“Low Code”

“No code” with no limits

“Low Code”

Originally published on Medium.

“No code” is a movement that celebrates building real things by combining out-of-the-box tools.

“No code” today can get you 90% of where “code” can, with 25% of the cost and effort. That’s enough for a lot of businesses to get a lot done. It’s truly a great movement and a great time to be a product or business owner.

But what if we use “no code” to get to 90%, and then we code the last 10%? We’d have “no code” with no limits. We’d see high quality output in significantly less time. We could deliver the impossible: good, fast, and cheap.

I noticed that Makers Festival (this year it’s the “no code edition”) used the term “low code” in their submission guidelines, which I thought appropriately captures this concept. After some digging, I found other mentions of “low code” around the internet from several different viewpoints.

Here’s my take.

A different “last mile”

Amazon has a last mile problem. They’re hyper-efficient at everything, at scale, except the last step of getting to each individual’s door. They can get something to your area quickly, but there’s a last mile problem.

“No code” tools and services have their own last mile problem.

People who don’t code can use Squarespace or Shopify to build a web-based business, but there are many limitations. With creativity, a workflow tweak, or some manual effort, many limits can be overcome, but the process costs time and involves compromise.

I’ve been using Squarespace and Shopify for my clients for the last year or so. When I hit a limit, instead of finding a workaround or a hack, I write code.

The strategy becomes the work

People become consultants after they’ve spent years doing the work. As consultants, we take a more strategic role, move up a rung, and often dictate what should be done for others to do. That’s what I was doing.

“Low code” allows me to deliver everything- the strategy and the work- because I’m “hiring” services like Squarespace, Shopify, Paypal.me, Mailchimp, Google Docs/Airtable/Coda, Meet Edgar, Gumroad, and even Really Simple Store, a “no code” tool that I built.

A classic win-win

The amount of time I save with a “low code” approach is incredible. I can build a Squarespace site in a week or a Shopify store in two. I charge less than I would for coding from scratch, but since a bulk of the work is pre-done, I spend disproportionately less time. I’m doing only the “last mile” work, and I’m farming out the rest to highly efficient “no code” platforms.

My clients get products that are high-quality, compatible with other systems, well-supported, well-documented, and that almost anyone can maintain. Even better, they get those products really quickly- faster than ever before.

“Low code” for things that aren’t coded

The “low code” concept can also be applied to things that aren’t code. With a “low code” ideology, logo designers can use Fiverr to flesh out initial logo concepts, get feedback from the client, and then finish one or combine a few (only doing the last 10%).

“Low code” for people who don’t code

If you’re a business on a budget, or if you have the time and interest to build something yourself, you can take advantage of “low code,” too. Set everything up yourself with “no code” tools and services, and then hire a developer to code up only that last 10%.

Evolution of process

“No code” as a movement is exciting, and while embracing it may be counterintuitive for people who can code, it’s a no-brainer for everyone else. Yet developers are the ones who benefit most from “no code,” because they get the time savings without the limitations or compromises.

It could be argued that “no code” tools don’t produce the same level of product that a developer would, but even if that were true today, it won’t be true tomorrow. The tools and technology get better and better.

As they do, the ways we build things will change. The people in the best position to evolve into new changes are actually the incumbents, but they never realize it. They stubbornly resist and deny until the underdog newcomers are too big to stop.

Don’t be a stubborn incumbent.

I’m going all in on “low code” as a way to keep pace with the world and get an advantage for the next few years before everyone else is doing it.

I’d never dream of telling you what to do, but maybe it can work for you, too.


Cover Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash