What is No Code and Why it’s Garbage

By Nick Epson on February 18, 2020

A trend growing like an invasive weed is sweeping across the web called no code (or low code – we’ll use the terms interchangeably throughout this piece) which has a couple of merits but the reality is if you’re looking for an answer to “What is no code?” the short answer is: it’s trash. If you have a team of developers looking to make a real product, look elsewhere.

With that said, some good no or low code platforms are solid for their intended application. However, solid coding doesn’t come packaged – in this sense, it’s like buying formal a suit or dress off the shelf and expecting it to fit correctly. So let’s look at this programming method and discuss the specifics of why it leads to shoddy digital products.

What is no code and/or low code?

These terms both refer to platforms that allow inexperienced and awful developers to ‘produce’ applications using “pre-packaged” bits of code for frameworks like React Native, Angular, Swift, Python, etc. Both terms essentially refer to the same thing but with minor differences – the applicable point here is knowing that many platforms tend to leverage either moniker as a better alternative to actually learning how to code and in other cases, that one is better than the other.

They’re basically the Banquet TV dinner of programming. Like a TV dinner that’s packed full of chemical-rich ‘food,’ these tools include chunks of functional code that is typically laid out on a visual plane (think workflow-esque software like JIRA.) Each segment of code’s functionality is described in laymen’s terms which the “developer” uses to determine how, if, and where to use the code.

While these solutions work for some applications, they omit the level customization necessary to refine parameters for the UX, security, layout, and other elements of an app people will actually use. Some platforms have tons of built-in code segments and introduce new functions but this model inherently lacks consistency. Most are especially lacking with backend functions, for example, using specific API calls to push or pull data between systems and clients.

Differences between various minimal coding solutions

No code is basically the equivalent of using nothing but building blocks to build a modern home with working amenities. To illustrate this point, I made this graphic in the same spirit of the systems quickly answer the question” what is no code?”:

Feel free to graphic shame me—this isn’t my forte.

There can be some subtle differences between true no code and low code solutions. True no-code tools typically can’t be modified or are highly restrictive. Too, this can refer to tools like WYSIWYG editors – an acronym for what-you-see-is-what-you-get – that somewhat cross boundaries with low code solutions. 

Good examples of platforms that fall in the middle category are website builders like Wix and Squarespace or visual tools for the WordPress platform, all of which are also considered WYSIWYG editors. For those who need a simple, good-looking website to convey information or showcase a portfolio, this is a great option. There are even eCommerce plugins for small businesses that allow the DIY crowd to make a stunning and secure online store, understanding there is a small learning curve to overcome.

Developing sophisticated apps and incorporating modern UX design trends into complex apps requires custom development, which is more like 3D printing. You’re not going to build a modern home by stacking building blocks. And while trash freezer-food works in a pinch, it’s still trash.

Why low code is garbage

Problems arise when people try to use these tools for great software like what we build at Blue Label Labs. There simply isn’t a substitute for creating secure, high-functioning mobile apps with great UX.

These platforms gained traction the same reason why other quick fixes or bandage solutions are the go-to for many individuals. Take the example from the excerpt in the link just above: cookie-cutter solutions in education aren’t conducive to accommodate how each individual learns and what they’re best suited to grasp and master.

Mastery is a comprehensive process. Some master skills quicker than others but the fact remains that a person possesses an exhaustive knowledge – and application! – of some expertise to be considered proficient. In-depth knowledge is the only way to truly address the most acute parameters of any given project, whether it’s rebuilding a transmission or developing a mobile app. Otherwise, it’s like watching someone try to become a successful artist but their skills are limited to tracing drawings others have published.

Hence, low-code solutions are like the stencil: give you highly-rigid, cookie-cutter experiences that are almost not worth the effort.

There is a cycle where no-code solutions need to provide some level of flexibility and customization for users, which in the end slowly grows to a point where the so-called no-code solution has introduced its own language and configuration for tweaking operations. This becomes so complex to the point where it’s probably better to ditch the no-code option altogether and build with real programming. 

Too, when there is a complete lack of options to fine-tune your code, coding turns becomes like building blocks for toddler – they’re highly limited to what you can build, though you could theoretically build a structure but need you’d a ton of them, tools, hardware. Or, you could just go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and do it right.

Low code platforms that can be tweaked with custom code are slightly better – in fact, the aforementioned WYSIWYG website builders all have this capability. In a true low-code platform, you can plug in custom coding to augment provided segments of code. 

But the fact remains that if you know how to create custom code, why not just build software properly? Learn to code, save snippets as templates for other projects, and do it right.

Companies like Gartner disagree – however, it should be noted they explicitly acknowledge (in small print) that their evaluations and results are mostly opinions. Companies like Appian, which is the focus of the Gartner Low-Code Report, provide a WYSIWYG platform that can be modified so it can be useful, once a company takes the time to create custom segments of “visual code” and tweak existing modules to work for their needs.

The same can be said about solutions like the low-code ReactJS solution, Rintagi, or WaveMaker 10 for Angular 7. It’s like the image above – if you need to build a smooth, round structure from Legos it would appear “pixelated” compared to a well-designed 3D print. It’s quick and fun for a child (and let’s face it, building lego environments with your kids is still fun as an adult) but you wouldn’t use Legos to show a child how to frame and drywall a room inside a functional home.

Quite simply, these platforms are BS because they cater to laziness which, in my experiences, always leads to something embarrassing just to look at.

Building a simple site for a small business, artist, personality, or whatever with a visual editor is fine. Otherwise, such projects need to go into your system’s recycle bin, purged, then you should wash your hands and sit in the corner to think about what you’ve done.

Blue Label Labs builds your software the right way

When the word “low code” is mentioned, good developers brace themselves for potential puffs for these BS dev tools. Bobby and the team of high-caliber developers at Blue Label Labs wouldn’t so much as consider building an application with the coding equivalent of duct tape and Kwikweld.

It’s important to understand what goes into building a functional app and why modern frameworks like React Native and Firebase are utilized for mobile app development. Having some understanding of the sophistication required to get a return on your investment is critical for entrepreneurs in managing expectations as well as determining and achieving real business goals. 

When you reach out to Blue Label Labs, they will tell you boilerplate products belong in the trash should you ask “What is no code programming?” Once that’s squashed, they’ll show you why their custom solutions are the way to go.