So what it is no-code exactly?
Even though no-code is exploding in popularity, it still hasn’t exactly reached the mainstream.
And if you haven’t heard much about no-code, creating software without writing code might sound too good to be true.
But it is true.
Today, you can build web, mobile, and even desktop applications without writing any code!
No-code tools offer visual development interactivity similar to how you use a graphical interface when operating a computer or smartphone.
For this reason, some consider visual development a better term than no-code to describe this movement and its tools.
I will use visual development and no-code interchangeably throughout this post.
This trend of making computer activities available to anyone without specialized training isn’t actually anything new in technology.
Coders were the only ones who could use the first computers.
Then technology companies like Microsoft made a fortune creating intuitive visual interfaces like Windows that anyone could use.
Thanks to those interfaces, almost anyone can use a computer today, coders and non-coders alike.
In the same way, more and more no-code tools are coming out allowing anyone to create software using a visual interface.
I’ve used visual development tools to build websites, automation, and apps since 2013.
I don’t have it all figured out, but I do have some experience in this space.
And I’m happy to share what I’ve learned in this post!
What can you build with visual development tools?
You can build almost any application you can think of with no-code tools.
Bubble, one of the leading no-code development platforms, has a blog post series with simple tutorials on how to build clones of the most popular web applications on their platform without writing code including:
- and more.
Unfortunately, you can’t (yet) make native mobile applications with Bubble.
However, you can use other no-code platforms like Adalo to publish native apps to the Apple or Google Play App store.
You can also turn your web application into a desktop application with a converter like ToDesktop.
You can even create videogames using no-code tools described here.
As you can probably tell, it’s actually easier to discuss what you can’t build with visual development tools.
For those on the cutting edge of certain technologies, no-code solutions may not work for you (yet).
But for the vast majority of those who want to create any sort of app, there’s likely a visual development tool that can help you build it more quickly and inexpensively than with code.
Automation with No-Code Tools
Applications aren’t the only software you can build today with no-code tools.
These platforms can share data between tools you already use.
They can also intake plain-English commands and execute them programmatically.
For instance, you could create a workflow in Zapier that saves any Gmail attachments you receive to DropBox and messages you on Slack when the file is saved.
Or you could use IFTTT to automatically tweet any photo you share on Instagram.
These examples may not sound particularly useful.
For instance, I’ve built an automation with Zapier that categorized those who signed up for my email list into different email list segments.
In this automation, I used Zapier to categorize email sign-ups based on their responses to a Google form.
At the time, I had no idea the term no-code described what I was doing.
I also didn’t realize there was a passionate community of no-coders doing similar sorts of things.
But this isn’t all you can do with no-code.
Check out the next section to learn about some of the popular no-code platforms available today.
Popular No-Code Tools and Platforms
Although I’ve used visual development platforms since 2013, like I mentioned above, I didn’t know about the term no-code or the vibrant no-code community until 2020.
When I did discover the no-code community, I found that some of the simpler no-code platforms were often left out of the conversation.
I’ll discuss those platforms first.
No-Code Website Builders
When the web started gaining popularity in the 90s, there weren’t many web applications, mainly just websites.
Most websites were simple and primarily text-based with little if any multimedia.
Today’s websites are dynamic, highly visual, and often contain web application features if they aren’t full web applications themselves.
In fact, the line between web applications and websites becomes blurrier every day thanks to no-code with more and more websites gaining app-like features.
But in general, web applications differ from websites in that they offer:
- greater user interactivity,
- user profiles,
- and user-generated content.
If you log into a website where you:
- upload or interact with content,
- or you see custom content and interactive tools tailored to your profile (like on Facebook),
you’re probably using a web application.
However, if you’re visiting a website without the ability to log in that provides mostly the same information to all visitors (like a website for a restaurant), this is likely better classified as a website, not a web app.
There are plenty of no-code website builders that enable you to build largely static sites like WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace, or Wix.
(For instance, I built this website with WordPress.)
These platforms are web applications that enable you to build websites without code.
But the more commonly discussed no-code tools today are web applications that enable you to build web or mobile applications without writing code.
