But there's a catch to learning these skills: It takes a significant amount of time to build a foundation. There is also a limit on what can be built with this basic foundation. By myself, I can only build a functional front-end web-app with no real back-end. To build out a proficient product, I would have to outsource the backend work or bring on someone else who can do the work. Coding in the early stages presents key issues to speed and productivity, especially for those like my self who are learning as they go.
What is No Code?
A few weeks back I ran into the term no-code. I initially wrote it off as a trend that would quickly die. But after doing more research, I discovered a new world. A new world of digital paintbrushes. That is used to build software faster, and with less difficulty. A new type of egalitarianism where software no longer is solely built by those that identify as "coders." But with no-code tools software can now be built by a wide variety of people from different backgrounds.
To provide a clear "dictionary" definition of no-code tools, let's define no code like this:
"A no-code tool is a software development environment that allows the average person to become a developer. Drag and drop components, connect them together, and create software systems."
Now let me highlight what I see as the three most important no-code tools. These are the most important tools for any project as they are the most flexible. When you master these tools you can build anything. Be mindful, there is a large amount of no-code tools. So, if I do not highlight the ones you prefer, do not take it as a slight.
Bubble is a visual programming tool that allows its users to build web and mobile apps. Instead of programming manually by writing code. You write your logic by pointing, clicking, and dragging your components to build your apps. In the past other no-code software creation tools, were largely template-based. They provided little flexibility to actually build the unique solution that you envisioned. Bubble is great in that it allows you the freedom to build whatever you want. You can build the most complex applications with Bubble or you can keep it simple. It is whatever you choose. To get the most out of Bubble I would recommend taking a few of the courses on withcopilot.com. Their videos and tutorials explain the vast use cases of what you can build with Bubble.
Airtable is a spreadsheet intertwined with a database. Airtable has the features of an SQL like database applied to spreadsheets, with a beautiful and intuitive user interface. If this were basketball Airtable would be the "glue guy." Airtable holds everything together, its API allows data to be sent, and stored from your databases. It also can easily be connected to Bubble via the Airtable plugin on Bubble. The software also has helpful features to easily view your information. Here's how the information is stored when a user creates an account on our site.
In addition to being a great database, Airtable also works well as a productivity and management tool. We will explore a bit more about how this can be done using zapier.
Zapier is a tool that allows you to connect thousands of web apps and services with one another. Zapier workflows allow you to set triggers to run in the background, that enable you to automate your tasks. These triggers are called "zaps." This software is important for internal systems and productivity. When paired with Airtable, powerful content management systems can be built. Here's the link to a zap I created for a side project, I made for myself and my friends. It's a Zap that creates a new Airtable record, each time I like a track on Spotify. I then connected a friend of mines Spotify to create, a "living playlist." The use cases of Zapier and Airtable are endless. Over the past two months, I have created a vast array of internal systems. From things like a social media scheduling tool that posts to major platforms. To other more things like a graduation ceremony registration system for a school needing to have safe verification processes in the midst of this pandemic.
Overall leveraging these three tools together is a fast and reliable way to create powerful software. While I have built a large array of different software systems for both personal and business users over the past months. I would like to share my favorite project with you all. I created a living music playlist app using all three of these tools. Heres are the links to the web app built with Bubble, the Airtable database, and the Zapier zap making it all work together.
Bubble - Visual Programming
Build stuff without code and launch a startup without a tech-cofounder! Bubble is a visual programing language. Instead of typing code, use a visual editor to build applications.
Airtable: Organize anything you can imagine
Airtable works like a spreadsheet but gives you the power of a database to organize anything. Sign up for free.
Spotify → Airtable
Connect the apps you use everyday to automate your work and be more productive. 2,000 apps and easy integrations - get started in minutes.
There are some concerns about the limits of the tools. Some might say "you can't build real software with this." The reality is with these tools can build anything. But there are some use cases of where it might be better to explore using traditional programming methods.
In my opinion, no code should be utilized anytime your building an "MVP." The current no-code tools available are too good to justify wasting time hard-coding new ideas and unproven systems.
What does this mean for the future of business?
Software development was once a field with high barriers. Now it is increasingly becoming more egalitarian. More business people, creatives, and artists now have the ability to create software. Software that once would have required a large sum of money, can now be built for free. Small businesses that once would have had to outsource, can now build these systems themselves.
About two years I mapped out a vision to create a tech company, with the internal creativity of a fashion house. At that time this idea seemed too idealistic. Now with the help of no-code, it seems possible. Not only do I have the tools to create, but so does everyone else. No-code tools provide us a spark to rethink the way we set up our businesses. Shifting from one person focusing on one thing. Now with these tools, startups should shift to create more interdisciplinary teams. Creating new job titles and more customer-focused businesses.
I am excited to see what new waves of creativity these tools will spark.
If your interested in learning more about no-code tools, or need a no-code solution built. Feel free to contact me at mjohnson34@Una.edu