With the advent of tools that make building an e-commerce site or basic portfolio website simpler than ever, many developers are starting to wonder if this serves as a bad omen for things to come…
If any client can simply open up an account on a no-code builder, drag and drop a few components until they're happy with the design, click 'Publish' and call it a day, how is there possibly any hope for developers and web designers?
Unless you're just getting started as a developer, you've probably heard a similar version of this doom and gloom argument before, but worry not my friend, there's more than a glimmer of hope.
TLDR: No-code builders should be seen as an opportunity - not a threat.
In this article, I'm going to explore exactly what sort of no-code builders are out there, the mistaken threat they pose to developers, and the actual benefit of hiring a developer which you can use to build up your confidence to bolster your proposal proposition success.
I tweeted this last year, give it a read to get an overview.
Kyle Prinsloo🔥 My two-cents on:
“Why would a client want to pay for a website, when they can just do it themselves for free with platforms like:
Here's my answer in a thread 🧵⬇️08:15 AM - 23 Sep 2020
No-code builders are tools on the web that make building websites, e-commerce stores, and even full-blown applications possible without writing any code. Low-code builders are similar but can be ever so slightly more technical.
In reality, no-code builders are sometimes confused with low-code builders where only a very little amount of code is needed when building out the site or app.
There is a huge variety of no-code and low-code builders out there today which could give you, a new or even more experienced developer, the impression that your job is being acutely challenged by smart software.
Webflow, for example, claims to be "the modern way to build for the web" where users of the tool can "build production-ready experiences without coding". On Webflow, you're able to design in the browser, build a site, connect it to a CMS, and host it all without writing a single line of code. Even the Webflow site itself is built using Webflow, which brings a tear to my eye, but in a good way.
Webflow is just one of these site-building tools.
You may have heard of others like Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly. They're all very similar tools, but essentially they do what Webflow allows you to do, although all of them offer a slightly worse experience in comparison with Webflow.
All of these mentioned builders normally come with pre-packaged designs that allow you to simply select a design, replace the placeholder text with yours, and click 'Publish'.
There are some caveats to this and they're bigger than you may expect…
But more on that later.
Moving on from site-builders, there are plenty of other no-code builders out there.
Shopify is another tool you may be familiar with especially if you've worked with clients that require e-commerce solutions. Shopify offers businesses the means to construct a fully working online store without the need for a custom-coded solution.
And then there is WordPress.
No talk of no-code builders would be complete without mentioning probably the world's most famous content management system. It's estimated that over 75 million sites will use it today; WordPress.
No-code builders are all over the Internet these days and are being used by millions of people but does this mean that they are replacing developers?
Not for now, no.
While these tools allow for sites and apps to be built much faster than what it would take a developer to hand-code them, these tools are still quite useless in the hands of someone who doesn't know what they are doing.
What often happens is that someone with a business idea, let's call that someone "Jim", will see the multitude of ads for no-code tools (they have really high marketing budgets), notice how simple it appears to design, build, and host a website, and is then fooled into thinking that he can do something just as good.
Jim will then purchase a subscription to a no-code tool like Wix (it's free but only to a very limited extent) and set about designing and building a site. After several hours or days, Jim has put together a site that, to his eye, looks great and is a sure-fire way of propelling his business to success.
Except that... well, it is an objectively bad website in terms of its design and usability.
It takes Jim a few embarrassing conversations with a few friends and colleagues to realize that his site is not as good as he initially thought and that maybe it's better if he turned to a professional to sand the rough edges of his site or even redo it entirely.
Jim then approaches a developer or designer for the work who then charges a fair wage for the work done. At the end of the day, Jim possesses a Wix website that looks pretty good but now he has spent double or triple his budget and wasted precious time in getting up a site that can achieve his business goals.
Many freelancers know this fake story actually happens where they have to 'fix' a lot of bad client websites they made themselves.
That's the troubling thing about many of these no-code tools.
Clients often start off thinking they know what they're doing thanks to the "if I can do it, you can do it" nature of these no-code builder advertising campaigns.
