January 27, 2019

The Rise of “No Code”

I built my first website with Dreamweaver, a WYSIWYG site builder that became popular during my teenage years. I was so proud of my creation. It was ugly, but I made it. Although my silly website didn’t take off as I had dreamed, it was a gateway drug to creating things on the internet.

Dreamweaver and similar tools (FrontPage, Flash, etc.) dramatically reduced the barrier to creation especially for someone like myself at the time, a 15-year-old in high school with very basic understanding of HTML and CSS. Their impact on today’s tech ecosystem is understated and today we’re seeing a new wave of tools that are making creation more accessible and reinventing the way things are built for the internet.

Everyone’s a maker

Once upon a time only a very small group of software engineers — some self-described webmasters — built things on the internet. These often ambitious people spent months learning to code before publishing even the most basic website.

Today anyone with a computer and access to the internet can build a website using tools far more powerful than Dreamweaver from two decades ago. But these GUI-based tools have extended far beyond static sites to fully functional applications. In less than an hour you can create a:

There are also “no code” focused resources like Zeroqode, NoCode, and MakerPad.

These tools are reducing the amount of time and coding expertise required to translate an idea into something people can use. You no longer need to become a programmer to build things on the internet, empowering a new wave of makers from different backgrounds and perspectives.

The critics

Predictably, many criticize and judge those that use “no code” tools. While they come with tradeoffs, it’s inevitable that more products will be built — or at least MVP’d — without writing code, including by programmers that can code.

I recently spoke with a VP at a Series A stage startup that uses Salesforce and Zapier for sourcing B2B leads. Of course the company has an engineering team and could build anything they imagine, but he opted to use “no code” tools because it was faster to build and easier to maintain.

We often perceive things that are hard to do as better. Sometimes that’s true. But as these “no code” tools advance, it will be silly to do it the old way.

Hosting infrastructure has already gone through this transformation. To put a site on the internet, one had to buy expensive physical servers and invest a lot of effort (sometimes stress) in dev ops. And if Yahoo featured the site on its homepage, it would likely crash with the unexpected flood of traffic.

Now we have AWS, Heroku, Google Cloud, and other solutions to make this easy. Even the most experienced, talented dev ops engineers use their services to get started and scale. It would be foolish for them to spend the time racking their own servers.

The future of making

As creating things on the internet becomes more accessible, more people will become makers. It’s no longer limited to the <1% of engineers that can code resulting in an explosion of ideas from all kinds of people. We see “no code” projects on Product Hunt often, including this golden kitty award winner.

This trend was part of the thesis of Product Hunt when we started five years ago. As more people become makers, there’s an even greater thirst for community to provide feedback and support them on their journey.[2]

Maker communities will become increasingly popular[3] as everyone becomes a maker. So will tools to help makers monetize, find side project buddies, and get the word out. And those creative solutions might be built without writing code.

[1] Disclaimer: I invested in Voiceflow. As I’ve shared before, I’m very interested in tools for makers and creators and looking to invest in the space. If that’s you, you can find my contact info here.

[2] We’re building something new at Product Hunt to support makers, freelancers, remote workers, and side project builders. Sign up here.

[3] Of course Product Hunt isn’t the only online community supporting makers. Many others have sprout up since our founding. I’ll share a blog post on this topic soon. :)

More Writing by Ryan