Recently, I've been asking developers what they think of no-code tools. Friends, I'm here to tell you - some of the responses I've gotten are extremely frustrating.
They range from discouraging to straight up disparaging, especially for newbies who are excited about the prospect of building something for the first time.
"no-code tools?" I had one developer tell me. "What are those? Another bubble that's going to burst?"
"I wouldn't trust any tool that makes it easy for people with no coding experience to make a website," said another. "It's only a matter of time before something goes wrong and we'll have to rebuild it the right way."
"no-code is just a fad," said a third. "Real developers code. That's what separates the wheat from the chaff."
Ouch. I get it. I really do.
Maybe these developers have put in their 10,000 hours (or more) and they've honed their skills to become masters of their craft. They've seen "no-code" come into the spotlight, and they're rightfully skeptical.
But here's the thing: I'm not asking for your permission. I'm not asking for your blessing. I'm not even asking for your approval. I am imploring you to give these tools a serious look. They can save you time, and they're going to go a long way to build the next generation of software developers - whether you're ready or not, no-code tools will be a big part of the future.
Devs are often insecure about using no-code tools
For some, mentioning the use of no-code tools can induce fear around job security, the validity of use cases for no-code tools, and some future need to “rebuild it later the right way”. This is understandable, but also wrong. Devs are not insecure about no-code because it is no-code. We are insecure about it because of what it represents. no-code is a new way of building things that is not as intuitive for them (yet). It represents a shift in the way things are done that may even threaten their jobs. But the thing is, this shift is inevitable.
The world is moving towards more no-code and less handwritten code. This is a trend that is only going to accelerate. So, instead of being insecure about it, devs should embrace it. We should learn how to use no-code tools in harmony with hand-coded software, and strive to become no-code experts. This way, there is an opportunity to stay relevant in a no-code world and become the experts that companies will need to build the next generation of no-code products.
I use no-code tools all the time
Any time I can take advantage of no-code tools, I do. It saves me time, lowers complexity, and results in that many fewer things needing my attention to be maintained in the long run. Some quick examples for you:
- I use an automated “sign up for my newsletter!” embed on my personal website to interrupt readers at just the right time and ask for their email address. I configured Polite Pop entirely on their website, and embedded it in my next.js site with a simple copy/paste
- For APIs You Won't Hate, we have several Zapier automations set up to populate an Airtable when someone submits a contact form. The process is different for sponsors vs. general contact - and I can change it any time without redeploying the site.
- I have uptime monitors on all of my web properties - I get a handy text from Fathom any time a site goes down for more than 60 seconds
- I use Google Home (shout out to my former team @ Google!) to automate my morning routine - the lights in my bedroom come up like an artificial sunrise, and by the time I get down to my kitchen, there's soft music playing, and my espresso machine is warm and ready to pull a shot.
- I use Shortcuts for iOS on my iPhone for all sorts of things - turning off lights and making sure the doors are locked in my home at night, sending an automated text with my location to tell someone I'm headed their way, you name it.
- I use a Stream Deck to swap between camera views during livestreams, to toggle lights and set the temperature in my home office, and to hang up zoom calls or toggle my microphone without having to switch apps on my computer.
To be perfectly honest, I'm probably using many more that I've already forgotten about. I'm willing to bet that this short list probably spurred some recognition for you, too - you're probably already using no-code!
You're probably already using no-code
Even in your dev work, you're probably already using a variety of no-code tools, whether you realize it or not. I certainly am! Vercel, Netlify, Cloudflare Pages, and GitHub Pages are great hosting options that require little-to-no-code to set up. Configuring web servers used to be a full-time job for every large project. Airtable is a great no-code alternative for gathering and storing data in a database. Chat widget tools like Intercom, Drift, and Front can be dropped onto any website by including one script and provide a massive superpower for messaging users and responding to customer support issues. Even everyday analytics tools like Google Analytics, Fathom, and Plausible are essentially no-code integrations that replace what used to be heaps of code for building telemetry into an app.
