Codeless development – too good to be true?

Codeless development – too good to be true?

Codeless development - too good to be true?

Something that’s been gaining traction over the last couple of years is the ‘codeless movement’. It’s popped up often on my YouTube feed, Twitter feed and just about everywhere I look! I’ve even seen entire businesses built around it. But what does it mean? And can you really develop something of commercial quality without employing developers?

The case for codeless solutions

As many of you know, I’m always cautious of getting the ‘shiny new toy syndrome’ and prefer to dive into the real benefits of a technology. But on the surface, codeless development is an easy case to make! Think about this; complete systems with little or no code, delivered fast, with little maintenance, at a fraction of the cost, without an army of developers and project managers.

In a world where we need to get things done, fast – this sounds good to me 😊

Types of codeless solutions

Before we continue, I think it’s important to note that there are four types of codeless solutions out there – each with their own place within the wider space:

Codeless ‘tools’: These are platforms focussed on doing one thing well. They’re independent of industry and can be used in a multitude of contexts. The list is vast, and you may be familiar with some of them already. Some examples would include:

‘Glue’ tools: I’ve kind of made this term up, but there are several tools that exist solely to link other tools together. Imagine you have an online form, when someone completes it you want to put their details into your email broadcast tool and then post a message to a Slack channel. A glue tool would enable you to do this without writing any code. Some examples of these tools are:

‘Complete’ systems: These are complete ‘turn-key’, off the shelf solutions designed to help you launch something very quickly. Would you like to launch an e-learning portal? There’s a tool for that. How about an online store? There’s one for that also. Or how about a complete online community with different membership levels? Yes, there’s a tool for that as well. Some examples you might want to look at are:

  • – build online communities quickly
  • – create your own e-learning portal and courses
  • – a complete e-commerce solution
  • – an all-in-one website, email broadcast and CRM tool

‘Builder’ systems: For those of you looking for something that’s more customisable, there are several ‘builder systems’ available. They basically write code on your behalf. You can use drag and drop to design a layout, and then tell the system what it should do when certain things happen.

Note, that although you’re not writing any code, you still must think a bit like a coder – there’s a lot of logic involved. But you can develop impressive commercial quality systems very quickly using tools like these. Some examples are:

So, where does codeless fit in?

I don’t believe that codeless (or less code) is a silver bullet for every scenario. However, it does have some very compelling use cases. For example:

Developing an internal business system

I’ve seen some fantastic examples of the codeless tools above being implemented and linked together (using the ‘glue tools’ above) to create slick and efficient eco-systems within organisations.

This includes CRM, asset trackers, inventory managers, email broadcast tools, booking and payment systems, to name a few. The majority of small-mid sized organisations could use a codeless eco-system for at least part of their operations, although some are leading the charge and going all the way.

Another interesting tactic I have seen is where organisations are using codeless technologies to quickly prototype internal solutions. This is an ideal way to test an idea across your organisation and gather critical feedback quickly, without spending big on custom development before you’re ready. The custom code solution can come later when the idea has been validated and ironed out.

Launching a prototype or MVP

Entrepreneurs have increasingly turned to codeless technologies to create prototypes and minimal viable products. It’s much faster and far cheaper to create codeless solutions to rapidly get to market, gather user feedback, and sell an idea to investors.

Some may find that codeless can see them through the early stages of their start-up before they spend tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) creating bespoke custom solutions in code. Others find that codeless works just fine for them and they can stay codeless for some time.

Launching a business ‘in a box’

In some cases, the businesses we want to launch have a near identical solution to those of existing businesses. For example, consider you want to start an online community and offer people the opportunity to become paid members. It’s likely that your requirements will be nearly (if not exactly) identical to others doing this within other markets. This is where the ‘complete systems’ approach (see above) comes into play. There’s really little point in re-inventing the wheel if you don’t have to!

In summary

The codeless approach has the potential benefit a huge number of organisations, particularly those without large development budgets or teams. Unless you have very bespoke requirements, or strict data confidentiality rules (that would make storing data with third party providers difficult), exploring codeless could pay dividends!

It is worth noting that a slight shift in mindset might be required to make the most of codeless. Rather than approaching a project with a rigid set of requirements and trying to make the technologies fit, we should reverse this and ask how the capabilities of these platforms can solve our business requirements. That’s the ethos of the codeless approach.