At the end of the day, there are quite a few big trade-offs when a client chooses a no-code builder over a developer. The first mistake, however, is thinking that there should be a choice between a developer and a no-code builder.
If there's one thing you takeaway from this, remember this:
You will always get people who want to cut their own lawn, and you will always get people who pay others to cut it for them.
Don't worry about those who want to cut their own lawn.
Developers only write code.
At least that's what everyone thinks.
In reality, developers provide solutions to problems. How they provide these solutions have changed with time. But, at the end of the day, developers are hired to solve technical problems and provide tangible value to a client or company.
That’s the core of what developers do.
Developers have, for a long time, tended towards snobbishness. In particular, many have looked down at abstracted programming languages and environments as "lesser" or "illegitimate".
Companies and clients that require custom software solutions still need developers for specific tasks. You don't see Amazon turning to Shopify to run its latest brand merchandise shop. Likewise, clients who need custom solutions will hire developers who understand software.
Those companies that will rather use a no-code builder probably did not have developers working for them full-time anyways. The thing is, these builders don't facilitate the kind of work that developers do in the first place.
More abstraction in the case of software tools and solutions does not replace developers. Rather, it equips them to complete tasks that would otherwise be unnecessarily time-consuming. This allows higher productivity which is better for the company or client in question!
It is undeniable that many businesses and companies are attracted to the enticing benefits of no-code building platforms, but you should bear in mind that there are always some cons to something such as the following:
If your business requires a more distinctive procedure or strategy, the no-code option may not be a good choice.
No code development platforms give multiple templates and components that may be modified to fulfill a set of use cases when it comes to building up the various elements of an application.
Since you're developing an app or a website from another app or website, there's no guarantee that you're safe from any breach or major issues that the no-code platform can encounter.
You won't even have control over the provider's technology stack when you use no-code. If the provider's internal security is breached, you and your project would be exposed including all of the money and time you put into developing it would be wasted.
You need to rely on the original vendor to ensure that your application is properly maintained in the future. If you have a contract with no-code builders, it might be hard and costly for you to switch providers if needed.
Developers are professionals.
They understand the intricacies and nuances of the web that allow them to know when a website or application is not working as it should. This is valuable in and of itself but the real value of a developer is in his or her ability to prevent problems before they even arise and this is where many clients who don’t use a developer get caught out.
Developers also often bring varied skill sets to the table. You’d be hard-pressed these days to find a developer who is also not well versed in at least one other complementary skill such as design, digital marketing, content writing, or SEO.
Hiring a developer is not the same as getting a subscription for a new software tool to get a job done. A developer represents expertise that understands the holistic picture. It is this key point that results in vastly differing results when a no-code tool is put in the hands of a developer versus it being used by the client himself.
Developers are experts.
Clients with unknown tools in their hands are not.
What clients get by hiring developers are people who can bridge the gap between software capabilities and the business requirements of the client. How a developer achieves this is often abstracted away from the client who really only cares for the end product and whether it works and looks as expected.
No-code tools may initially serve as a source of anxiety for developers and their sense of work security but digging a little deeper reveals a different story.
Technology has evolved and continues to do so at a rapid pace. Those who maintain their value in the workforce are those who remain relevant.
A developer who uses a low- or no-code tool to achieve a specific client requirement is just as relevant as a developer who hand-codes the solution.
The key differentiator here is time. Everyone values their own time the most. Save your client time and you’ll set yourself apart from the developers looking to remain in their old ways.
This can be a nuanced argument but a common developer vs. no-code tool story can be boiled down to this:
A client needs an expert to build his or her product. They will realize this at some point if they go down the journey of building their product themselves.
It’s up to you, the developer, to remain vigilant in upgrading your skillset and confident in the business and technical acumen that you can offer clients.
Do this and you’ll forever be a sought-after professional developer who adds value.
And remember, you'll always get the guy who wants to cut his own lawn, but you'll always get the other guy who pays someone to do it for him.
Same principle applies to web development, design, freelancing, etc.
What do you think?
If you have anything to add or say about no-code builders, let me know!
Until next time,