How Becoming a No-Code Developer Made Me a Better Designer

Turning into a no-code developer has been a game-changer for me as a designer. It opened my eyes to software development and made me a better designer.

How Becoming a No-Code Developer Made Me a Better Designer
Kasper Svenning

Kasper Svenning

February 26, 2023


As a designer, I have always envied developers’ ability to create working software and not just static representations. While we as designers define the look and feel of a product, developers actually create it and make it available to the world.

You could argue that your entire team, from Project Managers to QA, creates the product together. However, developers are responsible for the actual craftsmanship of creating the buttons, links, text, and other elements that make up your software.

That was until no-code and AI tools arrived. Suddenly, everyone was able to create and launch products without the help of developers. Or so it seemed. In reality, you just became the developer yourself 😀

Co-founding the no-code startup toddle, where we build toddle using toddle itself, made me realise how much design work developers actually do.

A Bit About toddle

Over the past year, my co-founder Andreas Møller, our talented team, and I have been developing toddle, a no-code platform for professional creatives.

With toddle, you can create web apps without knowing how to code. It is essentially a visual adaptation of popular coding frameworks such as Vue, Angular, and React. This means that non-developers can harvest the know-how and performance of the biggest coding frameworks but wrapped in no-code packaging.

On a day-to-day basis, we use toddle to extend and improve itself. The entire software is created in this way. Think of it as a kind of software inception 😀

It is not a marketing gimmick to prove toddle's capabilities, but rather a way to enable the entire toddle team to contribute to the software.

This is, after all, how we imagine other teams using toddle in the near future: everyone, from Marketers to Project Managers, will design and implement features on their own. No more exhausting task handovers, tedious specifications, or endless back-and-forth communication.

From Designer to No-code Developer

Creating a large-scale application like toddle has made me realise something about my past as a designer: my design specifications were always inadequate and I was never really in sync with the developers on my teams.

Even though I did everything by the book: researched the business objectives set out by my managers, created prototypes for initial user feedback, and encapsulated all my learnings in detailed design specifications for developers to implement, my designs rarely turned out 100% as intended.

Developers often kept returning with questions and pointed out inconsistencies or missing parts of my design. I was annoyed, first at the developers, and then at myself.

You could argue three things:

  • - I’m not a particularly good designer
  • - The design process in my previous teams had poor alignment between designers and developers, or
  • - Designers could learn a fair bit about design by implementing their own designs 😱

All of the statements above might be true, but I’ll focus on the third. By implementing my own design in toddle, I have become a way better designer. Let me explain why.

Seeing Through the Eyes of a Developer

When you are building a large-scale application like toddle — including business logic and everything — you soon realise the inadequacy of your career’s design work.

You think you have covered everything in your design specifications. You have created a Figma prototype with comments all over, attached a user story to a Jira ticket, and maybe even added unit testing in Gherkin. But no, you did not think of everything.This is a paragraph of text

  • Which input field should autofocus in that popover appearing? 👀
  • How does a visually impaired person navigate that paginated list? 👩‍🦯
  • How should the text wrap when displaying Finnish words (oh boy, they're long)? 🇫🇮

Implementing my own design through toddle has forced me to become aware of such issues as mentioned above. And instead of getting caught in an endless back-and-forth conversation about every single pixel with a developer, I find myself implementing accessibility features, keyboard navigation, and error states all on my own — because it is right there, it is available and ready to be fixed.

By becoming a no-code developer, I am able to see issues as a traditional developer would and take these into account when iterating on my designs. This creates a constant feedback loop between myself and the software, which ultimately results in a final product that is closer to my initial vision. Without any filters between myself and the product, I am able to achieve my vision more efficiently.

Going Beyond Prototypes

One of the biggest benefits of no-code development is that it enables creators to go beyond basic prototyping with inadequate mock data and semi-broken user flows. Instead, you can implement parts of a real-life application with real data and interactions, which allows for far better user testing.In addition, these next-gen prototypes used in no-code development can facilitate better collaboration between designers and developers. By enabling designers to express their ideas through more than just prototypes, but an actual part of a product, they can more effectively communicate their ideas to developers and establish a shared understanding of the design objectives. This can streamline the development process and ultimately lead to a more refined and user-friendly product.In toddle, instead of sharing a Figma design, we simply implement our design suggestion in a separate branch (version of the app) and share that with the toddle team. In that way, the new design can be tested out right away with real data and context. This is the ultimate design brief — skipping the brief and just making the feature.Overall, the benefits of no-code development extend far beyond simplifying the development process. It can help designers focus on the user experience, improve collaboration with developers, and ultimately create more polished and user-friendly designs.

Final Thoughts

Turning into a no-code developer has been a game-changer for me as a designer. It has opened my eyes to several new parts of software development and created a better understanding and collaboration with my developer colleagues.I highly encourage other designers to explore the world of no-code development, as it can be a valuable tool for improving your design skills. But be warned, you might end up liking your newfound powers as a no-code developer.toddle is launching Public Beta May 1st

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