What is no-code? A guide to building no-code apps for businesses

What is no-code? A guide to building no-code apps for businesses

No-code is a software development approach that lets people create software applications without writing lines of code. Users instead build with a visual editor to assemble all the components of a software app – the user interface, data tables, integrations with other pieces of software or databases, and workflows. By reducing the need for coding or programming skills, no-code significantly speeds up the app development process and reduces costs.

After almost a decade of growing adoption, no-code tools are becoming mainstream. They’re attracting a lot of attention as a game-changer for startups and existing businesses looking to create their own custom software solutions faster without needing to hire expensive developers. According to Gartner, by 2025, 70% of new organizational apps will employ low-code/no-code technologies, a significant rise from less than 25% in 2020.

With the promise of building apps 10x faster, many businesses are asking if no-code development is right for them. To help you decide, we've provided answers to the most common questions we receive as a no-code development agency:

Q: What is a no-code app development platform?

A no-code app development platform is a software tool or platform that enables users to create applications without the need for traditional programming or coding skills. These platforms typically provide visual interfaces, drag-and-drop functionality, and pre-built components or templates to streamline the app development process.

Interestingly, the term ‘no-code’ is a bit of a misnomer – there is code, you just don’t write it yourself. Under the hood, no-code platforms translate your actions into the code that computers understand so your end product functions like any traditional software. 

There are hundreds of no-code platforms now available, each with its unique editing environment, capabilities, and limitations. Some platforms are very specialized and product-specific (e.g. Shopify, Webflow, Airtable), while a few others are very general and allow you to do almost anything in any industry (e.g. Glide, Draftbit, Bubble.io).

Q: What’s the difference between low-code vs. no-code?

While both low-code and no-code tools offer faster, less costly alternatives to traditional software development, there’s a slight difference. Low-code tools help developers write code faster, whereas no-code tools help non-developers create apps without using any code.

Refer to our low-code vs. no-code guide to understand when it makes sense to use one versus the other.

Q: Why is no-code so popular?

No-code has gained popularity due to its accessibility to non-coders. Instead of writing dozens (or hundreds) of lines of code to accomplish a minor task, you just click a few times. As a result, building a custom product takes days or weeks instead of months or years. Moreover, it lowers development costs by eliminating the need for expensive coders, opening up possibilities for new use cases and creating opportunities for a new labor force of no-code developers.

Q: What are the benefits of no-code for businesses?

No-code makes it easier for businesses to build custom apps, automate workflows, and solve problems without relying on IT teams or expensive external developers. A few key advantages of no-code over traditional software development include:

  • Faster app development - build a working, scalable, and secure solution in weeks – not months (or years).
  • Less expensive - reduce reliance on expensive traditional software developers.
  • Lower maintenance burden - free up IT resources to focus on innovation instead of fixing bugs and integration issues.
  • Increased understanding between business and IT - allow more business users who know their workflows and processes best to guide app development.
  • Faster concept validation - test and evaluate apps faster to get quicker user feedback for iteration, with less financial risk.
  • More customized software - reduce dependence on expensive SaaS solutions that require further customization to connect data to unique business processes. 

Q: What are the best use cases for no-code?

Given its flexibility and versatility, there are many products and use cases no-code app development works great for, including:

  • Building web applications - no-code platforms can be used to build both simple and complex web apps such as landing pages, static websites, CRMs, or marketplaces/e-commerce sites.
  • Automating workflows - with no-code tools, it's possible to automate repetitive business tasks or workflows, such as sending email reminders or updating spreadsheets.
  • Creating mobile apps - no-code platforms can be used to create mobile apps that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere.
  • Prototyping and testing ideas - no-code tools can be used to quickly create prototypes, test ideas, and iterate frequently without investing in development resources.
  • Integrating with third-party services - no-code platforms can be used to integrate with third-party services such as CRM systems, payment gateways, or email marketing tools to create a smoother flow of information. 

Q: Who can use no-code development? 

