I still remember spending countless afternoons on Dreamweaver just to make a basic website that allowed people to post and leave comments. To create a website like that, I not only needed to know how to code HTML, but also CSS, PHP and MySQL, and I even had to learn how to use Illustrator and Flash to make the website more engaging with graphics and GIFs. It was a lot of work to get started. Once I had a finished product, I had to overcome another technical layer to get the product to consumers. It was extremely inefficient.
Now we can build a fully dynamic and well-engaged online store within minutes and start selling to 7.5 billion people in the world. Even the people in the poorest countries have access to smartphones and will soon have high-speed internet thanks to Elon Musk’s mega-constellation launched by SpaceX. Industry-specific influencers now can create their own online communities and expand their reach globally within just a few clicks.
More and more often, I have seen nontechnical founders use no-code software to create products that are elegant and relevant, without the help of developers. So how does this all work, and what does it mean for the tech industry?
What Is The No-Code Movement?
Decades ago, software and the internet were built by a few of the smartest people in the world. These people spent months and lots of money just to develop prototypes and basic websites. Today, we have many tools that allow nontechnical founders to create not only prototypes, but finished products. So, how will the no-code movement disrupt the tech industry?
Shopify allows a 15-year-old girl to start selling her homemade lemonade to millions of people; Bubble.io enables a college student to begin building a fully functional web app and raise millions of dollars from investors. There are many other companies, such as Zapier and Airtable, that empower nontechnical founders to create the product they have in mind on their terms within minutes.
No-code software also allows more people to have access to Silicon Valley entrepreneurship while enabling companies to improve efficiency for existing startups. Marketing people can now customize their BI report with the metrics that are relevant to them without the help of IT. Most importantly, founders can now build a successful startup with a fraction of the cost and time. That’s why billion-dollar valuations are no longer rare to investors.
The Opposing Argument
People argue that the product made by no-code software looks copied due to the lack of customizations. In some cases, the applications are not quite suited for the business’s needs. Moreover, no-code software often limits collaboration between users, which ultimately causes delays in production.
Risk is also a big part of the argument. Imagine a founder about to start a company with their life savings. If they choose to build their product on no-code software and things don’t work out, they may decide to hire sophisticated developers. But then they have to start over from scratch since the data from the no-code software is not easy to transfer to a traditional coding environment. That’s a huge risk a founder is taking.
I have seen cost become a reason that founders choose experienced developers over no-code software. If the founder decides not to hire skilled developers, the founder’s team has to learn the ins and outs of the new platform and how to use it. Sometimes, the cost of training the existing team plus the platform cost is more expensive than outsourcing.
The Future In Tech
The emergence of nontechnical founders is inevitable as more startups depend less on developers. That doesn’t mean developers are going to lose their jobs. Experienced developers can now start their own companies and build meaningful products to support nontechnical founders, instead of creating BI dashboards for different departments or fixing API connections. With the variety of backgrounds of nontechnical founders, these founders can now focus on solutions to the problems in their industries.