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Why it’s perfectly OK to use no-code tools as a developer

redlotusdesignz profile image Diana Chin ・3 min read

I remember the first three games apps I’ve developed around 2012 were built using GameSalad. The interface was a bit clunky, but I’ve spent a great deal of time learning the ins and outs of the software. After painstakingly learning how to create the sprites and backgrounds for my games, I had them published on the iOS and Android app stores.

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I felt proud of creating my three apps. There was just one problem.

I was afraid to tell others that my games were built using a no-code tool. Because of my low confidence, I eventually removed them from the app stores as I didn’t want others to think that I was any less of a developer who didn’t know how to program on the mobile devices.

When I started freelancing as a web designer around June 2016, I decided to help the spiritual community in creating websites under the Squarespace platform. Even though the platform is geared towards users who wanted to create their websites, the company does have a dedicated directory that lists Squarespace web designers and their previous projects.

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Although I’ve built static websites using HTML, CSS, and Javascript in the past, I’ve usually come to rely on the Squarespace platform as my clients wanted a presentable e-commerce website that encourages their customers to book tarot & astrology readings on their sites. With the Squarespace platform, I’m able to provide custom CSS based on their aesthetic requirements.

After much contemplation throughout the years of building websites and apps, I realised that it didn’t make me any less of a developer. Rather, the no-code tools have empowered me to create websites & apps as a starting point which eventually led me to learn more about what goes under the hood. In the case of my web development and gaming experience, it’s why I’m committed to learning more programming languages in those areas in hopes that I’ll have a better understanding of how they fit together.

As a developer, there are a couple of reasons why you may want to try going the no-code route:

  1. Time restraints.
  2. Cost factor.
  3. Using it as a prototype to see how the website/app idea functions before fleshing it out with intricate features.
  4. Creating workflow solutions to help companies scale without requiring a large downtime for others to learn the platform.

Given the ongoing debate between coding vs no-code methods, I do believe we need to end the stigma that developers who simply want to build websites and apps must learn a programming language to be considered “legit.” Rather, we should be encouraging others that if they have a vision, let them go forward with it. No matter what approach they choose, it’s up to their discretion. In my case, I go with the 50 / 50 rule - some projects I’ll work on will require coding while others may end up needing no-code tools.

I hope that it’ll encourage developers to take a chance on no-code tools if they wish to make their websites & apps without having to worry about proving themselves to the public. Concentrate on making it happen, not on the “what-ifs”.

If this article resonates with you, feel free to share! You can connect with me on my web development journey over at Twitter.

Discussion

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stereoplegic profile image
Mike Bybee

"No-code" is just a UI for code. That's it.

  • It's not going to replace devs, who still need to code both the UI and the underlying code in the black box.
  • A dev using no-code tools isn't much different than a dev using a third-party library (you're just avoiding reinventing the wheel in both cases).
  • If you really want to badmouth no-code, then you'd probably better stop using existing libraries, frameworks, cloud provider dashboards, CLIs, any sort of desktop environment or window manager in your OS, and so on, for the sake of consistency.

Now, is no-code the best solution? Very seldom, and it's almost inevitable that you'll eventually run into an edge case that isn't covered. Is it the fastest, easiest, minimum viable solution? Quite often, and that's the point.

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redlotusdesignz profile image
Diana Chin Author

Totally agree with you. No-code tools could work as a way to prototype something, but as far as I'm aware, majority of these no-code tools have plenty of limitations. It's more viable to build something with those features in place.

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Adam Greenough

Personally, I avoid relying on no-code tools or any business critical tool for that matter that relies on the fickle state of tech SaaS companies. So many come and go, get acquired, jack their prices up etc. that there's no way I feel comfortable building a business on them or risk falling behind spending too much time learning niche intricacies of one system that is not transferable.

I don't have anything against nor judge other that use them so long as the output is good. Just personal preference. :)

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redlotusdesignz profile image
Diana Chin Author

Completely understandable! I've seen some no-code tools that while it does have some promise in building a website/app, I do agree on your part that it would be too much time to learn on it and the possibility that it's not transferable. For example, if Squarespace would end up folding as a company, I doubt there's a way you can export the files you have on their platform into another service. You would essentially have to build it from the ground up again.

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Aaron

I'm with you. As programmers we want to program, it's what interests us, it's fun, it's challenging, etc. But we have to remember, clients pay us for a product not necessarily the code itself. If that product could be built faster, function the same, and look just as great if not better - no-code tools are a no-brainer. I've used Webflow professionally and found it a great experience. Does that mean every site my company creates is going to use Webflow? Absolutely not, but it makes me more available to tackle the more interesting and challenging projects!

I think the other part of this may be fear of obsolescence. Maybe some devs feel like by using no-code tools they are encouraging their own perceived demise? Maybe they are afraid to use them and discover how easy they make things that used to take a lot of time? I don't know.

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redlotusdesignz profile image
Diana Chin Author

I definitely agree with you on the fear of obsolescence. Developers who generally code need to realize that no-code software is still dependent on developers to maintain and deploy the code that allows other users to be able to utilize the no-code functions (i.e. the drag and drop feature).

I think the best analogy I can give to others who are fearing the worst would be this - a person can build a car from the ground up to sell to other users who want to drive from point A to point B. Maybe the user wants to use the car for business purposes (ex. food delivery). In doing so, the user feels invested in the car and admires the output of the car and the functions it uses to make the driving experience worthwhile.

However, you can have another user who not only appreciates cars but actually wants to learn how to build one someday. Because the user may feel that the car might lack certain functions and wish to contribute in making the particular model of the car a lot better.

I'm pretty sure there's a better analogy other than what I've mentioned above, but this is as close to an understanding as I can get with the initial fear.

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Wicked

I personally don't feel comfortable using them but I do agree that by using them it doesn't make you any less of a developer. At the end of the day if I'm working on a project and there is a library that allows me todo something faster I use it. If no code does the exact same thing so think that's perfectly fine assuming it gives you enough flexibility todo what you need! (Like someone else said no code is essentially just a library with a UI that writes code for you under the hood)

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redlotusdesignz profile image
Diana Chin Author

Exactly! I think for any developer, it helps to be flexible and see which library/method would allow us to make the development of a website/app much faster.

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Ethan Toney

I typically use WordPress and Elementor for clients since it's easy and most of my clients tend to want changes constantly. It's easier for me to login and change content than get into the code and change content from there. I do like coding my own stuff when I get the chance.

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Diana Chin Author

Makes sense! I remember using Divi with WordPress when I was looking to develop some custom themes based on the plugin. I've heard about Elementor but haven't had a chance to check it out. Thanks for checking out my article :)