The Rise of "No-Code"

Sam Ruedinger

September 15, 2020

Traditionally, there are a couple of ways of building new websites, but they typically go from simplistic fill-in-the-blank templates on one end of the spectrum to advanced design-then-development workflows at the other, with very little in between.

The Rise of "No-Code"

In fairness, there are two significant “in-between” options; one is a website builder from a company like Squarespace or Wix. These builders are inexpensive, but offer flexibility and very beautiful websites. Still, they’re templated and limited in their customizable functionality. The other is what we call a “template framework.” When using this approach with Empower Ideas, we’ll assign a full design and development team to the project, but rather than starting from Square Zero, we’ll use a basic framework that has decisions such as header and navbar, module layout, and other basic features already taken care of. From there, we can “skin” the framework with your colors, fonts, and brand; and customize the modules to suit your specific needs. This is a great compromise that reduces the cost of a custom website.

But filling out the middle of this spectrum are mature no-code/low-code applications that include services such as Bubble, Webflow, and Editor X. You can think of these apps as SquareSpace on steroids.

The beauty of these applications is that they allow for fully custom design, integrated with development, and built into a fully visual editor for future maintenance. Let’s break down why that’s such a big deal.

To understand the breakthrough of no-code platforms, we need to consider the status quo for custom site development. Traditional custom web design relies on a workflow that progresses from design into development. These are consecutive, rather than concurrent, processes; so only once the design is fully locked in can development begin. It also requires two full-time specialized roles (designer and developer) and the extra team size and consecutive processes both drive up the cost of the project and the time to completion. Additionally, for sites without a comprehensive content management solution, clients would need to rely on developers to implement everything. Even changing a single word of text could take days for the developer to work through their queue. Content management systems such as WordPress have reduced this problem, but they still make it challenging to make more advanced edits, even if they’re still content-based, such as tables, images, or videos.

This is the problem that no-code platforms sought to solve. These platforms typically require a professional team to initially create, but once the site is built, you as the business owner can make edits to it as simply as browsing your live site, editing right on the page, and clicking save. It’s that simple! Furthermore, the workflow during the creation process is extremely streamlined. Designers can do their design work right inside of the Webflow platform rather than using a prototyping/preview tool. This means that when the site design is approved, the site is already built and almost ready to go! Never before has it been possible to build a completely custom site so quickly.

Today, the market is saturated with solutions. Some are mature and robust. On the other hand, examples like Squarespace, widely considered the granddaddy of the space, are inflexible template-focused tools that aren’t really contenders for any serious website.

Three of the most mature and complex options, on the other hand, are Webflow, Bubble, and Editor X. These platforms pack extremely powerful features and nearly limitless customization while reducing the cost of custom websites by combining design and development. Additionally, these mature platforms are built on top of web standards such as CSS and Javascript and allow developers to get under the hood and write code if necessary for a part of a particularly complex website. Some no-code platforms can even connect to APIs, giving them much of the same functionality as traditional site builds.

No-code platforms aren’t right for every site, but for many sites, they can thread the needle between ugly templated site and expensive fully custom solution perfectly. As an added bonus, it’s incredibly easy to maintain your new website by simply editing right on top of the live webpage and hitting publish. For the first time, it’s possible for you to have a site designed from the ground up at close to half the cost of a traditional build. If you’d like to learn more about no-code platforms and if your new site could be built this way, let’s talk today!