So-called ‘no code’ platforms are on the rise, making it easier for people to build their own website or ecommerce store. But what exactly does it mean if a product is no code? What is the difference between ‘no’ and ‘low’ code?
No code platforms are aimed at people without a technical background who want to create their own software or apps. You don’t need to understand code to use products like Webflow and Canva to produce your own website or app. The whole idea behind no code is to make technology and digital platforms more accessible to non developers. No code tools can thus help increase speed, reduce cost and improve productivity.
In comparison, ‘low code’ products target developers who want to save time by using pre-made components or visual interfaces. The biggest difference with no code tools is that low code products like OutSystems and Quickbase allow for some coding. This means that users with (a bit of) coding knowledge can customise their app to some extent, which isn’t possible on no code platforms.
The lack of customisation is one of the downsides of no-code tools (especially if you want to scale your app and your requirements evolve), as well as users not having control over the technology or the source code of the app. These are the main commonalities that these platforms have in common:
Visual interfaces – Whilst developers will also use no code tools, the target user has no technical background and will use the no code tool to create their own software. To accommodate non technical users, no code platforms offer interfaces that are highly visual and configurable. Bubble is a good example of a platform with a user interface that uses simple drag and drop functionality and standard components to enable users to configure their app (see screenshots below).
Templates for users to get started – To avoid users being unsure where to start when building their new website or application, no code platforms provide a wealth of templates to capture the most common use cases. Take Glide for example, a no code builder for mobile, web and data apps. On the Glide platform you can find templates for a whole host of apps, ranging from ‘Simple Store’ to ‘Simple CRM’. Users can copy these templates and then build them out through the Glide platform.
Onboarding and tutorials – Whilst the main goal of the no code user interface is to be as intuitive and logical as possible, most no code platforms offer lots of tutorials and playbooks in addition. These are designed to help users onto the platform. Adalo, a ‘Community of No-Code App Creators’, is a good example in this respect. Through its academy users can join a number of online courses, covering topics such as compelling app design and publishing your app.
Airtable, a no-code platform for collaborative and workflow software is well known for its onboarding process, easing new users into the platform (see here for a great review of Airtable’s user onboarding process).
Data storage – The majority of no-code platforms will offer some form of data storage or connectors to databases like SQL and Postgres. Data is one of the areas where it’s important for the ‘no code user’ to have a clear sense of their requirements. What data does the back-end system for my website or app need to store? How will this data be secured? What volumes of data are expected to be stored?
Main learning point: People like me – i.e. without an engineering background – can benefit massively from the different no-code tools out there. Whilst limited in customisation, no code tools make it much easier and faster for people to create their own software.
Related links for further learning: