While “no code” seems to be rising in popularity, I’d argue that it’s far from a new or original concept — and I certainly wouldn’t call it a “movement.”
I recently tweeted the following:
And it was met with a fairly terse rebuttal from the Webflow CEO.
I can understand why he might take issue with my tweet, but I think assumptions were made. And to be fair, I should have been more specific and said “not a new thing,” rather than “not a thing,” alas Twitter is firmly a “no edit” platform.
So, rather than wasting my time by writing 10,000 words (read: it’s never a waste of time to be creative and/or practice a skill), I think the opening paragraph of Ryan Hoover’s post implicitly summarizes my underlying point quite well:
I built my first website with Dreamweaver, a WYSIWYG site builder that became popular during my teenage years. I was so proud of my creation. It was ugly, but I made it. Although my silly website didn’t take off as I had dreamed, it was a gateway drug to creating things on the internet.
Dreamweaver and similar tools (FrontPage, Flash, etc.) dramatically reduced the barrier to creation especially for someone like myself at the time, a 15-year-old in high school with very basic understanding of HTML and CSS. Their impact on today’s tech ecosystem is understated and today we’re seeing a new wave of tools that are making creation more accessible and reinventing the way things are built for the internet.
So, let’s pair that with Wikipedia’s definition of “no code” platforms:
No-code development platform (NCDPs) allows programmers and non-programmers to create application software through graphical user interfaces and configuration instead of traditional computer programming.
In short,“no code” platforms have been with us for a long time. Is it gaining in popularity? Perhaps, yes. But so is coding, and in a much bigger way.
I may be biased. I mean, I’m a life-long software engineer and started coding in QBasic around the time many of us were introduced to the Web via AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe and still code today (almost every day). Hell, I even recently started playing around with a YouTube channel called “Always Be Coding.” So, yeah, probably biased.
But, my only point here is let’s not get ahead of ourselves in calling “no code” a new movement. And even more importantly, companies should not wittingly over-promise on what people should expect from these platforms. I’ve recently even heard some smart people posit that this could soon replace the need for learning to code. I think that’s harmful, because what if it discourages people who are otherwise curious, from exploring the abundant world of programming? That’s a step in the wrong direction.
To be clear, I think products like Airtable, Squarespace, Webflow, are great, useful and valuable. At the very least, they unlock a lot of value for people in less-technical roles and can even accelerate development in a technical organization.
In fact, many no code tools are effective on-ramps to learning to code when you need to escape the sandbox and build something that’s just outside of the bounds of a given platform.
I strongly believe there’s a huge untapped market of people who will become creators due to these sorts of tools, especially as the barrier-to-entry continues to drop. And companies I mentioned above are advancing that idea, but in the foreseeable future and in a world of “no code”, learning to code is only going to become more accessible and common, not less.
FWIW, I’m very bullish on the “write less code” and “delete more code” movements.
ABC: Always Be (no)Coding