Anyone who wants to create software apps or automate business processes without having to write code can use no-code tools, but some of the most common users today are:

  • Business owners/users - existing businesses can create customized apps and tools to automate key business functions without needing to rely on IT teams or developers. 
  • IT departments - IT departments can use no-code to streamline their workflows by reducing the number of development requests they receive. This can free up their time and resources to focus on more critical, innovative tasks.
  • Startups founders/entrepreneurs - no-code development is especially beneficial for cash-strapped entrepreneurs wanting to quickly build and test product prototypes/MVPs without a CTO. 
  • Venture studios - no-code can help venture studios move quickly and efficiently in the early stages of their startup projects, allowing them to test concepts and identify areas to invest in scaling.

Q: When should I use full-code vs. no-code?

In our experience, no-code software is actually the best approach for most web apps, but it’s not right for every case. Sometimes, traditional programming is a better fit depending on the specific product and team needs. The few exceptions where you might want to stick to coding are:

  • Novel technology (e.g. custom machine learning algorithms)
  • Huge scale (e.g. app needs to support millions of daily users)
  • Custom visual interface (e.g. create something like Photoshop or iMovie within app)
  • Team capabilities (e.g. there are existing developers who need to stay busy)

Learn more about when to build an app with full code vs. no-code

Q: What can I build without code?

There are a few types of common apps, features, and functionalities that no-code is an especially good fit for, including:

  • Marketplaces and e-commerce sites - platforms that connect buyers and sellers of goods or services with each other and provide the infrastructure for the transaction.
  • Social networks - apps that incorporate social features that allow people to connect or engage with other users
  • ‍Internal tools - custom apps for internal users in an organization to run business operations and perform various tasks.
  • ‍User logins and permissions - graphical interfaces that replace time/resource consuming hard-coded changes to the user login process
  • ‍Complex workflow automations - apps that streamline essential business processes, like communications and documents
  • ‍Dashboards and analytics - apps for visually tracking statistics and data in your industry/business
  • Connections to 3rd-party APIs - tools that pull in data from external services, such as Stripe for building in payment systems for your app

Q: Can I build no-code AI app?

Yes! No-code platforms like Bubble can easily connect to AI tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E to create novel and powerful applications – without the need for costly, specialized engineering or data science experts, or in-depth coding knowledge. Learn more about how to build AI into your no-code app using Bubble.

Q: How can I build a web app without code?

Anyone can build an app with no-code, regardless of their technical background. But how you go about it really depends on your needs and situation. Below are two ways to launch an app without code:

1. Learn to build with no-code tools on your own

If you have the time to spend, you can learn to build an app with no-code tools. These tools offer a range of templates, design elements, and visual development environments that make it easy for beginners to build their own apps. 

However, as you consider learning to build on your own, it’s important to remember the tool flexibility vs. ease-of-use tradeoff (i.e. how powerful it is vs. how easy it is to use). As a general rule, the more flexible the tool, the harder it is to use. Usually, simple products should be built with simpler tools, while more complex products require more flexible tools. Keep in mind, the latter group has a higher learning curve than some other no-code tools so mastering them will likely take longer. 

2. Hire a no-code agency or freelance no-code developer

If you want to launch a more complex app fast and can make some monetary investment, your building process will be significantly faster by having someone else build your app. You might consider hiring a no-code agency or developer if:

  • Your app can be monetized and generate revenue
  • Spending money to save time is a priority
  • Your pre-existing app needs testing and debugging
  • You need to delegate specific tasks
  • You need to deliver an expertly-developed app to a client or investor

See our comprehensive guide for how to hire the right no-code developer.

Q: How much does no-code development cost?

The cost of no-code software development can vary widely depending on several factors, including the complexity of the app, the functionality required, the platform used, the level of customization needed, and whether you hire a no-code developer or agency. However, in general, no-code development is most often less expensive than traditional software development because it doesn’t require writing custom code from scratch.

For a deeper look into all the factors that affect the cost of custom no-code app development, refer to our guide, Understanding what drives custom software pricing and how to navigate vendor quotes.

Q: How long does it take to develop an app without code?

Much like cost, the time it takes to develop an app without code varies depending on the complexity of the app, the features and functionality required, the platform used, the level of customization needed, and the person (or team) building it. But in general, no-code app development is much faster than traditional software development. 

