Building things online without any coding skills is barely a new thing - Shopify, Wix, Squarespace and many others have been around for years, allowing users to create e-commerce websites, personal portfolios, and corporates homepages all within the browser, only with basic tech knowledge.
However, these no-code tools have since moved beyond just creating a website and into far more complex digital products, both for the web and for mobile. You can now create platforms similar to Airbnb, Uber, and Instagram with complex functionality like user accounts, editable database, and subscriptions only with off-the-shelf tools and no coding skills.
How did this happen?
Like every other innovation, it started with some tech folks noticing the gap between ideas people are having and their ability to realize those ideas. As I mentioned, companies like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly offered (and still do) drag-and-drop web tools to help people build websites.
But functionality was always limited to a couple of use cases and a bunch of templates, based on the most frequent thing people wanted to build. Apart from those, if anyone wanted to build something custom, the tools fell short. Then Webflow came along.
The idea was the same - allow people to build websites without code. But the platform was way more flexible and gave users the power to create custom designs and functionality. The trade-off is that Webflow is also more complex than the first "batch" of DIY web tools.
There's a certain learning curve involved in working with Webflow and that's why there are also agencies that specialize only in this - helping clients build websites with Webflow. Still, if you're motivated to learn, you can get a website up and running in no time - at least way faster than learning HTML/CSS/JS well enough to achieve the same effect.
The next big wave was a plethora of web tools coming into existence, covering every single functionality that might be needed for creating another web tool. Sounds pretty meta right? Take Zapier, for example - a tool that can automate workflows between apps.
You can connect two or more services to work together if a condition is fulfilled, say if a user gives some information in a web form you create, Zapier can automatically take the info from the form and fill out an entry into your CRM tool of choice.
By combining a few already available web tools anyone can create a web or mobile app that potentially generates revenue and this can be a huge game-changer.
What does this mean for the future of web development?
Allowing people to build stuff online with no coding skills, doesn't even remotely mean web developers will become obsolete. However, it does add a pinch of competition into the web dev landscape.
I hope in 2019 it's no surprise to anyone that web agencies cannot stay competitive by offering their clients a simple website. Companies need to develop more added-value services and build expertise in narrower niches if they want to remain relevant.
One place where no-code tools won't be able to keep up is enterprise software. Huge organizations have large-scale needs that often cannot be met with a ready-made tool. On the other hand, the no-code tools will allow startups and early-stage projects to validate their idea on the market with a smaller investment in web development services.
They can easily use tools like Zapier, Airtable, Bubble, or Boundless to create an MVP and put it out there to start generating traction. After a show of interest, they can decide whether to continue investing in the idea to scale the product or attract funding.
With the advancement of no-code tools, there will be more and more agencies specializing in helping companies use those tools (like the Webflow agencies I mentioned earlier). The more use cases those tools can cover, the more complex they become, the more need there is for consultants to build expertise and offer it to others.
What about design?
The one thing users cannot (and will never be able to) do themselves with already available web tools is design. By that I mean, they can have the technical ability to incorporate design, but the skills necessary to create a pleasant user experience and a beautiful user interface is something you cannot substitute with no-code tools.
For this, you'll still need a web design professional and this is also why companies come to us at Melewi.
The actual implementation of designs created by our team, which are well-thought-out to fit a company's business needs and revenue goals, is a lot easier and far more effective than trying to do designs on your own.
Simply said, if you want to create a web or mobile platform, there are numerous readily-available tools to help you create it without code, but no tool in existence that will create the right design for you.