This article was originally published on the NoCo Blog.
No-code platforms provide a way to build web and mobile apps without writing code. Basically, you want to build an app (mobile, web, etc) but you don’t know how to code, so you use a platform to build it and deploy it. Instead of building your layout with code, you typically drag and drop components or parts of an application. For example, say you wanted to build a form. The form would collect a person’s first name, last name, and email. To do this in code, it would look something like this:
First name: <input type="text" name="fname"><br>
Last name: <input type="text" name="lname"><br>
Email: <input type="text" name="email"><br>
<input type="submit" value="Submit">
As you can see, it’s a visual way to drag parts together to create the form. The end result is the same though, you get a form that people can use to, in this case, give you their emails. Entire companies are built around this simple use case and you’ll be able to accomplish this in minutes.
Some of the platforms out there allow you to add custom code optionally, or help you create the bulk of your app so that it can then be handed off to a developer or IT to put the final touches on it and deploy it.
Whether you’re an individual looking to build a startup idea or a leader of a sales organization in a fortune 500, I’m sure you’ve had ideas about cool apps to build or workflows you could automate. No-code platforms are supposed to enable you to build whatever kind of apps you could image, a skill that was once only available to developers.
Why No Code?
By 2020, there will be 1 million vacant programming-related jobs. No code platforms make building web apps and mobile apps possible without hiring expensive and in-demand developers. Even those in large organizations know how hard it is to get something changed, let alone added to a companies application. No code should enable organizations to build a myriad of internal and external facing tools without having to get IT involved at all. There is no maintenance burden, no extra overhead on IT, just pure productivity, and hopefully a bit of fun building it.
Even as a developer myself, there are many times I find myself having to write the same kind of plumbing between apps. It’s specific enough that I can’t copy and paste it but generic enough to be uninteresting to build. Many developers use no-code and low-code tools to bootstrap projects or get a head start. Or once they see how powerful they can be, abandon writing code for that particular project altogether. A more common approach is somewhere in between where about 80% of the application can be built without code, and the unique value add of the app can be built with code and interface with the no-code application.
Low Code vs. No Code
The holy grail is to build anything imaginable without writing a single line of code. No matter what the marketing material says, that’s not possible. The no-code applications have limits. Sometimes very high limits, but limits nonetheless. Low-code is a convenient way to bridge that gap. You can build most of the application without code, and then only write the small parts of the application that can’t be done in the platform. Often times you can do this right in the platform yourself without ever having to set up a development environment.
Key Differences Between Platforms
Building anything without code is a tall order. Most of the platforms specialize in building one kind of app or building apps for one platform (mobile, for example). There are some that use a simple google sheet as a back end to a mobile app, and yet others that build web applications using google sheets as a back end. The key value prop there being, simply put your data in excel, where it already is, and then you can build a UI around it. The point is, you should figure out what you want to build (i.e. I need a web app, or I need a mobile app, or I just need a process automated) and choose the best platform to build that on.
Some no-code platforms specialize is building mobile apps. There’s been a flurry of services that build mobile apps using a google spreadsheet as a back end. It’s clever and get’s the job done for many use cases.
Enterprise focused platforms and SAAS focused platforms are often times low-code applications that enable businesses to create internal tools or applications, i.e. tools that are not customer facing but help fulfill
NoCo Platform Approach
So far, we’re starting out with web applications that are mobile-friendly. A few of NoCo’s differences are:
- Low Design — many no-code platforms require a lot of design. We’ve taken the approach of standardizing the UI so that it looks clean and beautiful without you touching it at all, but if you want to create something customized, you can.
- Re-usable components. You can design a single item and re-use it many different places in your app.
- Ejectable. We generate real (beautiful) code so if one day you’d like to get off the platform, you can and not start from scratch.
- Deploy single-tenant back ends (meaning we can give you access to your own database to do whatever you would like with it)
- Automatic, Free SSL
- Authentication -> You can build an app your users can log in to.
If you’re interested in trying this out for yourself, head over to NoCo and sign up.