How I Use Drag and Drop Programs to Help More People
My name is Max Albert. I’m a full-stack web and iOS developer for Ford Motor Company.
I’m also a freelance developer for hire.
I love freelance development because it introduces me to new technologies, interesting projects, and different people. I also get to learn a lot about other styles of development and take that knowledge back to work.
It’s not all smooth sailing though. One of my major pain points as a freelance developer is not being able to take on every project.
I’m constantly connected to entrepreneurs, hobbyists, and businesspeople who want to build a simple mobile app. But unfortunately there isn’t enough time or budget at the end of the day.
Furthermore, having to turn down projects is especially problematic because freelance development is seasonal. There are times where I’m flooded with work, and other times where it feels like there is no work at all.
The best way to cultivate a steady freelance schedule is to consistently deliver for clients — which is impossible when you have to say no to some projects.
Desperate for a solution, I turned to low code/no code drag and drop tools to increase the amount of work I could take on.
It was the best decision I’ve made in my freelance career.
Not only was I able to take on more work, I was also able to iterate quicker by rapidly developing “beta tests” and quickly implementing client feedback.
Recently I chose to use Thunkable to develop a basic survey app. Though the app itself was simple, the client wanted a few added bells and whistles:
- A database to record the information (plus some workflow to allow the client to interface with that information)
- Text alerts when a user submitted the survey
- Security (only authorized users should be able to complete the survey)
- Identical applications for both iOS and Android
Normally these extra features would’ve exponentially increased my estimate on development time — but Thunkable made development really easy by allowing me to record data using Airtable. Thunkable also has technology to handle account creation and security through Firebase.
Best of all, I was able to export my app to Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store seamlessly.
Normally, coding these two applications in Swift and Java would’ve ran my client a couple thousand dollars in development time. Plus, it would’ve taken weeks in real life since I’m juggling other projects and a full-time job.
But with drag and drop tools I was able to cut that time half, and deliver two apps in just a weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, drag and drop platforms have limitations. Good old fashioned programming enables more complexity and deliberate design.
That said, there are plenty of technical challenges that are much better served by drag and drop tools than by native coding--like the survey app I created for my client. Features like text alerts, updating a simple database, and account creation have already been programmed. There's no need to re-program these features.
In my opinion, developers shouldn’t waste time reinventing the wheel. Many drag and drop tools can deliver the same functionality for freelance projects, but faster and cheaper.
Developers might be embarrassed using drag & drop tools to build a mobile application for professional purposes. That’s a fair worry.
At times it certainly felt juvenile to program my app using building blocks similar to scratch.
But although I had some hangups about blocks, I never missed the code. In fact, it was nice to look at colorful blocks. They were whimsical and kept development lighthearted.
Plus, it wasn’t a challenge to learn a new drag and drop tool like Thunkable. Themes like efficiency, reducing code duplication, and inheritance were all still available.
More importantly, I find that clients and business people really don’t care how I build an app as long as the process is cost effective, timely, and delivers a professional product.
Thinking back on my freelance projects, I believe the vast majority could have been completed with no code tools.
Realizing this fact is also a good warning to freelance developers: drag and drop tools are getting good. Really good.
I highly recommend trying out platforms like Thunkable for your next freelance development project.
What feature(s) would you like to see drag and drop tools adopt? I’m curious to hear from you!