No-coders are real programmers and they deserve better tools

No-code has come a long way and incredible applications have been built using no-code tools, however most no-code platforms still lack core functionality.

No-coders are real programmers and they deserve better tools
Andreas Møller

Andreas Møller

January 23, 2024

Thoughts

In the early 2000s, the web started to take off as an application platform. In 2003, LinkedIn and MySpace were launched, followed by Facebook and Gmail in 2004. These were impressive applications, unlike anything we had seen on the web.

Unfortunately, at the time, the web was not designed for building large applications, and web developers had to resort to all kinds of "hacks" to achieve their desired results.


One example is
CSS hacks such as the famous Clear fix . Developers devised ways to trick the browser into showing what they wanted when a specific feature of CSS wasn’t supported in a specific browser. CSS hacks and other workarounds used to be basic tools in a web developer's toolbox.

History somehow always repeats itself.

Since the early 2000s, the web platform has come a long way, and the need for these hacks is long gone. However, we are beginning to see the same thing happen in the no-code ecosystem. No-code programmers develop creative ways to get around the limitations of the tools they are working with.

The no-code community has outgrown its tools. Most no-code platforms were built to develop prototypes or simple websites, not professional SaaS applications. Just like in the early 2000s, we see brilliant visual developers break out of the limitations of their tools using terribly complicated (but functional) workarounds.

Personally, I am impressed!

Breaking out from the limitations of your tools is the hallmark of a great programmer.
But it doesn't have to be this way.

Great programmers deserve great tools!

Visual developers build incredible applications, and the output from the no-code community is remarkable. Visual programming has immense potential but in recent years, we have started to experience the limitations of the current toolbox. It’s become clear that we need a new generation of tools for visual developers to realize their full potential.

The new wave of tools needs to excel in 3 areas:

1. Flexibility and performance

In fact, developers do not like limits so much that their preferred tool to build web apps is a text editor. It doesn’t come with features, but it allows you to unfold your creativity and programming prowess. It also connects you to tools you can leverage for your build. We need to cut the ties with limits to allow developers access to the tools they need to build their users' desired features. Tools should be at hand, not hidden away; they should be part of the platform and make it easier for developers to manipulate basic data without writing code or installing a plugin.

Developers see modules, designers see a canvas, but visual developers see both. A developer tool should empower their users to create their designs. They can’t be limited to the look and feel of default elements. They should be there, but you should have the flexibility to create your default elements.

And none of this should come at the cost of performance. The next generation of platforms needs to be performant by default. It should render as fast and even better than custom code. 

2. Collaboration and version control

If we are serious about building large-scale, no-code applications, we must address collaboration.

Most no-code tools today have some versioning system so that you can make changes and test your application before you publish it. This works great if you are working alone, but it does not scale to a team of developers working on the same project.

This problem was solved long ago for coders. The answer is GIT-style branches that let each programmer work on their own version without overwriting the changes made by their teammates.

Branches are a must-have feature for any modern programming environment. Code or No-code.

3. Community and sharing

There is a saying among coders: “The best line of code is the one you don’t have to write.”
No-code might be 10x faster than coding, but installing a library is even faster. NPM (the package manager for JavaScript) has over 1.3 Million free packages. That is a lot of code you don’t have to write.

Any modern no-code platform must empower its users to build and share packages so the community can grow together. 

An old story with a new ending

The idea of visual programming, or no-code as it has been called in recent years, has been around for over 60 years. So far, it has had very little overall impact on how we build software.

The recent wave is different. The new generation of no-code programmers can bring a paradigm shift that echoes throughout the software world. If only they are given the right tools to succeed.

Bring your visionary idea to life.

Programming is a core skill, like speaking a language. We can’t limit it to a secret code only 26 million people know. toddle is a visual web app builder that rivals custom code and is accessible to everyone.

You don't need to be a developer to build powerful web apps.