In this interview we took a trip down memory lane from Adalo´s beginnings all the way to the release of its most important features. He also gave his two cents on the impact the No Code movement will have on day to day users, and his prospects for the future of building software.
Hi David! Thanks for agreeing to chat with us on NoCode.Tech. Can you tell us a bit about your background and what you do?
Hi everyone! My name is David, and I am one of the founders of Adalo.
My background is actually in architecture. I did both my undergrad and masters in architecture, but It wasn't until the very end when I realised I was more passionate about design and helping people create new things in general. The school I went to was very design-focused, which taught me the power of design and understanding how that process works. After graduating, I convinced a local startup in St.Louis that I could do UX design for them. There was this debate at the time in the UX world that if you couldn't code, then you weren't a true UX designer. I tried learning, and it was challenging for me. I just thought that if these tools were getting easier to use, at some point, I wouldn't need code to use them. Someone would probably come along and invent that. I didn't know I would be part of that.
Can you tell us how Adalo came about? What initial problems were you guys trying to solve?
Initially, Ben (Co-Founder) and I were working together at the same company. We would both spend time during the weekends thinking of ideas, but neither of us could code so we couldn't make them a reality. We definitely felt the pain of having to find somebody or pay a developer and spend tons of money to make it a reality.
I saw the progression of these tools from the beginning where you would laugh at them now. In the beginning, we were using [wire-framing tools] like Balsamiq, which by today's standards would look crude, but then it started to get so realistic that I would present the mockups at our company of what the next features were going to be, and they were so realistic that they thought the features were already finished. It was moments like that that made me realise I was making the entire whole front end look exactly the way it should. That's when Ben and I learned from our side that there was something valuable there.
At the same time, Jeremy (Co-Founder) was out in California, and he saw the automation happen in the developer community where code was getting more and more powerful. He started working on the back-end side. How we got him on board is funny.
Long story short. I met this woman at this travel bloggers conference and told her what I was working on. I was struggling so much to find a developer. I quit because I couldn't do anything more from my end. Three days after quitting, this same woman reached back to me saying she had found someone who was working on the same thing suggesting we should partner up. We jumped on a call, and from then on, we partnered up. You never really know who you are going to meet at a conference!
So Adalo lets you build mobile and web apps without code, but how does Adalo differ from other App Builders in the market? What puts you that step ahead from the rest?
I think it's more about what's different about each one and what you are trying to do.
In our space, we want Adalo to be able to be used across all platforms in whatever your capacity is - really strike the bounds between simple and powerful.
Our goal is: If you have something that is a small personal project, it should be simple enough to make it, get it started and put it on whatever platform that you want it to be.
At the same time though, if you have a bigger more complex idea that will be a legit startup that you want to scale, we want you to be able to have that, and then have the ability to keep adding more and more to it and have it work on IOs and Android and then also the web. Sometimes you start a startup that you launch and you spend a tremendous amount of money on development, but it doesn't succeed, so you have to close it all down and waste all that money. However, we live in this new world now where software is going to get hyper-niche, with much smaller use-cases. However, I think it will get to a point where I think it's okay if your product is only loved by 100 people as long as you can actually afford to maintain it and keep adding small things to it.
We want Adalo to go from small-use projects like a personal project or a restaurant all the way up to a very successful startup. Wherever it is that you fall on that journey, we want you to be able to build it in Adalo and not feel trapped if it's growing and getting very successful, but if it ends up only working for a "smaller number of people" then that should also work for you.
The cross-platform experience will be super important depending on where your customers are, the size and how you grow. We definitely started mobile first, so we are definitely very heavy there. We work on the web as well, but you can't make things as responsive as something like a Webflow type of thing just yet. But That's a thing for us that will definitely come up in the future.
We've added three very important features in order to get that powerful side.
How complex is Adalo to use? In what scenarios would someone not use Adalo for app creation?
We are definitely on the easier side of the learning curve, and from the public perspective, we probably stand on the top 2 of the easiest to get started with!
To a certain extent, I think that is due to the three founders: A developer, a product manager who cant do visual design that well and then myself who is very much in the design realm of things but can't code. We definitely emphasise a lot "We can’t code" so we want to make it as non-technical as possible.
We went on a design component approach first where you can drag and drop a bunch of premade components that have all the visual styles that do the legwork for you. At the same time, we also have more-flexible rectangles and images that you can put together just as you would in your design tools. We wanted to have both of those spectrums covered so that you are not stuck.
So we’re accessible for beginners, but if you have UX design skills, you also have that flexibility to bring your ideas and visions to life. With the component marketplace, if you got to a sticking point, you could still hire a developer to make that one component for you if we didn't have it.
However, at this point in time, there would be two scenarios where Adalo might not be the best fit:
We do have a public roadmap and a feature request list on ideas at Adalo.com, so if people are nervous about what we have or don't have, you can always go there and see what features we’re working on!
What kind of challenges did you face when starting Adalo? What challenges are you facing now?
There is one big constant challenge. I guess if you ask any NoCode founder, the challenge is that we are trying to produce flexibility for all of you to make whatever it is you want to make. The Minimum-Viable-Product (MVP) of our product has to be able to build anybody else's MVP. This makes it inherently more complicated. The number of features is always increasing. Any no-code platform needs to be flexible to do whatever it's going to do. There are thousands and thousands of features that you have to have before you even have an MVP of your product. It needs to be flexible enough or else it will only make one type of app, and you don't want to get stuck on that vertical which is okay if that's what your company wants to do, but it's not what the no-code community wants to be.
