What Is It?
"No-code" tooling and methodologies help manage processes with intuitive graphical user interfaces. Some of these processes would traditionally need to be managed a developer with coding experience. So no-code is typically viewed as only useful for non-developers.
But no-code can offer a lot to developers too. In some cases, developers with basic knowledge on how to use an API can do some really powerful things with no-code services in a fraction of the time it would take to do it all with code alone.
If you're like me and used Dreamweaver in the late 90's or 2000's, then you probably have a lot of skepticism for no-code platforms. Rightly so. But they have definitely come a long way and it's worth giving some of them another look.
Useful No Code Tools for Devs
This is by no means an exhaustive list. This is just tools that I either currently use or intend to use in web development.
Webflow is a GUI for building websites. The editor uses a lot of CSS property names so web developers shouldn't be totally lost when using the designer. I've used a few website builders in the past, and so far Webflow is the only one that has a usable (albeit bare bones) API and allows enough custom code flexibility for developers. If it doesn't do exactly what you want, you can export designs as CSS & HTML, which can be pulled into your CMS or most other kinds of websites.
Zapier / Integromat
Zapier and Integromat integrate third party services. Integration is created with a drag & drop editor, and iteration and variable logic is visually represented. I put them in the same section because they largely do the same thing but with different pricing models and supported services. This comes down to preference and the type of thing you're doing. Sometimes I use Integromat for short and infrequent scheduled tasks, since it will likely land within their free tier and make quick edits much less painful. Integromat can now store/retrieve data to a database, run scheduled processes, looping, variables, etc, so you can use it to do some pretty powerful stuff.
I haven't used it, but I think Bubble is like Webflow for web applications. It has more focus on forms, data, and integration, and less focus on design and animation.
Debatable, but I consider Shopify a no-code platform. Shopify apps can give business owners a lot of control over their business logic without a developer.
Again, these are just the apps that are regularly on my radar. There are plenty more cropping up every day too.
Where Code Comes In
Even for projects where I use Webflow, there's still often more "app" style areas of the website where I react for frameworks like Svelte and React. Then the Svelte/React apps get embedded on the the Webflow site.
This makes it so I can still have the Jamstack-esque workflow I'm used to, but with projects rooted in no-code systems. I can commit a change, and expect the app on the Webflow site to update once the build is done.
Also, developers can really shine in the no-code ecosystem with our knowledge of how to integrate almost any two things with APIs. This is highly valuable in the current no-code ecosystem where everything is split up in into small niche platforms and there isn't any one system trying to rule them all (yet).
Why You Should Care
No-code editors offer much better experiences for designers, content editors, and business owners. It's very likely these your employer or boss falls into one of these categories. Devs who deliver good editing experiences stand out. Some people will use those editing tools every day.
Prototyping can also go much faster when doing it with something like Bubble or Integromat. You can prove useful features first before spending time fine-tuning and coding them. For some things, like company internal applications, you can often build out everything you need in a day or two and then run it in production for cheap or free since usage is likely going to be low.
If you're worried about less business from clients who can now self-service with these tools, there's more money to made by providing genuine value. Happy clients make good referrals. On the flip side, if a client finds out there are no-code tools you could have used that give them self-service for cheaper, they will be unhappy. Solve your clients problems by listening to their problems, then selecting the most appropriate tools that suit the technical ability of the client. The most feature rich CMS in the world is useless in the hands of a content editor that doesn't know how to use it.
While very useful in production, no-code is still a relatively new concept and lacks some maturity you find in other development tools.
Apart from a few great projects like GrapesJS, and n9n, open source no-code tools are in short supply. Vendor lock-in is definitely a risk, unless if you plan appropriately. Possibly more on how to mitigate this in a future post.
If you're a web or app developer in 2021, you should definitely keep no-code on your radar. I'm not suggesting anyone should throw away their CS degree and never code again. But for some projects, no-code can be a great addition to your regular development stack.
No-code tools won't replace developers, but developers who use no code tools will replace the ones who don't.