A Brief Summary of “No Code” and the Main Players in the Space

Author: Mihai Avram | Date: 4/9/2020

As it becomes easier to be a developer, and hardware becomes faster, technology advances and evolves rapidly. This rapid change gave rise to the No Code and Low Code software movements. This is because many developers have started creating tools to make their lives and the lives of other developers easier, and publishing their results in the process. No Code is here to stay as it makes the process of solving problems much faster and cheaper, hence we must at least do our homework and understand it. This short guide will hopefully give us an idea of where to begin to learn about No Code and what the popular platforms and tools are in this space as of now.

What is No Code

A No Code tool is usually a piece of software that can complete a specific task very quickly and efficiently, which can be plugged in, to work with the other software features of your product, project, or business. An important artifact of a No Code tool is that it usually requires very little coding skills to set up. Tools like these can be very powerful because instead of having to spend a lot of time and resources to solve a problem, you can instead use a tool which is very often cheaper, and faster. A good use case for explaining this is the following: Let’s say you are the owner of a factory that produces N95 Surgical Masks to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. You may own a few data sources that store information about areas where they need to be delivered, along with buyer prices for each region. Now let’s say you wanted to know which areas have the highest demand of the N95 masks you produce but also yield a profit margin that allows your business to be sustainable. You could hire a data analyst or create a few complex SQL queries to answer this question. Alternatively, you could use a No Code tool called Obviously AI which you connect to your data sources and simply ask the following question “What regions have the highest demand of N95 masks and are also profitable” – if set up correctly, the Obviously AI tool should be able to generate a response and report back a solution within seconds. Notice how you did not need to spend much time or resources to solve this problem? That is the value proposition of the No Code movement.

What is Low Code

A Low Code tool is very similar to a No Code tool with the only difference being the development aspect. In a Low Code tool, some programming expertise is still expected from the user; however, the coding process is simplified. One could argue that MySQL Workbench is a good example of this because it provides a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that allows one to configure the database more intuitively, rather than having to write everything using the command line as is done traditionally. Even writing queries may be quicker and faster with syntax correction, and other query assist/optimization methods which MySQL Workbench provides.

Popular No Code Tools and Platforms

Let’s now look into some of the most prevalent No Code tools and organizations that are offering such services. This list was curated by searching various No Code aggregation lists and gauging the popularity and usefulness of the platforms from there.

Zapier – The glue of the web

Zapier is considered the glue of the web. The platform provides integrations for different disconnected parts of your workflow to connect, and does this very well. For instance, you could do the following things with Zapier, and this is just the tip of the iceberg as they have a plethora of app and workflow integrations:

  • Sharing blog posts to social media automatically
  • Sync up notes on different note-taking platforms (e.g. Evernote, Trello, Asana, etc.)
  • Turn e-mails into items on your to-do list
  • Get a summary of information for a period of time

Nintex – Task automation for teams and businesses

Nintex is a task automation tool similar to Zapier, however, it is catered more for business workflow automation. You can think of Nintex as the glue of business workflows all using various custom automations built and managed by the Nintex team. Here are some examples of what Nintex can automate which are common business use cases:

  • Client onboarding
  • Proposal management
  • Pitch deck creation
  • Quality assurance
  • Customer service
  • Incident management
  • Account closures
  • And much more…

AppSheet – Create multi-platform apps from Excel Sheets

AppSheet is a platform that allows the creation of functional and powerful apps simply from documents such as Excel or Google Sheets. The apps can include powerful features such as GPS coordinates, offline data access, and conditional logic. Hence, AppSheet is a very powerful way to quickly build fully functional prototypes without the need to write any code.

Appian – Low-code automation software solutions

Similar to AppSheet, Appian automates the creation of apps from logical workflows that can be configured using the Appian software. This means that apps can be built with very little code and mostly just workflows and configurations. What is more, is Appian gives customers the flexibility to host their software anywhere they wish, and also take advantage of their powerful security features and reporting analytics for every app they create.

Salesforce – All in one customer resource management platform

Salesforce is an industry leader in customer resource management (CRM). They do this with specialized software to track and manage sales, marketing, commerce, engagement, productivity, and more. Salesforce has many integrations for improving and managing customer relationships. Here are a few examples:

  • Using AI to predict and forecast sales metrics
  • Deliver customer journeys that are personalized for every individual and can include various digital points such as a user’s e-mail, social network profile, and more
  • Automate a customer’s subscription and billing

Finally, Salesforce even provides custom solutions to various industries such as Financial Services, Healthcare, and Philanthropy.

Retool – Quick internal tool builder

Retool provides an interactive interface where one can create any internal tool with drag and drop features and configurable options. The integrated tools can be as simple as a report retrieved from a database and as complex as an interactive display that can trigger various processes of your project or business. Retool is very powerful because it can integrate with virtually any API or data source, and can display this information in a user-friendly way almost akin to an app or a program. Here are some examples of what Retool can be used for:

  • A report that shows various information from your database in production
  • An administration panel for a Firebase app whereby information can be created, changed or deleted
  • A panel which can display problematic orders, and issue refunds to the customers with Stripe

Webflow – All in one web design platform

Webflow offers a powerful tool where you can create responsive websites using their drag and drop tools and templates. Most website logic and design that can be done using HTML, JavaScript, and CSS can easily be configured using Webflow with little to no coding experience. If you are an experienced coder you can also add custom logic and designs to enhance or override any behavior for your website on top of the provided templates. Webflow also takes care of hosting, backups, and other user-facing website headaches.

Shopify – All inclusive marketplace management solution

Shopify touts itself as the de facto eCommerce platform where anybody with an eCommerce idea could host, manage, and grow their eCommerce operations. Shopify lets you launch a site, manage your inventory and products, take care of pricing and payments, and even ship and market your products. All of this is done through the Shopify platform with friendly guides so that you can get started with little knowledge about running an eCommerce business.

Fiverr – Service for custom solutions built by freelancers

Fiverr is one of many freelancer recruiting platforms that pairs up business owners and funded projects with talented people that can work for such projects. The way it works is it allows a project owner who has a solution they need to solve, to search for that service on Fiverr based on their needs in terms of talent and pricing. The project owner can then select a freelancer whose criteria matches what the project owner wants, they get matched up, and the freelancer helps the project owner with that problem. Fiverr offers services in regards to programming, graphic design, copywriting, translating, film editing, and much more. Almost any problem can be solved with this platform given that you have the budget to pay for a freelancer to help you. What is more, is that Fiverr is just one of such project/freelancer matching platforms, there are many more – with some other notable ones being Upwork, Freelancer.com, or Toptal. Here’s a portal to some notable freelancer platforms compiled by the team at G2.

Bubble – Build full-fledged applications with very little code

Bubble offers a powerful feature-set that allows anybody to prototype, build, iterate, host, and launch an app with little to no coding experience. Bubble gives the users full control of the design and logic of their app. This is achieved through drag-and-drop designing on the Bubble interface as well as configurable logic such as showing a text field when a button is clicked.

Here are some examples of apps you can build with bubble:

  • A social network site that allows users to share photos and videos
  • A marketplace website
  • An administration panel for patients of a health organization

Obviously AI – Get the benefits of data science and analytics without having to write code

Obviously AI makes it very simple to solve analytics and AI problems by using columnar data or spreadsheets (e.g. Google Sheets, Airtable, or Excel). The way it works is by having all your data that you are tracking in a traditional row/column format, link the data with Obviously AI, then ask Obviously AI a question. The service will then load, clean, and analyze your data to predict and answer your question, all automatically using AI. Here are some examples of questions that Obviously AI can answer, provided you have the related data.

  • Which customers are likely to buy again?
  • What is the age and education level of a customer paying more than $1,000
  • How many cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) will there be in Idaho in a few months?

WordPress – All in one solution for creating and managing any type of website

WordPress is a website builder that claims to power about 36% of the web. What this means is about one in three websites use WordPress in one way or another. Similar to Shopify, WordPress allows a user to create their website by simply selecting or buying customizable website templates. Moreover, there are hundreds of useful plugins that can track the traffic on your site, allow users to contact you, mitigate security issues, and much more. WordPress can host your service on their servers and even allows you to create any website, blog, eCommerce site, eLearning site, and much more, all with little to no coding.

No Code Aggregators and Communities

The following sites offer No Code exploration services, summaries of new No Code tools, courses, lessons, email lists, and much more if you want to learn more about No Code.

Makerpad – The most popular no code service aggregator

Makerpad is a leader in providing No Code solutions to individuals and businesses. They have a community of over 10,000 people, hundreds of lessons about how to use various No Code technologies, as well as a support program to help anybody who would like to build a custom solution for a problem they may have using No Code. Makerpad also serves as a No Code exploration tool whereby a user can search and filter for any type of No Code tools based on what their needs are and can get a lot of credits for using those tools if they subscribe to the Makerpad membership.

NoCode – The best free no code exploration service

NoCode is a great place to explore different No Code tools depending on whatever problem you may want to solve. This platform can also give discounts and credits for No Code tools and can keep you up to date on the latest tools and trends with minimal effort. The greatest advantage of this platform is that it is absolutely free to join, and can be a very affordable way to get integrated with the No Code community and infrastructure.

Zeroqode – The most powerful site template provider

Zeroqode provides templates for powerful dynamic sites for specialized use cases. This includes, for instance, sites that have optimized upvote/downvote systems, recommendation sites like Airbnb, business-ready sites with beautiful fully loaded admin panels, payment integrations with stripe, and more. Albeit expensive with a lot of fully working sites and solutions costing around $100, there are over 100 different customized already-working sites for different purposes, which can solve most solutions that businesses are looking for. Most of these sites are written using Bubble.io which is a very powerful visual website builder. Zeroqode also allows users who purchase their templates to edit them to their choosing and take courses about how to build and customize such custom sites. Finally, Zeroqode also provides a support team that can help with creating, tweaking, and customizing such sites and templates. All in all, Zeroqode is a great tool for powerful and cheap one-size-fits-all solutions.

Well there you have it, now you have most of the insights to be fairly enlightened about this growing movement. If you want more information, you can check out these websites which compile a sizable amount of No Code platforms so you can keep exploring!

G2 No Code Platforms – (link)

Gartner Report Low Code Application Platforms – (link)

Tools and Techniques to Help You Code and Work Faster

Author: Mihai Avram | Date: 2/16/2020

A unique quality that I believe to be ingrained in most programmers and IT specialists is their unrelenting desire to get better. Get better at understanding code, or sorting that list of ice cream cone emojis faster.

[🍦, 🍧, 🍨] – Just yum!

Or perhaps learning a new language, picking up that brand new testing framework, and working faster! This article is for those coders, the ones that want to level on their up their speed when it comes coding and working in general! Here we go….

Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts

You may know the basic shortcuts to make your life easier such as copy/paste since about the 5th grade. However, imagine if any repeated action you made on your machine while coding could be automated with a shortcut. Likely your productivity would increase a large amount. This is because your interactions with your best friend (your workstation) will take less time and your attention will not be fragmented by the time it takes. For instance, more complex shortcuts would be navigating to and from and to different software that you have running. Or going to the beginning of the line you are coding very quickly to change something instead of clicking there or trudging there character by character. While this topic is deep and we can only scratch the surface, the best tip is to check the documentation or google shortcuts for whatever software or operating systems you work often with, and try to find and remember the shortcuts for the things you do most!

Here are two great articles to get you started with this:

General Usage and Windows Usage – (39 No Frills Keyboard Shortcuts every Developer Should Know About)

Mac Usage – (12 Keyboard shortcuts every programmer should know)

Code Scaffolding Tools

This particular tip matters more if you have to start a lot of projects or microservices from scratch. The way scaffolding tools
work is that they usually have a minimally configured codebase that has all top-level features organized and the main files and configurables put together in one place for you to focus more on building the
features you care about instead of getting your code started and running. One popular example of this is the npm create-react-app my-app from the React community which creates a starting and simple React app. A lot of other coding frameworks have such features in place such as the Vue CLI, the Ruby on Rails generate command, and the Django startproject examples. You can simply google something like “<Your-Framework> code scaffolding tools and examples” and you should stumble across quite a few.

Some progressive projects behind this are Yeoman, Slush, and the Hackathon-Quickstart GitHub repository which all have a lot of different frameworks and languages to choose from.