Visual Development App Builders and Automation Tools
No-code website builders have been around for a while now, and many people are aware that you can build a website without coding.
However, fewer people know that you can build a web application or automate business processes without code.
Here’s a list of some of these newer no-code app builders and automation tools and what they can help you build (most of which I’ve already mentioned):
- Glide, Bubble, or Boundless can help you build web apps.
- Adalo can help you build mobile apps.
- And Zapier or IFTTT can help you build automation.
No-code platforms launch and evolve frequently.
So my list of no-code app builders and automation tools is far from exhaustive.
However, you can check out this site for a regularly-updated extensive list of no-code tools available.
How to Get Started as a No-Coder or Visual Developer
If you want to get started in no-code, first ask yourself whether you want to build a:
- static website,
- e-commerce site,
- web app,
- mobile app,
- or automation.
Then, in the spirit of no-code, choose the simplest tool for the job.
I built this site on WordPress with Divi.
And I built my wife’s site on WordPress with Elementor.
If you want to build a simpler site without publishing much content to it, I recommend Squarespace.
For building a website primarily focused on e-commerce, try out Shopify.
If you’re building your first web app, check out Glide.
Want to build a native mobile instead?
I recommend Adalo.
And if you want to build automations, check out Zapier.
I am familiar with all of these tools and learned through years of experimentation that these are great tools to start with.
My Experience with No-code
Although the above is how I recommend getting started today, it’s not how I got started.
I spent a summer in college learning the basics of html and css because I had an interest in tech and thought this was the best way to build a website.
By the end of the summer, I accomplished my goal of hand-coding a personal website.
I found the coding process somewhat interesting.
However, I felt like this type of coding didn’t quite line up with what I wanted to do in tech.
Fast forward to my first job out of college, I found myself doing several odd jobs for my employer.
Rather, this employer hired me to help out in any capacity, not for a specific role.
This started as a part-time gig, managing social media profiles for my boss’s non-profit.
When my employer mentioned he needed a website for his non-profit, I decided to revisit my website building skills.
Given a tight deadline to create the site and rusty html and css skills, I began investigating website builders.
I ultimately discovered Wix, a super-simple website builder, and used it to make my boss a website.
He was shocked that I could build it, impressed that I did it, and didn’t care how I built it, with or without code.
Expanding My No-code Skillset
Although I don’t typically recommend Wix today, it was a great way for me to get my feet wet with no-code.
It also opened up the world of no-code to me.
Because of my interest in blogs and content-driven websites, I built several websites for myself and as a freelancer for others, mostly on WordPress.
I learned the hard way that not all themes have front-end visual development capacity like page builders.
That’s why today I recommend Divi or Elementor.
Through freelance web design, I also learned about the different types of websites people want to build and which no-code tools are best for each type.
Although freelancing has given me the most experience with no-code website builders and no-code automation, I’m particularly excited about no-code app builders.
In fact, I have spent much of 2020 building with Bubble to get a better understanding of web app visual development platforms.
Here’s an example of a simple Bubble app I made that spits out the first letter of each word of text input:
Just paste in or type text into the box and hit tab or click outside of the box to see the text generated.
(Sorry mobile users, it probably won’t work on a mobile device. I’m still trying to figure that out).
My experience with no-code has also made me realize the no-code ecosystem and movement hold a lot of promise for lifestyle businesses.
I’ll discuss this more in the next section.
No-code and Lifestyle Entrepreneurship: How These Tools Help you Build a Lifestyle Business
Freelancing with no-code tools has been a great experience for me.
However, it’s also made me realize how difficult it is to scale service-providing businesses.
In fact, understanding lifestyle businesses and why lifestyle entrepreneurs typically avoid service-providing businesses is one of the main reasons I created this website.
If you decide you want to build a content-driven lifestyle business, website builders can help.
Or, if you want to build a software-driven lifestyle business, no-code app builders could provide the perfect platform for you.
In short, I’m excited about the potential for lifestyle businesses to explode in popularity along with the no-code movement.
Do you have any experience with no-code?
Are you building a lifestyle business with no-code tools?
Let me know in the comments!