Stripe is investing in no-code tools to help business owners get things done more quickly. From Payment Links to Customer Portal to Pricing Tables, we're helping business owners and platform builders, because at the end of the day, your time is best spent doing things that add value to your products and services - and our no-code integrations give you more time to do just that.
If you've read this far and you find yourself thinking "these aren't no-code tools" because they can't be used to build an entire web app, I'd encourage you to rethink what "no-code" means. no-code tools are simply tools that allow you to get things done without writing code. They don't have to be a replacement for all of your code; think of them as an incredibly powerful complement to it.
No-code doesn't mean low quality
No-code tools are often more reliable because they're built by teams of developers who are focused on a specific problem. They also tend to be more secure because they're not as complex as an entire web app, so there are fewer opportunities for bad actors to exploit vulnerabilities.
No-code doesn't mean no extensibility
No-code tools also don't mean you have to compromise on features or customization. Many no-code tools offer APIs or other ways to extend their functionality. If you do find yourself needing more, you can always use a no-code tool as a starting point and then add custom code on top. They are a powerful way to get things done quickly and without having to write a lot of code.
There exists a dev subculture that hypes up building software in the most steampunky way (see: vim, mechanical keyboards, etc). It glorifies "make it look like I'm doing something super difficult and specialized" in a way that makes it hard to get started. This culture gets promoted for a variety of reasons - many of which are innocuous. For example, many developers are introverts, and so they express their personality through the things they use and build. We also tend to be tuned into the latest news on bleeding-edge tech, and because of that, many of us like to collect and show off our gear.
With that said, I don't think this kind of enthusiasm is entirely a bad thing.
I think it's great that there are people out there who love their keyboards, and their vim customizations, and who are willing to share that with the world. I also think it's great that there are people who are passionate about using those tools to build amazing things.
Things become problematic when they're used as a form of gatekeeping.
It's important to consider that this may deter new developers who are just getting started. Just remember that at the end of the day, it's all just a bunch of tools - and you can use whatever tools you want to build whatever you want.
How to turn yourself into a no-code cheerleader
If you're a traditional developer, you may have already decided that no-code is not for you. You may think that it is “taking the easy way out”, and that it can't possibly work for anything more than the most basic apps. I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. no-code tools are powerful. They're flexible. They're easy to use. And they're getting better all the time. If you're a traditional developer, I challenge you to give no-code a try. Spend a few hours with one of the many no-code platforms out there and see what you can build. I think you'll be surprised.
Go ahead, give no-code a try
Ready to dive in? There's plenty of great resources online for taking advantage of no-code tools.
If you're not using no-code already, give some of these tools a try. And if you are using them, showcase your efforts whenever possible - especially to your dev friends who may be skeptical.
As I mentioned earlier, Stripe has a growing portfolio of no-code tools. These are a few that I'd recommend to anyone looking to dip their toes into the cool, refreshing waters of having to write less code:
Payment Links are a quick and easy way to share a URL for a specific product with your customers. You can create as many payment links as you need, and they can be used anywhere you might share a link. Check out the docs for more information on getting started with payment links. You may also want to check out my other post, No-code payments: How to use Stripe with customized NFC tags.
You can use the Stripe Dashboard to configure a Pricing Table UI component, and embed it on your website. This will allow your customers to see pricing information and be taken to checkout without any custom code. The pricing table is designed to be flexible and fully responsive, and uses recommended practices for selling subscription-based products online.
The Stripe Customer Portal is a Stripe-hosted solution for customer self-serve management of subscriptions. This allows your customers to change and cancel their subscriptions as needed, and includes a complete checkout workflow for collecting and updating their payment information.
So, what do you think? Have I made a compelling case for using no-code tools? I'd love to hear about the no-code and low code integrations you're using - drop me a comment below to show off your stuff, or track me down on twitter @irreverentmike.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. I think there's a better world out there for all of us if we embrace no-code, and extend an olive branch to our less technical friends who are interested in building apps with no-code tools.
Author's note: This post was originally written as part of my work as a Developer Advocate at Stripe. As of November 2022, I no longer work at Stripe, but I'm still a big fan of their products and the work they do.
Stripe fam: If you want to re-host this article on a stripe-owned URL, get in touch!