However, rapid development doesn’t necessarily translate into a fast launch. For example, an app that may take 2 weeks to build may take 3 months to launch. This boils down to the difference between efficiency vs. speed (which we cover in this article on how long it takes to develop an app). In our experience building hundreds of client apps, we find that no-code development is 5-10x more efficient than traditional code. But it often still makes sense to put time into a robust process that allows for scoping before and testing after, so that the end result is a much better product. 

Q: What are the best no-code app builder tools?

The answer to this question really depends on your specific use case. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of great no-code tools now available and we recommend you first determine which type of tool best fits your needs. This means deciding between an off-the-shelf no-code tool specific to your use case or going with a visual programming tool that can make anything. Below is a quick break down of both:

  • Off-the-shelf no-code tools - these are pre-built software applications that allow users to quickly create a wide range of basic use-specific apps using a drag-and-drop interface from pre-built templates and components. Off-the-shelf no-code tools tend to be more limited in terms of functionality, and they may not allow for more advanced customizations. Examples include: Shopify for ecommerce sites, Zapier for workflow automations, Airtable for project management, Mailchimp for email design, and many more.
  • Visual programming platforms - these provide users with a visual interface for creating custom software applications. These platforms allow users to create complex, database-driven apps by connecting pre-built components, programming logic, and workflows. Visual programming platforms are typically more flexible and powerful than off-the-shelf no-code tools, but they also require more technical expertise to use effectively. Examples include: Bubble.io, Flutterflow, and Draftbit.

For more info on Bubble and why it's our chosen tool, see our article What is Bubble.io? The guide to building a Bubble app for beginners.

Q: How do I choose the right no-code tool for my business?

Since there are so many tools out there, how do we make sense of them all? When selecting a tool, you should look at several key dimensions:

  • Cost - will it accommodate my anticipated users, features, and scale or will I need to pay more for this?)
  • Feature set - can the tool do what you need it to do?)
  • Integrations - can it connect to other services in the API ecosystem?)
  • Lock-in - is your data portable if you want to move to custom code or another platform later?)
  • Company risk - is the no-code platform well-capitalized and have a broad enough user base so that your app isn’t at risk of disappearing?)
  • Control - does the platform offer enough control to customize the areas you’ll need, vs. limiting you to out-of-the-box features?)
  • Learning curve - how long will it take to functionally learn the platform?)

Q: Will no-code replace coders?

No-code isn’t a threat to coders. Instead, we believe it’s a big opportunity for them. 

Today, traditional developers spend a lot of time on “low-leverage” activities, such as creating and maintaining simple, non-core tools that have been invented before. For highly skilled professionals, this can be both distracting and stagnating. No-code can help teams with developers remove all the standardized tasks and instead focus on large-scale strategic projects. So while teams with internal developers might tend to think they don’t need no-code, they might actually be the ones who benefit the most! 

Q: Where can I find no-code developers?

You can hire no-code developers from online freelance platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr, join no-code development communities and forums, check directories of certified experts on no-code development platforms (i.e. Bubble agencies page), or search for candidates on LinkedIn using relevant keywords.

See more tips on how to hire the right no-code developer for your project.

Q: Is no-code the future?

Yes, we strongly believe that no-code is the future of software development. It represents a fundamental shift in how digital solutions are created, emphasizing accessibility, democratization, and efficiency. We anticipate several significant changes, including the rise of the "no-code developer" profession, increased custom software development, a surge in niche-focused software solutions, greater standardization in development practices, and broader access to software entrepreneurship for individuals without technical backgrounds or substantial capital. See more on how we believe the no-code movement will change the world.

Q: Why does Airdev only build apps without coding?

We choose to build without coding because it offers a much faster and less expensive alternative to traditional development. And when we can build apps faster for clients, it means we can pass on cost saving, help them launch sooner, iterate faster based on user feedback, and use speed as a competitive advantage in their market.

See more about why we use no-code app development for our clients.

Learn if no-code is right for your project

Download The Quick Guide to No-Code to see examples of how your startup or business can use no-code to build faster and leaner, as well as how to choose the right no-code platform for your app.