This week on Ask Matt, we explore if making apps without any code is really new or has it existed the entire time. Our conversation dives into identifying existing software and bringing light to new perspectives of low-code/no-code solutions.
Matt Lo: As a small business owner, I hear Low-Code/No-Code a lot. You don’t even have to be a small business or in startup land; you could be a director of marketing a large company. You hear about no code or low code solutions happening – What does that mean to you?
Matt Mroczek: It means that with minimal expertise in terms of technical knowledge, be able to execute or solve a problem that I’m currently looking at.
Matt Lo: So is the expectation is you should not see any code?
Matt Mroczek: Exactly! Drag and drop. That’s what I want.
And I want it to carry out all the functions that usually do require code.
Matt Lo: What’s one example they use right now that is a no code or low code solution?
Matt Mroczek: A great one is MailChimp. Emails back in the day used to require a good bit of technical knowledge – Where to put the image, how to link everything, tracking, etc. Now you just drag and drop things onto it and send it off.
Matt Lo: That’s interesting. MailChimp’s been around for quite a while but no code low code solution is like this emerging hotness. Why wasn’t this picking up traction before and why is MailChimp now sort of being to some groups labeled as a no code solution?
Matt Mroczek: I think it’s because for a long time it just everything required such technical knowledge. And I think that the phrasing of low code and no code is a good way to categorize the whatever task you’re trying to solve. And probably people tend to think about MailChimp as a no code solution when really that’s what it is.
Still, sometimes you would import or export any code into it for a special campaign. But what we’ve seen and especially as you look at like HubSpot or Marketo; they don’t want people to code things. They want people to stay inside their template and their modules so that way it’s easier for not only them to execute and get it out the door but for a lower level person to come in and maybe have no knowledge but they can at least see the previous campaigns or whatever you’re running and then quickly modify it for the new ones that they want to take off.
Are there any downsides to using a themed template for your Web site? And do you ever grow out of them?
Matt Lo: There are no downsides but you do grow out of them.
Mainly you grow out of them because you initially chose this theme because you need to ship a web site… Every time you chose a theme, it’s usually at the beginning – the inception of a Web site. Then beyond that, it is tinker tinker tinker until it gets boring you need to change it. That means you do grow out of it and you might actually grow into a different theme. You don’t usually hire a designer and say, ‘Go design this for me.’
I think those days are, unless you’re a large enterprise, I think those days are gone.
I would never see myself hiring a designer to design a web site when there’s so many themes out there to work with.
Matt Mroczek: I think that’s a really interesting point – Do you think there is a correlation between less people focused on the design aspect of web sites it and now there is more of a focus on UX (User Experience) because of the templates? Do you think one caused the other?
Matt Lo: Well, let’s just go full circle until like no code solutions to spawn a web site I no longer need designer, I also no longer any developer
So as a business owner I now can actually focus on user experience. I can actually measure user experience and I can measure how effective my messaging is.
Just picking three the things that could be important. You don’t have to worry about the technicalities like is this going to work cross-browser?
We bought a theme that says it’s going to work cross-browser for us.
Is this design great?
Well, you chose a design that’s done by a reputable designer or design company. Right.
So you don’t have to worry about the things that you said worry about the past. You never have to second guess it. It’s done.
Matt Mroczek: Whether I’m using just one of these solutions or I’m bridging a couple of them together with Zapier, what are the security concerns, if any, for using these tools?
Matt Lo: Well there is a big risk factor. I use a lot of those tools right now and I’m always thinking about what if Zapier gets compromised, what if my account gets compromised, what if my Zapier API Key gets compromised – it’s very tricky.
What if my other tools get compromised could they somehow infect my other services they’re connected to it. The one thing you have to do is you have to trust the companies you’re integrating with. It’s tough it’s really tough. You have to usually make a trade-off of whatever the service is doing in terms of value. Does that offset the security model that you have in mind? It’s usually going to lower a little bit.
