I have been a founder for most of my working years, so a sizeable part of my network is made of other founders.
I talk with many of them on a regular basis, and we often discuss technical strategy — how to develop something, what's the best framework for this, etc.
More and more often I find myself saying: "just use this no-code tool".
For those who are not familiar with them, no-code tools allow to develop features / websites / entire apps without writing code. They fit a range of purposes and go from the very specific (e.g. Memberstack) to the very generic (e.g. Bubble).
Over time, they have become an incredible opportunity for any team, for two main reasons: ⚡ Speed and 👥 Empowerment.
When they fit your needs, such tools aren't just faster than writing code, they are 50x faster. They are often "2 hours vs 2 weeks" faster.
They cut both your time to market, and the time you are going to spend on maintenance down the line.
They allow non-technical people to become active contributors and replace engineers in many tasks, producing two benefits:
You empower these people and motivate them, by making their work independent from the development process.
You optimize your team resources by freeing up engineering time.
🙅♀️ No-code myths and fallacies
Most engineers today know about no-code / low-code tools and they may even appreciate a few of them, but I believe they don't use them nearly as much as they should.
There are three common fallacies I hear over and over to discount the usage of no-code tools:
1) "They are only useful to non technical people"
No-code tools are only useful to people who can't code — because those who can code should build things that way.
This is far from the truth, for two reasons:
Coding is the most expensive activity you can perform, it is slow and creates ever-increasing operating costs. Building something with code should be kind of your last resort, instead of your default solution.
No-code tools save you from actual coding, but still require similar analytical thinking. Engineers who embrace no-code are spectacularly efficient — it becomes a superpower.
2) "They are limited"
All tools have boundaries — some are specific for a few use cases, while others are more generic. You are always trading off some flexibility for speed and ease of use.
Just start with your use case and look for a tool that fits your needs. Most often, there is one.
3) "They are only useful for prototypes and MVPs"
Many startups create MVPs with no-code tools. This is wise because of 1) speed and 2) ease of changing direction over time.
And this is particularly empowering for non-technical founders, who can build something and demonstrate traction before actually adding a technical founder to the team.
However, there are also entire businesses who have been built with little to no code, and are still run this way past the MVP stage. Here is a list of notable ones.
⚖️ When to use No-Code?
The code vs no-code choice closely resembles the make vs buy one.
My point of view is that you should make (with code) only what is a core, innovative asset to your company, and buy (or make with no-code) pretty much everything else.
When in doubt, ask yourself these questions:
Is the solution to my problem different than what others have done in the past?
Does this bring a core competitive advantage to my business?
If both answers are no, then go for no-code or a pre-made solution. And for most businesses, 80% of these questions should end up with a buy decision.
🔨 Tools Examples
Here is a list of great no-code tools I have used personally in the past, organized by purpose (no affiliation!). You can also find a more comprehensive list here.
📮 Landing Pages
Umso — super fast and focused on startup landing pages.
Carrd — flexible and useful for multiple purposes: portfolios, landings, forms, newsletters.
🛒 E-commerce / Marketplaces
Shopify — the obvious solution, and the one that most people should adopt.
Sharetribe — a popular CMS for two-sided marketplaces.
📱 Mobile Apps
Glide Apps — build mobile apps in a few minutes, backed by Google Sheets. Amazing tool.
Adalo — a complete IDE to build mobile apps without code. Powerful but friendly.
🖥️ Web Apps
Webflow — a really solid choice for landing pages, blogs, e-commerce, and entire web apps. It's very flexible, includes a real CMS, and has an amazing ecosystem around it.
Bubble — the most powerful no-code tool out there. The learning curve is a bit steep, but it’s a complete platform through which you can build pretty much anything.
👤 User Management / Subscriptions
Memberstack — clever solution to manage users, subscriptions and protected content. It's the backbone on top of which you can build any subscription business. Plays well with your existing code and other tools like Webflow.
Pico — like Memberstack but more powerful, including support for newsletters (paid and free), online courses, and more.
No-code databases? Really? Yes 👇
Airtable — relational database + excel formulas + automatic CRUD APIs + backoffice for editing data. Incredible tool that can be used in an infinite number of ways.
Google Sheets — being free and with well-known APIs, Google Sheets has become a cornerstone of the no-code ecosystem. Try searching for "google sheets" on product hunt and prepare yourself to be amazed by what you can build on top of it.
How do you avoid silos and make these things work together? With APIs and automation.
If you want to dig more into this world, these are other useful resources to get you started 👇
📑 Makerpad — a fantastic community and plenty of tutorials to learn how to build actual businesses with no-code tools.
That's it for this week! Do you use no-code tools in your company? If so, which and how? Let me know in the comments or via email 📮
Hey, I am Luca 👋 thank you for reading this far!
Every week I read tens of articles and draw from my own experience to create a 10-minutes advice about some engineering leadership topic.
Subscribe below to receive a new essay every Friday and put your own growth on autopilot!