The No Code Backlash

The term “no code” has increasingly been popping up in my RSS reader and its frequency is starting to seem like a trend is forming. No code is a term for writing an application’s entire business logic without any work from a software developer. You can stitch a few services together—Google Forms, Webflow, Zapier, etc.—and build a complex application with little to no programming.

But as trends always go, there’s always going to be blowback surrounding them. In addition to pointing out some drawbacks of the no code movement, Alex Hudson has a spot-on observation of companies trying to digitally transform themselves by developing bespoke software for their business processes:

Many businesses fail attempting to do digital transformation to access these benefits. The downside of trying to make this jump is that suddenly you’re becoming, at least in part, a software development company. Surprise: most companies are not good at this! A software environment is one of infinite possibility because most everything is achievable, with enough resource (time, money, people). Most people are great at dreaming about the possibilities, but less good at putting in place the constraints needed to achieve realistic results.

His thoughts on the no code train raise some good points:

Projects often begin with a “prototype”, to show the platform can do it. These are very quick to put together, and fulfil 80% of the brief. Success? Sadly, no - as coders know, the devil is in the details.

With someone else’s platform, you often end up needing to construct elaborate work-arounds for missing functionality, or indeed cannot implement a required feature at all. 

With “no code”, it tends to be difficult or impossible to have a non-production environment. Even if you do have one, accurately copying changes over from one to the other is non-trivial.