The number of features is difficult to build and maintain, and to prioritise them is a challenge, and it has always been from the beginning.
Where do you feel Adalo has "filled the gap" in the market?
We specifically focus on mobile native apps and making the whole process of publishing the app very simple.
We've created the ability for people to use Adalo to an extent where it's not too tricky to get going, but there is that flexibility, so you don't get stuck. Some platforms are too complicated, and people can't even get their wheels started. In our case, in our interface, we always try to hide the most powerful things so you can't see them right away. This way, if it gets to a point where you say "I wish Adalo could do this" we can then say "We can". We've done it this way to avoid you getting overwhelmed with the choices when you are first getting started.
It's the balancing act which seems to be a recurring theme in Adalo. Make it simple but still customisable so that you can keep scaling your business.
Does Adalo integrate with other NoCode tools? How do you choose which tools to integrate with your mobile app builder?
With our External Collections, you could house your entire database in Airtable. We also have a Zapier integration. You could even integrate with Bubble right now. This way if you had a native app with Bubble you could make a mobile app in Adalo by taking that same database structure that is there. We are definitely a piece of the entire no-code ecosystem, but we are trying to be more stand-alone rather than a tool that is a piece of a puzzle. We see the benefits of being more stand-alone as building everything natively makes things easier in the end.
You can see more Adalo integrations here: nocode.tech/tools/adalo#works-with
How did you find the first users for Adalo?
Before I even thought our product was ready, I would go to different startup events, and I would talk to various local businesses to present our product and offer to build software for them for a ridiculously low rate.
We kind of became a no-code dev shop. If a client was looking for a way to build something we would do it for them and if we didn't have that feature yet I would ask Jeremy [my co-founder] to build it for Adalo. We found real use cases from the beginning and built them.
There was a transition period when we had to transition from us building it for them, to random people actually making it on their own. There was this moment where I went to someone's house and showed him how to do it so he could try and use it himself at the same time. That was a fantastic learning curve for us on what was wrong with Adalo, what were the struggles and what we needed to teach people.
My big take from that was: Figure out a way to get your product in front of a handful of users. Whatever problem your product is trying to solve, get actual people to go through the whole entire process. It's okay if it's just a few of them as long as they are really using it. This way, you will figure what works, what doesn’t, and ultimately it will help you figure out how to get other users
We love your "Two Minute Tuesdays" tutorial videos! Can you explain where "Two Minute Tuesdays" came from – What's the feedback from your users like?
I'm a huge Webflow fanboy- their tutorials are longer, but they are always super inspiring to watch, and they crack some jokes, so it was definitely inspired by that.
I related it to my experience using adobe. As a designer, you are constantly teaching yourself how to do things. A lot of videos out there are helpful, but they are also super long. So the idea was "How can you pack as much as possible in 2 minutes?" Then it became a personal goal where we called it Two Minute Tuesdays, so it forced us to create content and have it up every Tuesday.
People love them, and they've been super fun to make. I've been building on Adalo now for so long, so for me, it was more a matter of how can I condense hours and hours of work with different clients into short video tips.
Where do you see Adalo going next? Where do you see the future for app creation?
I see Adalo tackling the web side of things, making it as responsive as it should be and not having web apps as a secondary thing. A strong web app presence and native app presence. More native integrations too.
I think the general public still doesn't quite know what apps and software are. There are still big groups of people that still haven't been exposed to the software-building world at all, or that don't know the difference between a website and an app/software. There is a public perception that apps have to be in the AppStore.
Because there isn't an understanding between those things, then we haven't even gotten to a point yet where they can make something out of a problem that they have.
Years ago, it wouldn't have made sense for you to make an app for a personal situation, or for you to build a piece of software for a small specific problem that your company is having.
I think this is headed to a time where NoCode tools are going to move apps or software to a level where people think "I can solve this with a little piece of software" on a personal level or at work.
How have you been affected during Covid19 – Have you been up to anything interesting during lockdown that the no-code community have benefited from?
At a company level, we are now fully remote!
In terms of our involvement with the community, we ran a new partnership with nucode. It was great to see all these apps being created for small businesses that really needed apps to survive.
Best advice for startups and entrepreneurs?
The biggest challenge is they think they have to have everything solved before they launch.
You need somebody to try and use whatever you are trying to create to solve their problem. People are so worried about not having all the solutions to possible issues that their customers could have. Get something started that you are really passionate about - Otherwise, it’ll never feel worth it!
What are your views on the no-code movement and it's importance post Covid19?
During this pandemic, there have been projects that were being created, and everyday use-cases suddenly were no longer everyday use cases. Many app ideas that have been built were suddenly not relevant.
No-Code allows you to pivot your app to solve a new challenge easily. That is the great benefit of solving a problem on a no-code platform. If you have software, you can pivot and solve any company crisis, and the pandemic has just proven that. The benefit of being able to shift courses quickly is part of the flexibility of NoCode.
We hope you found Davids story as inspiring as we did and are as excited to start building using No Code!
Want to learn more about Adalo? Click here for tips and tutorials to get started and keep building.