Terminal and Preferably the Oh My Zsh Terminal Configuration

First of all, it goes without saying that if you are not using a terminal, then you should start to learn to do this first. While at first glance, it may be quicker to launch software by clicking instead of typing a command, the moment you need to configure, navigate or interact with the software, the navigation costs will start to feel like borrowed time. Put in context, the time it takes to configure a more complex set-up of a software and then run it may be long. In contrast, this could essentially be done with one command in the terminal. Sure, maybe this command may take some time to build up at first, but afterward, you can simply run it by pasting it in the terminal which happens instantaneously. Learn to use terminals, it will help you save a lot of time! Now that we got that over with, let’s talk about Oh My Zsh. This software is an open-source framework for managing Zsh (which is a terminal configuration). By using Oh My Zsh and its numerous plugins and themes, you can essentially decorate your terminal and commands to do the things you are always looking for and doing – all very quickly. Here are some examples of this:

  • Leveraging the alias gcm to run git checkout master in your terminal.
  • Hitting ESC twice to prefix any previously-run command with sudo.
  • Adding syntax highlighting so you have better cues on which commands you run in the terminal are valid.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, for a more in-depth look at Oh My Zsh, check out this great video (Learn Zsh in 80 Minutes – Oh My Zsh – Command Line Power User)

A Good IDE For Your Needs

While most developers already use an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), it is essential to ask what one is using it for. Besides a single place that holds all of our code, IDEs can be very powerful by offering debuggers, compilers, terminal support, IntelliSense, automation tools, and much more. You should first start by asking yourself what features you really need, what programming language you use, and if you value the speed or quickness of the IDE. Generally speaking Vim and Sublime text are amongst the quickest. Alternatively, if you only code in Python, PyCharm is one of the best IDEs for the language. Otherwise, it is worth looking into some of the heavyweight and more powerful IDEs such as Visual Studio and Atom, look at all their features, and use the ones that have the features you want.

Here are some links to get you thinking about which IDEs may be best for you:

High-level overview from Wikipedia – (Comparison of integrated development environments)

Conversation on Quora – (What is the best IDE?)

One of many IDE comparison articles – (What are the best IDEs?)

Finding Tools and Chops

Sometimes our time spent is spent on coding, but sometimes it is spent on searching. Why not make searching faster instead of going to your Finder or File Explorer and searching using the GUI. The Silver Searcher is one of the best tools for this, as it can search for words in files, or files in folders and any combination in between. What is more, is that The Silver Searcher claims to be much faster than ‘ack’ which is another command-line tool to search for words and files. So get to know The Silver Searcher, the ‘ack’, ‘grep’ and ‘find’ commands so you can search for things very quickly the next time you need to do so.

Note that most of these tools work very well with the Mac and Linux operating systems, and some can even be configured in Windows, just google “Installing ack in Windows” for example.

Here are some good use cases of this:

  1. find /project -name config.json to find if there is a config.json file under the project directory and also show where it is located.
  2. grep -i -r "bug" . to find all instances of the word bug (case insensitive) recursively in your current directory files.
  3. ack bug to find instances of the word “bug” in all of the files in the current directory, and all children elements (recursively).
  4. ag to use The Silver Searcher and find all instances of localhost in all the files in the current directory (recursively). This is the fastest tool and command of all of the ones mentioned here.

For more information, check out the following links:

Find – (Linux/Mac Terminal Tutorial: How To Use The find Command)

Grep – (Linux/Mac Terminal Tutorial: The Grep Command – Search Files and Directories for Patterns of Text)

Ack – (Top 10 reasons to use ack for source code)

The Silver Searcher – (Documentation and Code on GitHub)

Quick Navigation

Once you learn how to quickly navigate software in your operating system you will start to get things done quickly and even allow yourself to consume more information quicker since you will be context switching much faster, if at all.

Get to know how to quickly navigate between the software on your machine and operating system with the following commands.

Windows: Alt + Tab
Mac: Command + Tab
Linux: (Super or Alt) + Tab

Get to know how to snap windows in different places of the screen so that you can cross-reference your work (e.g. reading about something on Stack Overflow while also coding in your chosen IDE the from above :p).

Windows: Windows Key + Arrow Keys
Mac: Check out Magnet or some of the free alternative software out there
Linux: Super + Arrow Keys

Memorize these commands if you haven’t and make constant use of them. You will start to see your productivity soar!

Other Miscellaneous Tips

Some other important ways to improve your working and coding speed that come to mind are:

  • Using version control (e.g. Git, Mercurial)
  • A desktop/laptop which is powerful enough to handle all your work quickly (in milliseconds not seconds)
  • Automation-first thinking
  • Two regular monitors/screens or one large monitor

That’s all for now. I hope this all helps and happy coding!