Something that’s been buzzing around the industry for a little while is the notion of ‘no code’. It seems to be somewhat of a divisive topic, with some who are all-in and believe this will completely change the way we build, some who sit on the fence, and some who think it just another fad that will come and go.
So what is it, and why is everyone talking about it?
What Is No Code?
When people talk about no code, they’re most likely talking about the rise of development platforms which allow users to create entire mobile apps and software without having to know how to use programming languages. Some see this as the ultimate next step in lean product development, where no (or at least fewer) engineers are needed.
These platforms use a drag-and-drop approach to building, with pre-built templates allowing users to quickly put together everything from landing pages to entire mobile applications.
It doesn’t just denote the platforms that are used to build apps and software. It’s also the term for a movement that aims to make more parts of business and tech development accessible to those who don’t know how to code. The no code movement aims to use innovative user friendly technology to make everything from data management, to automations and chat bots easier to use and create.
Many no code solutions are open source, lending to the mission of democratizing tech and making it accessible to everyone regardless of resources as well as technical knowledge.
No Code vs Low Code
If you’ve looked into it, you might have noticed references to ‘low code’ as well as no code.
Low code tools are similar to no code platforms in that they allow apps to be built using a user interface as opposed to needing raw programming code. However, for most low code platforms a certain understanding of programming is required. For example, the interface you build on a no code and low code development platform might be the same, but programming will be required by low code app creators in order to dictate the core architecture behind that interface.
No Code Platforms and Resources
Now that you’re good and curious about no code, you’re probably looking to dive into some resources, or you might be excited to try out some platforms for yourself!
Here are some great places to start:
- Airtable: Airtable states that their mission is to ‘democratize software creation by enabling anyone to build the tools to meet their needs.’ With an impressive library of templates, plenty of inspiration on their website, and a great reputation in the space, they’re a great place to start.
- Nocode HQ: This is the home for no code resources. With free templates and tutorials, this is your one-stop-shop.
- No Code Founders: The largest Slack community for no code early adopters and enthusiasts. (PS, if you’re into Slack communities, you should definitely check out the largest Slack community dedicated to Product Management!)
- Golden Kitty Award Winner: No Code: If you know and love Product Hunt as much as we do, then you’ll know about their annual Golden Kitty Awards! So you should definitely check out this year’s winners in the no code category to see which are the hottest new platforms.
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Pros and Cons
No code platforms can be incredibly useful for smaller startups and independent businesses who don’t have the funds for a full engineering team. App development doesn’t come cheap, but without writing code yourself there wasn’t really another option before the no code movement.
The democratization of technology allows people outside of giant tech companies to solve their own problems and build things for themselves.
It also allows professionals such as Product Managers to handle smaller tasks and projects themselves without needing to bother a busy engineering team. While they’re working on the latest big feature, you can build that landing page you need without needing to take up their time, even if you don’t have a CS degree.
That all sounds great! So why, in certain spaces, is it such a controversial topic?
Naturally, engineers aren’t leaping at the chance to be replaced. The development process takes a lot of skill on their end, and a lot of hard work. It’s no wonder that some professionals feel that this new movement is a little…insulting.
There are also some security concerns that have been raised, and how safe user data is when stored in apps built by people who don’t understand tech as well as a developer. No code platforms insist that their pre built templates have been validated by security experts and are safe to use. The platforms allow users to manipulate the interface and make customization choices without changing the integrity of the architecture behind the app.
Does This Mean Product Managers Can Build Apps?
A Product Manager at Spotify is not going to be able to take one of these platforms and say “we don’t need developers anymore, I’ve got this!”
What the no code movement means for Product Managers is more options to explore, and more freedom to build things for themselves. It’s especially handy for those who are working on a side project, as it gives you the opportunity to play around and build something for yourself, or to quickly launch your project without needing to spend money hiring a developer.
In terms of how it’ll be used in the workplace, that remains to be seen. Platforms such as Airtable are already widely used by Product Managers to find solutions to their problems behind the scenes. But it’s highly unlikely that at top tech companies anything other than engineers will be in charge of building the products used by millions of people.
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To Code or Not To Code: That is the Question!
This all might have you returning to the age-old question: do Product Managers have to learn how to code?
The truth is that while no code development tools may rise in popularity and give birth to many cool projects, software developers and programming languages aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Businesses will still be relying on these more ‘traditional’ aspects of building digital products, at least for the foreseeable future.
This means that the question of whether or not Product Managers need to learn how to code hasn’t really changed. And the answer, though frustrating, is simply…it depends.
It’s a myth that we’re on a mission to debunk that everyone working in the tech industry needs to be a tech expert. Many new Product Managers join the role without being able to write a single line of code. When we ask product leaders “what technical skills do you look for in new hires?” the vast majority state that only a willingness to learn on the job and a curiosity is necessary.
On the flip side, there are jobs within Product Management that require a greater level of technical knowledge, and may ask that applicants have an engineering background and/or a CS degree. As you move up the product career ladder, you can either move into more of a people-management role, or you can move more to the technical side. Naturally the latter will require more than rudimentary coding skills!
You might also be interested in: Why Is Coding Important For Product Managers?
So, is no code product development the future of all digital product development? The answer for now is: probably not. Business users will still need to bow to the knowledge and skill of software engineers. But that doesn’t mean we should let the fun, the opportunity, and the innovation of the no code movement pass us by.