What is no-code?

It all starts right here: a short explainer on the fundamentals of what no-code actually is.

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Your journey into the world of no-code starts here: a succinct and jargon-free summary of what no-code actually is, what it does, and why it’s a burgeoning movement you or your business needs to be a part of.

The term no-code refers to an ecosystem of tools and methodologies that let people without technical skills or expertise build software without coding. That’s because no-code tools use an interface full of things like drag-and-drop functionality, ready-made templates, and pre-built components that allow you to create software visually. The tools are essentially providing a visual translation of coding that’s far more intuitive to wrap your head around. By using no-code tools, you can build products, platforms or experiences. We’ve got a separate summary on what you can do with no-code right here.

No-code tools have come a long way in the last few decades: they can do more, are better designed, and are far easier to use. The tools are more stable, more secure and much more set up to help businesses. Individual creators are building apps that end up getting acquired; organisations are finding there are a whole lot of ways to improve how they operate and function without the need for a costly team of developers. The digital world is rife with opportunity – no-code tools let you actually get involved in it.

An explainer: zero-code, no-code and low-code

One of the slightly unhelpful things about this space is that the labelling of tools, and the definition of what no-code actually is, isn’t always consistent. For example, some software tools are labelled as no-code when they actually require a basic understanding of how computers function.

To help clarify things, two terms have emerged to distinguish some key differences: zero-code and low-code. These terms help clarify the difference in tools that have a lot in common with no-code tools but may require different experience levels or not make quite the same type of product.

1. Zero-code

Zero-code tools don’t require any knowledge of coding or how computers operate. They might also not strictly create software. They fall into the no-code movement because they expand the capabilities of the documents or databases they make in a similar way that no-code tools do for software. 

Squarespace is a good example of a zero-code program. It makes websites, but its interface is so simple that you don’t need any background knowledge of how websites work to begin building with it. Anyone can jump onto it and make a basic site with zero knowledge of coding or computers. Microsoft Excel is another zero-code you’re probably already very familiar with – you can automate processes and functions on its spreadsheets, if not creating functional pieces of software. One thing to note is that some zero-code tools may be able to create software when integrated with other tools. 

Check out these zero-code tools:
The Squarespace homepage. Courtesy of Squarespace.

2. No-code

No-code tools let you build software without writing code, but they do require a basic level of knowledge of how software or computers work. If you’re sitting there thinking ‘uh oh, maybe this is not for me’, then fear not – that’s why NoCode.Tech exists. We have an entire education hub full of super accessible lessons and explainers to get you up to speed on the ins and outs of no-code in no time. Okay, a little time – but not as much as you might think. 

Website builder Webflow is a great no-code example. You don’t need to write code to use it (though you can go in and edit the code directly if you want to), but you do need to understand elements like website layout, interaction, and user interfaces to use it to its full capabilities.

Try out these no-code tools:
If you're creating a website on Webflow, it'll look a bit like this. Courtesy of Webflow

3. Low-code

Up next on the scale of difficulty is low-code tools. These basically let developers do things faster with code. You can’t use a low-code tool if you don’t have any technical chops; they’re aimed at developers and people with coding knowledge to streamline the process of building with code. To expand what they can do and how fast they can do it.

For example, a low-code tool is helpful when you build something that has to be created repeatedly when coding, like a log-in screen with a forgotten password function. You can produce the code much faster than you could, writing it yourself, and then you can add custom elements or advanced functionality.

Try these low-code tools:

Draftbit's homepage. Courtesy of Draftbit

Is no-code for you? 

Learning no-code ultimately allows you to get involved in the digital world in a more profound way. Though we might be slightly biased, there’s a good chance that no-code tools will change your entire way of working. If you’re trying to bring an idea to life, or improve the way your business functions then there’s likely to be a tool out there that’ll make a big difference. And if you’re considering spunking some cash on hiring developers, you’ll find no-code tools might just save you a fair bit of cash too.

We dig a bit deeper into the use cases of no-code right here, but there are almost endless ways they can add value to what you’re working on. From building websites, mobile apps or marketplaces, to creating customer portals, CRM systems and bespoke inventory management software. You can use them to prototype an idea and prove it’s viable, or simply to automate tedious and repetitive tasks that are draining your time.

If you want to check out some ideas of what you might build, check out these tutorials.

How to get started

The learning curve of using no-code tools differs widely from tool to tool. Some are super simple and you can get moving using the tutorials or templates the tool provides; others require a bit of basic understanding first. These powerful tools often start from a blank canvas instead of using templates, meaning you’ll need to understand where the structure of your software is heading.

Some key bits of knowledge will help – like how databases work, how an interface actually comes together, or how you can use basic logic, like if-then statements, to build complex bits of software. This is all part of the process of understanding why coding works. 

If that sounds a little daunting, that’s only natural. But you’re in the right place – our purpose-built Fundamentals of No-Code course is designed with beginners in mind. You’ll learn all the essential information you need in a logical, accessible way. And by the end of it, you’ll be annoying anyone who’ll listen with talk of workflows, APIs and SQL. 

Get started with our Fundamentals of No-Code



About the Author
Duncan Griffiths Nakanishi

Duncan is lead editor at NoCode.Tech. He's a writer and editor with 8 years experience working in the media across business, culture, lifestyle and tech.


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