Because that data is flowing through everything. So for example, if you have Zapier connected to Stripe. Well, technically Zapier has all access to all of your Stripe data. And if Zapier gets compromised. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Could you mitigate that?
Oftentimes when you see permission models open. That’s probably your best security measurement you can do it at the time.
So, for example, I was trying to integrate GitHub and Zapier and Zapier asked for every single permission in GitHub. But they didn’t do that for every other service.
I thought that was odd. And that was a big security concern. So I had to limit all that somehow.
So if you look at those tools those authorization windows pay really close attention.
If you feel uncomfortable then you need to weigh that with the value it’s producing.
There’s been a lot of movement with Low-Code No-Code solutions. What is the next trends that you see coming to this movement?
We already have MailChimp, we already have seen CMS’s. If you use WordPress maybe you Divi as another example of a no code solution.
We’ve talked a lot about Zapier here. There’s tools out there right now that you can develop games without writing a single line of code.
But what’s the next generation of this?
Matt Mroczek: Well I think the first part you mentioned is already here – The evolution of thinking that when you’re building a product a game or whatever with the idea that it’s going to integrate into something, right?
If you have a game you want to make sure that it’s Twitch friendly or if you have a SaaS product you want to make sure that it can work with a CRM of some kind. In terms of where it’s going from here, I’m not too sure. I think that there’s a lot of open ground, I still think we’re uncovering a lot of these different products and what they offer like I was watching a TED Talk today where people just using Google Sheets as app integration, we’re able to make a product or at least an MVP of it. So I think that with this lower barrier to entry in terms of developing products; it’s an open landscape.
What do you think? Where is it going?
Matt Lo: Well I think you touched on a little bit. It’s lowering the barrier of entry. In software engineering for a long time it was dominated by Java and C sharp developer certifications and it required a huge my education and off-site training just to become proficient. And then over time open source languages and open source libraries and community support eventually proliferated and allowed developers to actually go and enterprise with open source technology and compete with the traditional enterprise stacks.
I sort of see a similarity in that in this land of use everything as a service so businesses can actually do what maybe someone who has a $200,000 dollar budget, they can do a year with a few hundred bucks and connect all these services together and perform their identical task if not faster than enterprise.
They may not have the customizations they always want but they can get maybe 70-80 percent comparable.
Matt Mroczek: For ChipBot was there no code effort or was coding the first thing that happened?
Matt Lo: Well I’m technical so what do you think?
Matt Mroczek: Well what was your approach like? Is it because you’re more proficient doing it that way or you need to build a product first?
Matt Lo: Well I’m always a code first because this is my background.
The one thing you can’t get from a no code solution is the ability to customize on demand. When you work with Zapier or you work with MailChimp. What it really means is you are partnering with them and you are locked into whatever they do.
Their influence is absolute. They want to change something. You got no choice but to do it. As a developer, I have absolute control – I can build things out of thin air, I can make it integrate with whatever I want; I get to make all the decisions.
I get to say how secure it is. How it will perform; what’s the scaling strategy? How is it gonna work ten years from now?
Matt Mroczek: It’s a really interesting point because like an example of you are then buying into them because MailChimp and Shopify recently announced they are no longer working together and the blowback was extreme. Everyone’s like, ‘Well how is that going to work?’
So MailChimp sent out an email first, Shopify responded later that day with their own communication and then within two days I got emails from both of them saying well here’s how you can do a workaround and I imagine if the community didn’t respond like that maybe there would not have been a follow up but like you’re 100 percent right in that buying into a tool means that buying into the future of that company as well.
Matt is a Chicago-based entrepreneur and hard-working founder of his startup ChipBot. Knowledgable in 12 different programming languages and experienced startup veteran; having worked on 6 others. He focuses on solving hard problems using clever engineering and wit. You can reach Matt on Twitter, LinkedIn, or StackOverflow.