No-code: Are we there yet?
There is no denying the enthusiasm that’s built up around the potential of no-code development platforms as they become more mainstream and are marketed as the solution for more and more businesses wanting to implement digital transformation. But are such platforms able yet to deliver upon that promise?
Why have no-code solutions become so popular?
Website builders and app development platforms are good examples where no-code tools enable non-technical people to develop solutions that once required coding skills. For many SMEs and start-ups, the potential opportunity which no – or low – code platforms present, enabling them to develop their apps without the need to recruit developers or source external partners, seems liberating.
In addition to the desire of business owners to take control of their development, the increasing popularity of no-code solutions is being driven by several changes. The increase in the use of apps has given rise to a surge in their development and app builders have capitalised on this to develop tools so that non-technical people can try their hand.
More recently, as with so many other aspects of everyday life, Covid-19 has also had an impact on the adoption of no-code platforms. The need to adapt quickly and work in different ways has sped up the adoption of these tools to enable businesses to respond to changing customer habits and requirements. In addition, as more of our lives have moved online, the skill of the UX designer has been integral in capturing new audiences and businesses often feel more confident and willing to give no-code tools a try in order to benefit from this trend.
Why do businesses try no-code solutions?
For businesses to commit non-technical employee time to no-code platforms, taking them away from their areas of expertise, there must be a good incentive. Apart from no-code platforms being open to anyone, it’s suggested that their relative ease of use reduces the time taken to complete development, especially as the code in these tools is already tested and eliminates the need for the business to do it.
Cutting out the coding middleman
This solution is attractive to businesses who have their unique insight into the challenges they are facing and experience in how their sector works. They feel that by directly informing a solution and encompassing their intuition for their customers’ preferences and needs, they can build solutions without having to add a layer of complexity by trying to convey their corporate knowledge to a developer. Cutting out the middleman and keeping direct control of the end result feels more rewarding and simpler, even if that end result may be more limited.
Finally, the cost will always play an important factor in software project decision-making. Cost in time, resources and finances all need to be weighed up and it may appear cheaper to employ a no-code solution than creating the capability or outsourcing.
On the face of it, no-code solutions can seem incredibly attractive, but there is a need for caution before believing you have found the answer to all your coding problems.
The pitfalls of no-code solutions
When using generic tools, designed on a one-size-fits-all basis, users need to be mindful of a number of limitations these platforms present, not least their ability to deliver everything you need in a product to the right level. These are important aspects of any development:
- Quality of performance: Not being able to tailor your build to your specific requirements can affect performance. You are working with a tool designed to a certain performance level that works for everyone, rather than one designed for your specific needs.
- Lack of innovation: It’s hard to stand out from the crowd when the crowd is taking the same approach as you. It’s also harder to express your own uniqueness in a product when you’re using limited, generic tools. What you want to achieve may be quite different from what it can deliver.
- Difficulty in scaling: It may be harder to successfully integrate your no-code solution with existing tools and their existing scope could limit what you can do in the future.
- Less control: Even though developing your own tool may feel like you have greater control, you can only do what the no-code build tool and your ability enable you to do. If you need any additional or bespoke features you may still need to look elsewhere.
- Poorer quality: Being presented with a set solution means you cannot take control of what is being built from the very beginning, so it is harder to control the quality of the build.
- Less security: Some platforms may not be able to offer the right level of security for your business needs. Also, non-technical people using no-code tools may not have the right level of awareness to know what to do about it, or even whether there’s a problem.
Any of these issues have the potential to lead to a result that doesn’t achieve the high standards you expect from a final product. They offer some advantages, particularly in prototyping and quick iterations during a project, but if you need an end-product with greater depth, reliability and an end-to-end solution, no-code may not be the right way ahead just yet. Though that isn’t to say that these problems won’t be ironed out as demand leads to more investment and improved tools are developed.
The risk of using a no-code solution
At Incepteo, we’ve recently been supporting several existing clients who have spent months trying to work through no-code platforms before realising that they were never going to deliver the results they needed. In each case, it was clear to see why our clients were enticed by a no-code platform; they were usually looking for a quick start to a new revenue stream. But questions remained over whether the resulting solutions were safe to go live or whether without more investment and development there was a risk to reputation or income in using them.
Our clients missed the specialist support they had come to expect from our approach: discovery meetings to create a detailed roadmap to a successful product; the expertise needed to build a specific app or website for their business needs; and the UX knowledge to design a product that their customers enjoy and want to engage with. All of these factors contribute ultimately to delivering the business results they want.
In our blog post The ideology of successful app development, we talk about key stages in app development, demonstrating why developing from the ground up allows you to get to the optimal solution. With the right development partner who embraces the entrepreneurial spirits of SMEs and start-ups, building a product specific to your business need not present the challenges of communication or the impact of a lengthy and costly development process. The right development partner works to understand your business and then provides insights into how to develop the most successful tool. They ensure that it delivers exactly what you need before it goes live – and that is critical for success.
Development is about creating a better experience and, when it comes to client-facing tools, the difference between getting it right or wrong is whether or not your platform attracts and retains new customers and increases productivity.
A successful project should also futureproof your organisation, building scaleable products which can integrate existing and future systems. Deliver a poor experience or lose the ability to adapt quickly and your business’s reputation is on the line.
Quicker results leading to quicker revenue generation
Embracing an Agile approach to software development allows my team to deliver faster, putting early iterations of a product into the hands of our customers, so that they benefit from early trialling with their customers, rather than waiting for the final polished version.
This hands-on experience also provides valuable beta-testing feedback for the developer, informing priorities for future development sprints.
The future of no coding
The potential of no-code platforms is exciting and I’m confident that they will continue to develop and improve in the future. They are valuable for working on a prototype as part of a project but I don’t feel that they are able yet to deliver on the depth, reliability and end-product polish that businesses need to create a platform that reflects their individuality, values and CX standards.
When embarking on the development of any solution, businesses need to consider an approach that offers a good level of return on their investment. Being limited by a no-code “cookie-cutter” solution, don’t be surprised if the result, and your return, is limited. The alternative is to talk to app-building experts and take an end-to-end approach to development so that you create what you need today, and also what you will need tomorrow to drive your business forward.