Prototyping: See if you’ve got a viable app idea quickly
Creating a basic version of an app is something no-code was made for.
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Creating a simple, rudimentary version of an app or website is a critical ability for all kinds of teams, for all kinds of reasons. Using no-code tools, instead of the more costly and time-intensive alternatives, could be just what you need.
If you work within a team or department, we’re guessing you’re probably always coming up with ideas on how to solve problems that you or your customers are facing (right?). Maybe you want to introduce a revolutionary new AI feature to your company’s app, but you need to show your exec something tangible to stop his eyes rolling. Or perhaps you want to redesign your company’s web app to be more useful for customers but you want to show those customers a rudimentary version of it before you commit to building.
Prototyping enables you to create a simple, basic version of a product, so you can test it out and validate a concept or a process. It’s an essential part of any product development process. A business isn’t going to commit to building something without first knowing it’s actually going to solve that problem. No-code tools make it much easier for anyone, no matter their technical chops, to create awesome, fully functioning prototypes of apps and websites.
Wtf are no-code prototyping tools?
Despite the best intentions, prototyping can be a costly and laborious process; slightly ironic given a big reason to prototype in the first place is to avoid a costly app-build of something that isn't right. The result is that plenty of businesses end up skipping the prototyping phase altogether.
Well, no-code platforms fix that. They put the building power into the hands of non-technical people: giving anyone the ability to create a functioning app or website using drag-and-drop tools and templates.
You’ll then be able to check if your cool idea works in the real world, and solves the problem you’ve seen. Creating a no-code product gives you the chance to test if your design is viable and, in some cases, profitable before investing more time and money in a coded solution.
Say you handle customer support for a construction company. Paying for a clunky and expensive software package to manage your client interactions was never on your boss’ radar. But now the company’s expanded, and your team is struggling to keep up with the queries from your (often demanding) clients. Getting chewed out for missing the odd customer complaint is demoralising your team.
Your manager is unlikely to fork out for an expensive, off-the-shelf solution, but you think a simple customer portal is the answer. You just need to convince senior management to part with the cash. Building a prototype customer portal builder app will show your boss how effective it could be.
What problems can they solve?
- You can build a MVP without hiring developers. If you want to make the case that your idea works and should get built, you need to make a compelling case. A functioning no-code prototype can get your idea off the ground and convince others in your business of its necessity. All without demanding the precious time of developers.
- You don’t need to think too much about design. While different no-code tools offer different levels of customisation, most have great-looking templates for you to choose from. This lets you play around with different designs and features, and test on users (which could be your colleagues) before investing in further development.
- It helps you communicate your concept more clearly. Sometimes it can feel like developers and non-technical staff speak different languages. If you have a working no-code prototype, you can show developers exactly what it is that you’re after and make sure everyone is on the same page.
- You only pay for what you really need. Your team might think they need every feature under the sun – a no-code prototype will let you test what features are essential and which are unnecessary.
- You don’t need to switch your existing software. Maybe as your organisation has grown, your boss invested in software to manage customer relationships but, annoyingly, it doesn't connect with your accounting software. Building a no-code platform can get your different apps talking to each other.
Who needs to know?
Any team can benefit from building a prototype in no-code: wherever there’s a problem that can be solved with a piece of software, this is handy. But we would call out three areas in particular which would get value: product, marketing and innovation. Engineering teams also benefit from using no-code tools to quickly test ideas they might have too.
What’s the nuance?
- Resist the urge to pack it with features. One of the benefits of building a no-code app is that you can completely customise the software to your unique business needs. You’ll need to resist the temptation to stuff your prototype full of features you don’t actually need.
- Templates are your friend. Unlike apps built by developers, the latest no-code templates look awesome and modern.
- You need to really understand what your MVP is. There’s no use approaching this without a clear idea of what your minimum viable product actually is. Is a workflow that connects spreadsheets good enough for your team? Do your customers expect an elegant-looking app?
- Think about how many users your app will have. Some platforms limit the number of users – you don’t want your prototype to crash during testing, or to become useless if your team expands.
- Think about what kind of data you want to collect. When it comes to validating whether the prototype actually solves the problem you need it to, you might need more complex analytics that aren’t available on every no-code platform.
- You might never need to move away from no-code tools. It’s possible that the prototype you create might actually meet all your needs. No-code tools are pretty powerful and have been shown to work at scale; it’s getting rarer for small-medium businesses to outgrow their no-code platform.
- Your industry can be a big factor when choosing tools. If you work in a heavily regulated industry, like finance or healthcare, you’ll need to make sure the no-code tool you’re using has the functionality required to meet legal obligations, like encrypting user data.
No-code tools to check out
If you’re looking to get moving quickly, Glide is an excellent choice for those starting out looking to build a simple web or mobile app. Carrd is another simple platform if you want to create a one-page website, while Invision is great for designing.
Adalo is a step up from Glide: it has more logic and UI flexibility but has a higher learning curve and it’s therefore a little harder to make a good-looking app. Bravo Studio is another notable one for the designers. It takes a Figma design and turns it into a native app you can run on your phone.
Bubble is a very flexible tool – you can create awesome apps with their templates, but you can also insert custom code if you want to add a function that isn’t already offered as standard. You can also do some pretty funky stuff with databases if you know SQL.
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