Code or No-Code? Here’s How to Decide

The promise of no-code platforms seems beguiling. Even with 0 coding experience, in a matter of hours have a fully-working application up in no time! Although a powerful tool, the no-code platforms (even the AI-driven ones) aren’t the panacea that the companies claim. Here’s how to decide when to use a no-code platform and when to hire a developer.

What is a No-Code Application?

No-code platforms (NCPs for short) are simple front-end drag-and drop applications that provide users with a way to get a usable application up quickly. Most no-code applications have the following properties:

  • Drag & drop UI — drop components where they need to go
  • Templates — don’t re-invent the wheel
  • Ability to pull from various sources, such as Google sheets, Airtable, and other REST APIs (all without needing to know the underlying schema).
  • Ability to push to various services, with the same benefits as pulling.
  • Easy theming.
  • Light JavaScript support — you can use a lot of standard JavaScript functions, and some even include common libraries such as moment.js.

No-Code Options

Before I get into the weeds, here are a few NCP options you can choose from in order to quickly mock up applications:

bubble.io. Probably the most popular platform. There’s no self-hosting option, but bubble.io has great support and has a well-built interface.

appsmith. The open-source alternative to bubble.io, provides the same tools, but allows you to self host, which is a ++ for privacy and security. For those familiar with bubble, you may find some features lacking, but it’s still very much usable and worth checking out.

Penpot, which is probably even more open-sourcier than appsmith, is more of a mock-up framework, so they lack a lot of the scripting power that other no-code platforms have.

tooljet. Tooljet is a fairly new kid on the block, but still packs a punch in terms of features. They do provide the ability to self-host but can also host an application for you.

When To Use No-Code

Here are some situations when using a no-code platform is most viable.

You Have 0 Coding Experience

If you don’t know what people mean when they throw out terms like HTML, JavaScript, or Full Stack, then NC is probably the right avenue. Most require little to no coding experience, and often hold your hand when you do need to implement more advanced features.

You Want a Quick Mockup to Show Your Boss, Investors, or Customers

If you need something up quickly, in a matter of days or hours, and don’t have time to thoroughly test an application, no-code frameworks are perfect. Give it some sample data, show the sample data loaded, and you’re good to go.

You can even include professional-style headshots in your app to give it a polished finish.

You Don’t Want to Invest Time in Testing, Deploying, and Maintaining an App — i.e. Low Cost, Low Reward

Have a great idea for a product or project at work, but don’t want to invest an entire team in the project (initially, at least)? No-code platforms are perfect. Just be prepared that you’ll (probably) have to start the project from scratch to truly implement all the features you want. No-code platforms are great for creating a rough outline and seeing it in action.

When to Not Use No-Code Platforms

So far all this sounds awesome, but before you run off and start slapping together an interface, here are some reasons why you might want to invest in coding the application instead.

You Need Something Substantial

If you’re past the mock-up phase and want something that’s meant for a full-fledged application, you might not want no-code platforms. NCPs are meant for quick wireframes or mock-ups.

You can think of it like artists’ renderings for city parks — it’s not meant to be the actual schematics, but, instead, act as marketing materials to city citizens excited about how their city will change.

This is because NCPs have their own schema. You can’t export a bubble application to start programming in React, for instance. So you essentially have to start from scratch.

The Project is A Long-Term Project

If you want your project to be a long-term project, NCPs wouldn’t be for you. Instead, as stated previously, NCPs should be thought of as artists’ renderings.

To put it another way, what can be composed in an hour in a no-code platform can probably be done by a competent developer in under 20 minutes. Not only that, but if a developer designs and develops the same application, it’s virtually guaranteed to be production-ready.

You Need More Power

NCP’s, by design, are pretty basic. They don’t include a lot of fancy features or libraries. For example, when I was using Tooljet for a client, literally the only libraries they included were moment and jquery. I couldn’t import anything else (and trust me…I tried 😅😂😭). So there’s axios, react, angular, select2, etc…what’s bundled is what you get.

Bummed out of No-Code?

If, by now, you’re thinking your application needs more power than no-code and you don’t have the skill set, have no fear! Jordan with Damn Good Technology is here!

If you head on over to https://damngood.tech/pages/schedule.html, you can schedule a free consultation. I’ll work with you to get you a working solution for your business so can start earning some of that sweet sweet money!

Still fine with No-Code?

Or did this article cement your decision to go no-code? That’s fine, too! You’re more than welcome to try out some of the platforms listed.

If you get stuck, ask in support forums, do an Internet search. Or you can also read some of my programming articles on Medium. If you really want an edge, than for less than a cup of coffee a day get my articles 3 days early on ko-fi.

📢 Comment below: Do you have a favorite no-code platform? Did it help at all?

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Jordan H (Principal, Damn Good Tech) #openforwork

Senior Full Stack Developer & Tech Lead (#openforwork)