seem like the end of engineers, but those with hard coding skills need not despair. The proliferation of these tools will free up developers to focus on solving more complex, interesting problems. Instead of recreating the wheel and rebuilding buttons, forms, and graphs, they'll finally be empowered to do the unique, interesting, and high-value engineering work that they’re uniquely capable of. This is unequivocally a win-win!

No-code tools allow individuals to plan, design, and build software independently
No-code tools facilitate entrepreneurship from less-technical people

How businesses build software

If a business wants to benefit from all the advantages that software can provide, they really only have a few options.

  • Pay for software that other company’s build
  • Hire In-house software engineers to build what they need
  • Outsource - hiring external teams to build for them

Each approach has its pros and cons, but regardless of the route you take, it's going to be expensive. Software creates enormous amounts of value, and because the engineers that build software are in short supply, their salaries have gone up and their time is guarded. 

The average software engineer routinely makes over $100k, and for top-tier software companies their most talented engineers can make over $500k annually.

For lots of businesses, it’s just too expensive to pay salaries that high, and so outsourcing has become a viable alternative, and subsequently a very large industry.

Typical Request for Proposal (RFP) process for outsourcing

When a business decides to outsource their software development, they will typically run a Request for Proposals (RFP) process. This entails requesting project briefs and bids from multiple different vendors.

The certainty of cost and delivery can be very appealing for a business, however it can be very difficult for contractors to embrace the uncertain and iterative approach of Agile software development. This leads to projects that greatly resemble the waterfall approach of physical manufacturing, which doesn’t fully harness the cheap and immediate distribution of internet-enabled software.

If you’re interested in finding a traditional outsource software development agency to help you build an app, website, or internal software tool, you’re likely going to spend over a hundred thousand dollars, and you leave yourself with little room to test, learn, and improve what you’ve built.

Software development options include no-code agencies, traditional agencies, and in-house teams
No-code outsourcing can be significantly cheaper and faster than traditional development methods.

No-code tools re-invigorate Agile development

I believe the introduction of these tools will happen slowly and methodically through larger organizations. Teams that were historically beholden to ever-growing Product backlogs, who rarely had their initiatives prioritized will be empowered to solve their own problems through no-code software development. Process automation will drive incredible value for businesses.

But the real magic will happen at the early stages of product development. With the 10x reduction in the barriers of entry into software development, we will see a spike in entrepreneurship. Design thinking and user-centered design principles will become increasingly valuable as more people will be in a position to experiment with business ideas. 

The mini-waterfall process that has evolved out of an over reliance on the structure of the Scrum process due to the disproportionately expensive time of engineers will no longer be necessary. Teams and individuals will be in a position to re-embrace Agile principles, driving experimentation and value creation to new heights. 

How low-code and no-code make development faster and cheaper

If you’re a business looking to outsource a project, whether it’s building a website, app, or automating an internal process, you’re in luck! The cost and timelines for these projects are getting drastically reduced because of no-code and low-code tools and platforms.

There are a number of reasons why you should consider a low-code agency over a traditional firm, when considering outsourcing a new software project:

  • No-code costs a fraction of traditional development
  • You won’t get charged to reinvent the wheel
  • Project timelines in the weeks not months
  • Test, learn, and iterate faster than your competition 

Not every project will be suitable for no-code or low-code tools, and only you will know if you’re pushing on a technical frontier, but for most businesses and most products it’s worth at least checking to see how much time and money you could save.

How businesses can use low-code and no-code

There are truly no limits to how businesses can leverage no-code and low-code tools to make their businesses more customer-centric, efficient, and profitable. I imagine we will continue to see innovation here for decades to come, but here are a couple ideas:

  • Develop a world-class digital presence through your marketing website
  • Get rid of physical paperwork (digitize your processes)
  • Automate routine manual labor
  • Automate your email marketing
  • Build a bespoke mobile app for your customers or employees
  • Create a marketplace to connect buyers and sellers
  • Improve your internal tools so your employees can work more efficiently
  • Build reporting that allows you to stay informed about what’s happening in your business

Predictions of a low-code future

So, what’s next? How will this low-code movement change things in the future? Here are a few of my predictions:

  1. The disappearance of “web designers and developers” will be complete (killed by wordpress, squarespace, wix, and shopify)
  2. More and more complex applications will be built with no-code tools (look for AI, Machine Learning, and Web3 no-code tools in the future)
  3. There will be an explosion of entrepreneurship, especially in economically depressed regions
  4. Product Design will become more important because when the barriers to build anything come down, you introduce a premium on building the right thing
  5. Design tools and Front-end coding will completely merge to create integrated Design Systems (Figma and InVision should keep an eye on Storybook)
  6. Traditional software development agencies will be forced to adopt no-code and low-code tools as a part of their service offerings as customer demand drives down prices and timelines

No-code and Low-code tools and platforms

Here’s just a preview of some of the more popular tools and platforms today:

  • Bubble - the leader in NoCode. Build, design, launch in hours.
  • Zapier - automate processes without a developer.
  • Webflow - a visual way to build the web.
  • Glide - create apps and websites without code.
  • Adalo - no code app builder. Start making real apps.
  • Shopify - start selling online.
  • Airtable - create apps that perfectly fit your team's needs.
  • Unqork - no-code software platform for enterprise apps.
  • Retool - the fastest way to build internal tools.

Top no-code agencies

The Makers List is a marketplace pairing top no-code developers with entrepreneurs and businesses looking for high-quality software at a fraction of the cost and timeline. Here are some of our top agencies:

  • Zeroqode - a no-code pioneer and industry leader.
  • AirDev - the leading no-code software development firm.
  • Minimum Studio - we build software for people who like to move fast.
  • Zabal Media - designs and builds beautiful digital products.
  • SVZ - we create award-winning websites with Webflow.
  • Automation Ace - certified Zapier expert, airtable pro, and upwork's top rated freelancer.

If you’ve got a project you’re considering, provide some details and get quotes from top no-code agencies today!

Resources and communities for low-code and no-code development

As with all great movements it’s the communities that propel them forward and with no-code and low-code it’s no different. There are tons of resources and communities budding up online. Check out some of the most popular ones below:

  • Makerpad - build your ideas, no coding required.
  • No Code Founders - the community for founders who don't code (or choose not to).
  • NuCode - no code maker community.
  • Make - the indie maker handbook.
  • Nocode Essentials - a hand curated directory of the best resources about Nocode.

In summary, the progress being made to expand access to software development through no-code and low-code tools is creating tremendous opportunities for both established businesses and early-stage entrepreneurs. Those who embrace these new tools and platforms will be able to build high-quality software faster and cheaper than their competitors. This will unlock profits and drive innovation through more experimentation and iterative, Agile software development.

Get multiple quotes from the top no-code agencies today. Get Quotes Now!

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