As the uptake of no-code and low-code spreads, so too do bespoke agencies promising businesses the answers to all their problems. Here’s what you need to know about working with one.
What a no-code agency does
No-code agencies are pretty similar to traditional development agencies, except they’re dealing in no-code platforms to deliver software solutions. They get things done with either an in-house team or by hiring freelancers and work on either a specific project or a long-term basis for their clients. Whatever you need, there’s probably a no-code agency out there that will fit your budget and vision. Many no-code agencies specialise in working with specific no-code platforms – like Bubble, Glide or Webflow.
An organisation might be thinking about working with a no-code agency for any number of reasons. You might not have the resources to train and hire new expertise in-house, you might want your dev team to focus on your core business without getting distracted, or you might want the ongoing support on an as-and-when basis.
The benefits of working with a no-code agency
Naturally, when you work with a no-code agency, you’re paying for the specialist knowledge and know-how they have built up. And while you should come with knowledge of the platform you’re looking to use (more on this below), the agency you work with will be aware of platforms and solutions that you almost certainly haven’t thought of or come across. That’s a big plus.
Faster build times
If you’ve got a quick turnaround, no-code agencies are usually able to build products much faster than regular development agencies. This means complex software projects can be completed in weeks rather than months.
One of the benefits of no-code platforms is that they’re more accessible and easier to understand than a traditional codebase. That means you might already have people in-house who can learn the platform. When you work with an agency, they can pass down the knowledge needed to keep your apps up-to-date.
Lower cost of hosting
It can be expensive to start from scratch, but no-code agencies are often more affordable. Traditional development agencies tend to charge ongoing monthly fees that include a profit margin to cover the cost of hosting the software. If you go no-code, an agency is only likely to charge you a flat monthly fee.
Things to watch out for
Not all no-code agencies are created equal
As no-code is more accessible than code, the barrier to entry is much lower, and there has been an explosion in the number of agencies appearing. Some of these agencies may have been started by people with only a small amount of software development experience, which means their output may be lower quality. Your organisation needs to invest the right time into selecting the correct agency like it would for any other contractor.
No-code's limitations don't disappear
Despite what they might promise, no-code agencies are restricted by the limitations of no-code itself. There are some things, such as highly customised visual interfaces, or processing massive amounts of data quickly, that can still be done much better with code. No-code platform limitations may also mean the developers need to implement “hacks” that may create problems later on.
Think about your investor's preconceptions
Among some of your stakeholders, there may be an unfair perception that no-code development means lower-quality software. This could, for example, affect the organisation’s ability to get new investors. You’ve got to always be upfront with your stakeholders and do a temperature check when making a big transition.
NCDT tips for best practice
1. Do your research
Before choosing a no-code agency, you need to get to know the best no-code platform for your requirements. And there are three essentials to look out for in particular. One is the limitations of the platform itself. You need a platform that can carry out whatever functions you need day to day – anything less won’t do. Two, it’s important to know how data security works within that platform, especially if you hold sensitive data. And three, scalability is key. You’ve got to keep an eye on the future, making sure any growth will be manageable with your no-code platform.
2. Check your budget
Seems obvious, right? When you look into the pricing of different agencies, make sure you can afford it on an ongoing basis, not just the upfront cost. If the no-code platform charges on a “capacity basis”, this may mean the app needs to be built in a way that reduces future costs.
3. Ask the right questions
Once you’ve nailed down exactly what you want, you can query agencies. Handily, we’ve got just a list to get you started:
Will the agency take the time to fully understand your needs before building? It’s common to hear stories of clients who have ended up with an app that simply doesn’t do what they wanted it to because the agency didn’t take the time to understand their needs. Make sure they’ve got time to really listen to you.
What standard build processes does the agency have? Some agencies use in-house templates to speed up their build. These have pros and cons, including making it much more difficult for clients to fully understand and take over the project later, so you need to be clear.
Does the agency follow best practices? There are often accepted best practices for building on specific platforms, and some principles have been transferred from coding to no-code, such as DRY or “Don’t Repeat Yourself”. If these kinds of things are adhered to, it can make the app much easier for you to maintain in-house.
How does the agency create its scope document? The “scope document” is basically a handbook that helps you to understand what will be delivered and how. It’s also important when it comes to passing the baton onto you when it comes to maintenance. Any scope document should be highly detailed and cover every eventuality. Plus, anything that isn’t in the scope will probably be charged extra.
Will the agency document its build? A good agency should document its build and provide materials to help you or another agency to maintain the software. This is especially true for the complex parts–it should always be possible for someone new to take over.
No-code agencies can provide a super helpful service. But they’re not going to do all the work for you and you shouldn’t come to them without a clear idea of the no-code platform that suits your needs. That process will help you choose the right agency. As always, putting in the due diligence beforehand will make sure you find an agency that’ll actually build what you need – and pass on that knowledge to empower others in your business.