There is a lot of debate right now in the community around “Should you code or no-code?”. I’m happy that the idea of building without code is even a possibility these days (and increasingly so). While we’re on the topic, I hate the intransigence of some in the community towards code. I hope we stop that.
I think what’s missing in the debate is that no-code tools are not a monolith. There are a lot of tools out there. By not differentiating them in a more granular way, we lose nuance in making informed decisions about the trade-offs in building with or without code. So I’ve been scratching my head on how to group no-code tools effectively. Here’s the best I’ve come up with:
are bundles focused on a single niche. Set it and forget it: they give you everything you need to start your business for in a specific vertical. Want to build an online course? Teachable
provides the website, learning management system etc. so you can focus on creating a good course. Great writer? Let Substack
do the tech heavy lifting to monetize your writing. They’re narrow in scope but provide a wide array of internal
tools that help you build your business. A large slice of many small businesses.
solve a slice of your business. I think of them as traditional software or SaaS. Hubspot
does marketing automation, Webflow
lets you create beautiful websites, Airtable
spins up an easy backend etc. They focus on solving a common function that’s common to most
businesses. A small slice of a large base.
is what brings Horizontal applications together. Now that your stack is separate across multiple horizontal apps, you need something to send data from one place to another. Zapier
was the pioneer here but the competition is heating up (Parabola
, Action desk
etc). Without Glue, Horizontal applications are siloed. No no-code movement without them.
let you create an application in one go. They provide the front-end, the back-end, and a logic workflow to go from one to the other. They’re Horizontal applications with glue built in. Included in this category are Bubble
etc. They’re the apps that get quoted in write ups about the no-code movement, letting anyone become application builders.
It’s far from perfect but this categorization appeals to me (does it speak to you? Any better suggestions for names?). Instead of “Should we code this or nah?”, it makes for a more substantive debate to say “Are builders flexible enough for our project?”, “Is there Glue out there that can avoid us the pain of maintaining this custom API connection?” or “Is it more cost effective to build with Webflow and Memberstack or should we use Teachable?”.
Last week, I said that no-code vs code is a trade-off
. What I’m realizing more and more is that even within “no-code”, there are a lot of trade-offs. I’m excited to talk about that in light of this new classification next week.