I don’t know how to operate a commercial printer, stitch the spine of a hardcover book, or convince a publisher to buy a manuscript.
However, I can freely share my thoughts on the internet. The technical limitations that impacted anyone who wanted to distribute their words in the past have effectively vanished.
Now, imagine, as I was asked to during the opening keynote at Webflow’s recent No Code Conference, if only one out of every 400 people knew how to write. Imagine how many ideas would be missing simply because not everyone could operate the tools required to express their perspectives. This is a problem facing the tech industry.
And that was when it clicked: allowing anyone to express their ideas without writing a single line of code is revolutionary.
When “non-technical” folks want to build a website or an app, their gut reaction is often “I need to learn how to code.” Of course there is strong demand for the software development skill set. And if the goal is to develop expertise in software development, then by all means, I would recommend looking into Lamda School or similar options. But if the goal is to test and share a business idea, there are much more efficient alternatives. With visual development tools, folks are developing entire businesses.
And it’s not all hype.
I met folks who run no code agencies. Connor Finlayson built an entire marketplace & community for job-seeking freelancers. InVision uses Webflow for spinning up event-specific landing pages on the fly. (And I particularly like this impressive redesign of the iPhone 11 website done entirely in Webflow.)
This new breed of tools are making it easier than ever to produce full-fledged digital experiences. And it makes sense that our industry has reached this inflection point. Much like how InVision and Framer reduced the barrier to entry for creating digital prototypes, we’re seeing a similar reduction in the expertise required to build fully functional websites and apps. Even if the goal isn’t to create a business, visual development tools are shortening the time it takes to go through the build-measure-learn loop and automating common workflows.
A friend reminded me about how those who cannot code often struggle to find technical cofounders — usually before they even have an interactive prototype to share! With this new wave of tools, I expect to see a much wider set of people participating in tech. Especially since communities are forming to support this movement, such as: Makerpad, the No Code Conference annual gathering, and of course Twitter.
Here are some tools that I’m keeping an eye on:
- Webflow for building websites
- Adalo & Glide for building apps
- Memberstack for management of member-gated content
- Airtable for managing databases
- Zapier for tying all the tools together
In addition to these tools, I’ll also be listening to the Visual Developers Podcast.
This is one of the trends that I’m most excited about tracking in the near future. Like the writers of the internet era, the creators of the visual development era are just getting started.