I was recently catching up with a friend (you know who you are) who went wide-eyed when I informed them that I was building an app.
“Can you do that?” she asked incredulously.
And to be fair, the last time we had met in-person, I was fresh off of two years at McKinsey where I mainly learned how to speak to clients, make PowerPoint slides, and build Excel models.
Although I switched tools when I became a Product Manager (slides became Notion docs, excel sheets became Asana boards), it’s not like — all of a sudden — I became a master of React and could build beautiful web interfaces.
But my mindset didn’t shift.
And I realized that not being a developer didn’t prohibit me from being a builder. These days, there are an array of amazing tools that non-technical folk like myself can leverage in order to build full fledged experiences.
Tools that, frankly, I think everybody should be using in their businesses — especially if they want to quickly hack together an MVP to test a new market or a new product hypothesis.
Gone are the days where websites need to be built strictly from HTML/CSS. The world quickly realized that websites should be created by everyone — not just folks who invested dozens of hours of their lives to learn the programming languages.
Also gone are the days where we have to use legacy content management systems straight out of Web 1.0 — like Wordpress.
I introduce you to Webflow, probably my go-to software to create websites.
If you’ve ever used popular drag-and-drop website creation tools like Wix, Weebly, of Squarespace, you’ll grok Webflow as a concept.
The benefit of Webflow over those three tools, however, is that Webflow is orders of magnitude more powerful.
Like Wix or Squarespace, you can create beautiful landing pages with Webflow — either choosing from their expansive collection of templates or creating one yourself.
I spun up a quick landing page for Sygmo, my interview prep coaching service in less than an hour using Webflow and completely for free using one of Webflow’s domains.
Webflow can do so much more than simply create landing pages. It can create fully functional websites for whatever experience you want to provide to your users.
You can create eCommerce sites and sell both physical and digital goods. You can create a blog or a photography site. You can even create a game with a simple interface and data feeds — like what I’m doing with my app.
However, with more functionality comes more complexity — and Webflow has a higher learning curve than a Wix does.
And that brings me to my absolute favorite part about Webflow: the rich library of community resources and tools.
Not only does Webflow the company provide an extensive list of resources to learn the tool — from Youtube tutorials to a quasi-docs site called Webflow University, there are also amazing resources provided by avid Webflow users and other companies who have integrated with Webflow.
For example, you can embed Lottie animation files into Webflow sites — creating an amazing, lightweight visual effect for your site.
The LottieFiles website even has a Webflow section to filter for Webflow-friendly animations.
This robust ecosystem of connected apps — from Lottie to Memberstack (for account creation) to Twitter — creates a one-stop shop for web development for any need.
Something that other CMS tools cannot compete with.
Other alternatives to Webflow
While Webflow is my personal go-to for no code web development, there are other tools that may be better suited for what you’d like to build.
If you’re building an eCommerce company that delivers physical goods, you’re going to be well served by simply using Shopify. Shopify takes care of the front-end site construction, payments, and logistics.
You can’t really beat that in terms of a pure online retail venture.
I haven’t personally used Bubble, but from my understanding, it’s similar to Webflow but even more powerful — especially in terms of automated workflows, data accessibility, and data storage.
The drawback, however, is that Bubble has an even higher learning curve than Webflow.
As a result, websites are harder to make look polished — whereas it’s quite easy to do so in Webflow.
Adalo is Webflow for mobile apps. I’ve personally never used it because building an iOS/Android app is way harder than building web apps, so let me know if you enjoy using this platform or recommend another no code tool for mobile development.
If you’re like me, you discovered Zapier three months ago and are kicking yourself on why you didn’t use it earlier.
Zapier is, at a high level, the literal easiest way to set up automated workflows for your app — or honestly for your life broadly.
Have you heard done a manual task and wondered, why the hell can’t I just automate this?
Maybe it’s sending a welcome email when someone enters their email address on a form on your website.
Maybe it’s sending all invitees a reminder that a webinar is about to start.
Maybe it’s uploading PDFs that a client sent over to the company cloud drive.
Well you can. And you don’t even need to know how to code.
Just plug it into Zapier, which has a robust set of integrations with all the popular web applications.
Zapier (which by the way has a Webflow integration!) has so many web app integrations, that is really is the one-stop shop for all things automation.
In fact, there are so many unique and powerful ways to use Zapier, that the website even has an ‘Explore’ tab that showcase novel solutions that users have uploaded.
Airtable or Google Sheets
Airtable or Google Sheets or any spreadsheet-table software tool is incredibly helpful — and the good news is that most people intuitively understand how to use them.
They’re powerful because every web app needs a data structure, a series of databases and tables to read, append, and store data regarding users, product usage, etc.
While web apps are typically set up in Postgres and queried with SQL (or using Oracle if you’re a dinosaur), non-technical builders can use Airtable for an easier, more visual way to organize and display their data.
In conclusion, the combination of Webflow+Zapier+Airtable should allow any non-developer to build a web app of their choosing.
Webflow for the front-end user experience, Airtable for the back-end database management, and Zapier to connect them together — among other automated tasks that it can deploy.
Now there’s no excuse to build! DM me on Twitter or LinkedIn if you’d like help walking through building something using no code tools.
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