No Code tools are either hype or niche — you should opt for niche

Explaining why No Code approaches are great only when it comes to narrow-scope tasks.

No Code tools are either hype or niche — you should opt for niche

Explaining why No Code approaches are great only when it comes to narrow-scope tasks.

No Code is a broad term. It describes a variety of products that help end users assemble web pages and applications without hiring developers. In recent years, it has also become an ideology of sorts (praised, for example, in this 2019 Forbes column): a promise to get rid of all the complications intertwined with IT development, especially its proverbial high costs, unpredictability and difficulty to scale quickly.

However, the promise is often exaggerated. Many of the proposed approaches are oversold or just unoriginal. Still, niche solutions from the No Code toolbox can be a useful way to speed up development.

Anton Vasin, CTO at Readymag design tool, elaborates further.

No Code is not particularly new

Speaking of No Code, users tend to think of it as a recent development; a step made in the late 2010s to emancipate the world from expensive engineers. Be it Notion, Mailchimp, Voiceflow or Bubble, companies associated with No Code approach are usually ex-startups. But is the approach really that new?

In fact, No Code tools have been around from the very beginning of the computer era. Take Microsoft Excel: it’s basically a point-and-click method for building a simple database without using SQL. Any 3D design or visual game design software is a visual shell for code blocks that you almost certainly will need to tinker with later.

This point also perfectly illustrates the limitations of No Code. It is no coincidence that most operating systems still have a command line-based core that power users can access: some things are just intrinsically difficult to visualise. Yes, a lot of people don’t touch the Mac OS X Terminal and never will, but in most cases someone with experience needs to be around to perform actions above a certain (actually, rather low) level of complexity.

No Code limits patterns of thought

The visualisation and simplification that No Code gives, comes at a price: in particular, it usually nudges a client toward a limited number of patterns. In fact, that’s exactly what allows them to get rid of the code. Only a certain number of product management techniques go hand in hand with no-code task management tools. As a result, your initial idea itself might become stale.

The biggest problem with limited patterns is that they deny you the chance to learn. Code provides almost infinite possibilities when it comes to configuring the system (open-source culture and the competition of approaches, programming languages and libraries usually guarantee it in any given field). It might not be that important for your first project, but it is crucial for the growth and future of any professional.

That’s why we try to avoid staleness at Readymag, never limiting our users to presets and always giving them an access to a clean canvas. Even with our beginner templates, you can get rid of all the formatted stuff and start on your own at any given moment. We also give our users options for customizing their projects with code.

Good tools have a precise scope

Yet, we firmly believe that No Code approaches are great when it comes to a narrow-scope task. Take Zapier, a tool for API integration, that we actually use in Readymag; or Airtable, a platform that helps automate the creation of CMS. The idea is to not waste your time on something that can be easily automated and configured, but to keep using the power of engineering when it can produce a better result.

Specialized ecommerce tools, like Stripe, are great examples. Instead of creating our own ecommerce sub-tool, Readymag uses integrations to save time and trouble. Again, that’s because we try to leave each part of the pipeline to the most suitable tool, be it code or no-code.

We think of Readymag as one of those tools: a web editor, great for interactive graphics and interactive UX, but also easy to boost with additional APIs or custom code. That’s great for larger, more complex projects, like this one from our user Headless Horse. A full-fledged No Code approach is limiting, but a specific No Code platform can significantly accelerate your development process.

Summing it up — No Code, as a mantra, is simply not good enough. Though No Code, as a practical idea, may sometimes be very handy. Code and No Code-tools should be used side by side at the end of the day.